The Only Thing Missing…

. . . is “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.” On this final day of August, here’s one last summer rerun. I guess it’s plausibly on-topic, and given the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it’s appropriate. It appeared at my first blog, the Daily Aneurysm, one week after Katrina made landfall, and almost a year before I got back into radio, on September 5, 2005:

For many years, when I was younger and could live on less money, I was a radio broadcaster. And when it came to working on the air, bad weather, be it tornadoes or blizzards, was my absolute favorite thing. Part of it was ego: Only when the weather is bad can your typical dumb-ass disc jockey be sure people are hanging on his every word. But part of it was a visceral understanding that providing information on weather events, information which can mean the difference between life and death, is the reason radio stations are licensed to begin with. So in my career, I read a lot of weather bulletins—even when the various corporate suits who ran the stations I worked at would have preferred I tell people turn over to the Weather Channel and play another Led Zeppelin tune.

The typical bulletin from the National Weather Service, although it can contain information about dramatic events, is usually fairly dispassionate in tone. In fact, these bulletins generally read like prepared scripts with blanks to be filled in. But the hurricane warning issued by the National Weather Service Sunday morning before Katrina struck, is anything but.

URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

…DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED…

HURRICANE KATRINA…A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH…RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER.

AT LEAST HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED…ALL WINDOWS WILL BE BLOWN OUT.

THE VAST MAJORITY…OF TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

It’s been a week since Katrina made landfall, and I am over a thousand highway miles from New Orleans, but that bulletin scares the hell out of me—still.

And the [Bush] administration is still trying to claim they didn’t know how bad it would be?

3 responses

  1. In all fairness to Bush he did try to warn Louisianna governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin to start evacuations 2-3 days before Katrina made landfall. I’d argue that Bush bore an unfair brunt of the blame for the gross mismanagement following the disaster. Both Blanco and Nagin were also very guilty of negligence and general ineptitude following the disaster. I’m not saying Bush didn’t deserve some of the blame– he certainly did. But I believe the press directed far too much of the blame on him and not enough of the blame on Blanco & Nagin.

    I recommend– as a study in management vs. mis-management in the wake of disaster look at how poorly Blanco handled things after Katrina vs. how well current Louisianna governor, Bobby Jindal has handled things in Louisianna in the wake of the Gulf Oil spill.

  2. Unfortunately, bulletins like the one you cite from the NWS were then, and still are, categorcally lumped into the “crying wolf” department. That does not excuse the ineptitude of the Bush Administration, Kathleen Blanco, Ray Nagin, “Brownie”, or anyone else. One thing that seems clear: WWL-AM and WWL-TV were indeed prepared for the disaster, and performed admirably, in the first several days post-Katrina from remote studios in Baton Rouge while maintaining a street presence in New Orleans. Some of the most compelling reporting on the storm and its aftermath was done by the WWL crews, and some of the best analysis was from long-time WWL-AM talk show host (and former WWL-TV News Anchor) Garland Robinette. I had the honor of working with those folks, part-time, when I lved in New Orleans. I followed their blogs and online reporting for weeks after Katrina hit. Their professionalism and dedication were beyond exemplary. It’s my considered opinion that New Orleans would have been far better off had it been governed during and after Katrina by WWL-AM and WWL-TV staffers, than the politicians who failed so miserably.

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