Hurricane Katrina and Oil Crash Effects and Conference Calls Detail Katrina Concerns, Failings

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$100 Billion Storm

The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that economic losses from Hurricane Katrina are likely to top $100 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Private insurers will probably cover less than a quarter of that figure. Federal money and charitable contributions will likely be needed to handle the remaining losses.

There are also staggering losses expected from the interruption of business and displacement of residents. According to the
The Independent, New Orleans will have to be shut for at least nine months, and many of its residents could remain homeless for up to two years. The cost of not doing business in New Orleans has been estimated by Risk Management Solutions at around $100 million a day.


Coming Oil Crash

Matt Savinar, creator of Life After the Oil Crash website, discussed the possible repercussions on fuel prices and availability in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and how this tragedy may give us a glimpse into what will happen in the United States when oil begins to run out. Full recap to follow.

Life After the Oil Crash --- "Deal With Reality or Reality Will Deal With You"

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From National Public Radio  ----

Conference Calls Detail Katrina Concerns, Failings

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Emergency Manager Walter Maestri of Jefferson Parish is one official who became frustrated with the federal response to Katrina in the conference calls. Daniel Zwerdling, NPR

After the Storm

Nearly two weeks after Katrina struck, when communications were finally re-established, officials were still discussing how to help. The conversations below took place in a conference call on Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. The primary speakers are Maestri and Jeff Smith, deputy director of Louisiana's Office of Emergency Preparedness.
Maestri recorded the emergency response calls beginning with an Aug. 26 telephone conference.

Maestri recorded the emergency response calls beginning with an Aug. 26 telephone conference. Daniel Zwerdling, NPR

Early Warnings

Experts have predicted a catastrophic hurricane strike on New Orleans for several years:

Morning Edition, September 23, 2005 In the days before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, officials in local, state and federal governments held a series of telephone conference calls aimed at coordinating their responses to the storm. The sessions were recorded by Walter Maestri, emergency manager for Jefferson Parish, who shared them with NPR.

In tapes of the disaster planning meetings, emergency managers and civic officials evinced a growing concern with the strengthening hurricane's possible effects -- and after the storm made landfall, a growing frustration with the aid effort mounted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As emergency preparations gave way to coordinated actions and pleas for equipment, the recorded calls depict an emergency command center in Baton Rouge that became a center of frenzied activity.

As late as Saturday morning -- 48 hours before the storm struck -- officials were debating how best to handle an evacuation. At one point, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans brought up a troubling issue: If community leaders simultaneously told residents to leave, gridlock could result.

Throughout the weekend, local officials continued in their plans to open disaster shelters. In detailed plans drawn up several years ago, state and federal governments agreed on the need for a network of "special needs" shelters, with emergency generators that could power medical equipment. But in a series of phone calls, officials complained they couldn't find the generators they needed.

Dozens of key officials from state and federal agencies spoke with local counterparts like Maestri, of Jefferson Parish, a large suburb of New Orleans hit hard by the storm surge and the flooding that followed.

On the morning of Monday, Aug. 29, with Katrina making its way inland from the Gulf Coast, Maestri said on the call: "Things are collapsing." And questions persisted over who was in charge: "So FEMA will coordinate emergency supplies?" Maestri asked. Soon after, communications were lost, and the next conference call took place nearly two weeks later.

The calls could play a role in any investigation -- whether by the White House or by Congress -- into why the initial response to Katrina failed to match the scale of the hurricane's impact on the region.

This piece was produced by NPR's Kate Davidson.


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