Did Louisiana Learn From Katrina?
Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who headed the agency when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, weighed in on the flooding in Louisiana, the political fallout and the government’s handling of the recovery process.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who visited the flood zone in Louisiana last week, criticized President Obama for visiting the region days later tweeting it was “too little, too late!” Brown discussed the political responses to the flooding.
President Obama should have gone to Louisiana days ago, instead of golfing. Too little, too late!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2016
“Well, I think the President was right in not going initially. It’s a fairly nuanced political situation. The last thing you want to do is have the President, Air Force One, Secret Service, the entire entourage show up while you’re in the response phase.”
On the other hand, Brown explained that President Obama also made some mistakes in his handling of the floods.
“But I think the President was wrong by not stepping off the golf course while he was on Martha’s Vineyard and at least making a statement to the American public telling the people of Louisiana that help is there, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. And then politically, I think the President made a mistake by letting Donald Trump beat him there once the response phase was over and they were in recovery.”
Because of this Brown said Trump gained a political advantage by visiting the state ahead of Obama.
“Once the response phase was gone and Trump showed up, Trump trumped him [Obama].”
Brown assessed the Louisiana state government’s handling of the response to the flooding in the southern part of the state.
“I thought that what the state of Louisiana was doing in the response phase of this flooding was exactly what a state should be doing. They were coordinating, they had their mutual aid agreements in place, the Louisiana National Guard, Department of Wildlife, everybody was doing what they were supposed to do. So they had a unified command structure in place. That is exactly what governors should be doing in disasters.”
Brown then compared the government response to the flooding with the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“So compare that to Hurricane Katrina, we had a disaster in Hurricane Katrina because we couldn’t get a unified command structure in place and the mayor failed to evacuate the city. So while I never compare disasters, I will say this, Katrina had problems because of command structure, in this case you didn’t have that and I say touche to the state of Louisiana for it.”
Brown also explained that though federal financial aid is on the way, he warned about misconceptions of what the goals of the aid are and the amount that will be given.
“Well, let’s be very precise about this because there is federal aid that will come along, but there is a misconception that the federal aid is going to make these disaster victims whole and it simply does not. It’s temporary assistance, it doesn’t rebuild homes, it doesn’t make them right back to where they were, it’s a stop-gap measure.”