Popular Mechanics takes some major issues with the blame thrown about by the House of Representatives' report on Katrina:
[i] We've given the report an initial read and found it riddled with poor logic, internal contradictions and exaggerations. . . .
For now, though, here?s a quick overview of what seems to be the report?s most troubling shortfall: consistently blaming individuals for failing to foresee circumstances that only became clear with the laser-sharp vision of hindsight.
For example, the report states:
"Fifty-six hours prior to landfall, Hurricane Katrina presented an extremely high probability threat that 75 percent of New Orleans would be flooded, tens of thousands of residents may be killed, hundreds of thousands trapped in flood waters up to 20 feet, hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures destroyed, a million people evacuated from their homes, and the greater New Orleans area would be rendered uninhabitable for several months or years."
This statistic is referred to often, and refers to computer modeling of a direct Category 5 hurricane landfall in New Orleans. However, it's also a distortion. According to the data the Committee itself examined, 56 hours prior to landfall, Katrina was a relatively weak Category 3 storm, heading west in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next few hours, it began its turn north, but where the storm was going to make landfall along the Gulf Coast was any weatherman's bet (the average 48-hour margin of error is 160 miles). In fact, it was not until the next day, Saturday, that it became more of a certainty that the hurricane was heading toward New Orleans. Furthermore, hurricane forecasters and emergency managers tell PM that until about 24 hours before landfall, hurricanes are too unpredictable to warrant the sort of blanket evacuation orders the report describes.
And according to transcripts obtained by POPULAR MECHANICS of the Sunday, August 28, videoconference between FEMA, DHS, Gulf State authorities, the National Weather Service and the White House, as late as Sunday?only 24 hours before landfall?National Hurricane Center storm tracks predicted: "There will be minimal flooding in the city of New Orleans itself." The death tolls listed in the congressional report presuppose: A) certainty that the storm would hit New Orleans directly, and B) certainty the storm would strengthen to a Category 4 or 5. Neither of these propositions was certain 56 hours prior to landfall. And, in fact, the hurricane was a Category 3 storm when it did hit.
The Committee report also criticizes the DHS and FEMA for not including the Department of Defense in their pre-storm and immediate post-storm planning. However, the same August 28 transcript shows that DoD was included from the beginning. In reality, despite organizational shortcomings, the rescue spearheaded by the National Guard and the Coast Guard turned out to be the largest and fastest in U.S. history, mobilizing nearly 100,000 responders within three days of the hurricane?s landfall. While each of the 1072 deaths in Louisiana was a tragedy, the worst-case scenario death toll would have been 60,000.[/i]