In the hectic, confused hours after Hurricane Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast, Louisiana’s governor hesitantly but mistakenly assured the Bush administration that New Orleans’ protective levees were intact, according to new video obtained by The Associated Press showing briefings that day with federal officials.
“We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees,” Gov. Kathleen Blanco said shortly after noon on Aug. 29, according to the video. “We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee. I think we have not breached the levee at this time.”
In fact, the National Weather Service received a report of a levee breach and issued a flash-flood warning as early as 9:12 a.m. that day, according to the White House’s formal recounting of events the day Katrina struck.
Critics have maintained the Homeland Security Department responded too slowly to the breaches, delaying repair efforts and allowing flooding to worsen. Formal reports of New Orleans’ levee breaches reached the White House by 6 p.m., and the administration confirmed the damage by the next morning, according to the White House’s recount.
In the video of the conference call, Blanco appears uncertain about the reliability of her information and cautioned that the situation “could change.”
Blanco said floodwaters were rising in parts of the city “where we have waters that are 8 to 10 feet deep, and we have people swimming in there.”
“That’s got a considerable amount of water itself,” the governor said. “That’s about all I know right now on the specifics that you haven’t heard.”
Of course this piece is written by the same 60 Minutes producer discussed here, so she HAS to throw in the “Blanco appeared uncertain” bit.