Inside Hurricane Katrina (2005) Movie Script

Narrator: It's a classic
military operation...
Attack the enemy
with overwhelming force.
Man: We're in the eye wall.
Narrator: Cut off his ability
to communicate.
Take the enemy's eyes out.
Take his ears out.
Then fix him
so he can't maneuver.
Man: This whole place
is going under water.
Narrator: But this
is no sneak attack.
The aggressor announces
her intentions.
Experts predict the date,
the time,
even the place
where she will strike.
And yet, somehow,
a natural disaster spirals
into an unnatural
human catastrophe.
Woman: We're devastated.
Man: We haven't eaten
in three days.
Narrator: What turns Katrina.
Into one of the deadliest
hurricanes of modern times?
Man: No water. No food.
Woman: We don't have a home.
Man: We lost everything.
Woman sobbing: We want her back.
Why does it take so long.
To respond
to the cries for help?
Who makes the decisions,
and why?
Man: People gotta do something,
we ain't got no more food.
We got babies out here.
We got handicapped people.
Woman: On the floor,
she's dying right now.
Two people died already.
Where's FEMA? Where's the Mayor?
Woman: Please, somebody.
Man: We need some help out here.
Get us outta here!
We wanna get outta here!
Help! Help! Help!
I don't even know if my kids
are alive, man.
Narrator: The facts behind
the storm shed new light...
As we go
Inside Hurricane Katrina.
Narrator: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
July 2004.
A war game is underway
at the state's
emergency operations center.
The scenario:
A deadly hurricane called Pam
ravages New Orleans
and the surrounding area.
Floodwaters surge
over the levees,
engulfing the city.
The death toll: 61,000.
The injured and sick: 380,000.
The homeless: Half a million.
Half a million buildings
One million people evacuate
the hurricane zone.
In the war game, Pam cripples
local and state government.
So without even waiting
for an S.O.S.,
Washington takes charge
of the relief effort.
After a week
of these doomsday scenarios,
the disaster officials
have a preliminary plan.
So the locals knew what
their responsibilities were.
The state knew what
its responsibilities were.
The federal government knew
what its responsibilities were.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005.
11:00 A.M. the central Bahamas.
Heavy rain and high winds
rattle the skies
and kick up mountainous waves
in the Atlantic Ocean.
Satellite photography reveals
a spinning formation
of thunderstorms,
with the signature
counterclockwise rotation
of a hurricane in the making.
Sustained wind speed
tops 38 miles an hour.
It is officially
a tropical storm...
For now.
On the alphabetized list
of names for storms
in the Atlantic Ocean in 2005,
the next one up is Katrina.
The National Hurricane Center
issues an advisory:
Hurricane conditions
are possible in south Florida
within 36 hours.
Bentonville, Arkansas.
An emergency response team here
is already on the case.
Man: Hurricanes
are one of the few disasters.
That give you lead time...
That you can really kind of
plan things ahead of time...
And for us it's "go, go, go, go"
until the storm hits.
Narrator: This response team
is using that lead-time.
To gather truckloads of supplies
that people need
in an emergency...
Including bottled water,
flashlights, and pop tarts.
But Jason Jackson is not part
of a government disaster plan.
He works for Wal-Mart.
Thursday, August 25th. 3:30 P.M.
Katrina's wind speed
hits 74 miles an hour.
That means she's now
a category 1 hurricane...
Able to topple trees,
down power lines,
and damage homes.
At the high end of the scale,
a cat 5...
With winds above
155 miles an hour...
Can decimate entire communities,
killing anyone in its path.
6:30 P.M.
Hurricane Katrina comes ashore.
She pummels the coast of Florida
and heads inland.
She leaves 14 people dead
and causes $460 million
in damages.
For a cat 1,
she packs a serious punch.
The reason: Katrina's
swirling winds are high,
but she moves
over the state slowly,
at only 8 miles per hour.
An average hurricane
usually moves
at about 15 to 20 miles per hour
with its forward speed,
so it basically
hung over Florida
for an extended period of time,
exposing them to relatively weak
but hurricane-force winds
Narrator: Katrina's foray
into south Florida.
Has cost her energy.
Hurricanes typically
lose strength over land.
That's because they draw
their power from warm water,
like an engine burning fuel.
Once she's out
over the warm Gulf of Mexico,
Katrina re-energizes.
Keim: The conditions
were very right.
Because the sea-surface
were over 80 degrees,
which is the minimum you need
for the formation of hurricanes.
Narrator: Friday, August 26th.
11:30 A.M.
Katrina strengthens.
She's now
a category 2 hurricane,
and could become a 3
within the next 24 hours.
Her next target: Anywhere
from the Florida panhandle
to Louisiana.
Along the Gulf coast,
the red cross and salvation army
are on the move.
They open shelters
and mobile feeding units.
So before the storm hits
we're moving people,
and we're also moving
our supplies.
We pre-position our supplies
in warehouses
around the Gulf coast.
Narrator: The news about Katrina
is spreading.
But who's paying attention?
Have you ever been
to New Orleans
it's the hottest city...
New Orleans, Louisiana.
A uniquely American city...
A rollicking mix of French,
Spanish, creole, cajun,
and African influences.
A place with its own beat.
A city of
a half a million people
spiced with jazz, voodoo,
and gumbo.
Drop me off
in New Orleans, man
narrator: The good times roll.
On the very fragile soil
of the Mississippi delta.
This major port city is built
almost entirely below sea level.
It's shaped like a crescent
and surrounded by water:
The Gulf of Mexico
100 miles to the south;
lake pontchartrain to the north;
and the Mississippi River
winds through it.
On average, the city streets are
six feet lower than the Gulf.
It's protected by one
of the world's largest systems
of earthen levees
and floodwalls.
But some of the levees
are slowly sinking
and in need of repair.
On Friday at 5:00 P.M.,
Katrina is northwest
of the Florida keys.
With every passing hour,
she sucks in energy
from the warm water.
She's projected to grow
into a very dangerous
category 3 hurricane...
With winds up to
130 miles per hour.
Katrina now appears
to have settled on a target
west of the Florida panhandle.
She is fast becoming a monster.
From Washington, D.C.,
to Louisiana,
local, state
and federal officials
know Katrina is coming.
Narrator: Baton Rouge.
Here at the Louisiana
emergency operations center,
officials are in battle mode.
Several times a day,
they strategize on the phone
with emergency planners
around the state...
The ones who'll be
on the front lines
if disaster strikes.
One local official
recorded these calls
and provided them
to the producers
of this documentary.
They reveal what officials say
to each other...
And how they plan...
Up to the very moment
that Katrina strikes.
Narrator: For this hurricane,
as with every natural disaster
in the U.S.,
local and state officials
are the primary and
most critical line of defense.
Everything starts
from the bottom up,
and there's an old saying,
"all disasters are local."
Narrator: Even before a hurricane
hits or floodwaters rise,
the states will often
ask the federal government
to get involved.
That's where FEMA...
The federal emergency
management agency...
Comes in.
FEMA is supposed
to strategize with the state
and come up
with a plan of attack.
The state kind of acts
as the broker,
coordinating what
the local needs are,
and giving us a picture
of what the gross needs are,
so to speak.
Narrator: Also on this Friday,
August 26th,
both Mississippi and Louisiana
declare states of emergency,
which give the Governors
the right
to deploy national guard troops
and suspend civil liberties.
The U.S. Coast Guard
puts helicopters, planes
and cutters on standby.
Out in the Gulf, oil companies
evacuate their rigs.
The work stoppage will have
an immediate impact nationwide...
The Gulf accounts
for more than 25 percent
of America's oil
and natural gas production.
New Orleans is
by far the biggest city
in the likely path of Katrina.
She's now expected to hit
the Gulf coast in 72 hours.
Over the coming days,
two Louisiana politicians
will play leading roles
in determining the city's fate.
49-year-old ray Nagin is
a former cable TV executive,
elected as Mayor in 2002.
62-year-old Kathleen Blanco
is a veteran of state politics,
and the first woman to serve
as Louisiana Governor.
It's Friday night
in the French Quarter.
On Bourbon Street, the etouffee
flies out of the kitchens
and the freewheeling jazz bands
are moving feet.
People down here,
they don't fear hurricanes.
They honor them...
Big easy style, with
a mind-numbing concoction...
Called a hurricane.
11:00 P.M. Friday night.
The National Hurricane Center
that Katrina will hit land here,
in the town of buras, Louisiana,
60 miles southeast
of New Orleans.
This prediction will turn out
to be extraordinarily accurate.
Saturday, August 27, 2005.
Katrina is now a deadly
category 3 hurricane.
Her winds hit 115 miles an hour.
She draws awesome power
from the Gulf,
and propels a storm surge
ahead of her.
7:30 A.M. Baton Rouge.
A Louisiana emergency official,
Jeff Smith,
has gathered his counterparts
for another conference call.
Narrator: The FEMA liaison
wants Louisiana officials.
To make a key decision
about relief supplies.
Narrator: Evacuations
are underway this morning.
In low-lying areas south
and east of New Orleans.
Under the state's
emergency plan,
those counties... or "Parishes,"
as they call them in Louisiana...
Are the first to evacuate,
because they're
the most vulnerable.
The policy is very simple.
It's "get out of here"
and "get out of here as quickly
as we possibly can."
So all the state agencies,
the local agencies,
everybody is working together
to accomplish that goal.
Narrator: It's a kind
of gentlemen's agreement.
The goal is to let people
in the surrounding communities
get out of harm's way
before traffic from New Orleans
clogs up the interstates.
For the city, the process begins
at the point when forecasts say
that tropical storm force winds
will hit the coast in 30 hours.
That point is approaching
this afternoon.
1:30 P.M.
This is not a test.
This is the real deal.
And I don't want to panic you...
Narrator: In accordance
with this plan,
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin
urges people
in the lowest-lying areas
within the city to evacuate.
Nagin: We want you to be ready,
we want you to be safe,
and most importantly,
like the Governor said,
we want you to be calm.
Narrator: The Mayor
also announces.
That he will open the Superdome
the following morning, Sunday,
as a shelter of last resort.
The Superdome is
a 70,000-seat stadium
and home to the New Orleans
football team, the saints.
It was built to withstand
200-mile-an-hour winds.
By late Saturday afternoon,
both Louisiana and Mississippi
trigger their emergency
highway evacuation plans,
using all lanes
for outbound traffic.
Woman: We all have
to evacuate, yeah!
Narrator: Even with the extra
roadways, traffic snarls.
Woman: It's extremely hard
to leave.
Your whole life is here,
your whole world,
and it's hard to decide
what's important
and what's of value.
All along the Gulf coast,
thousands of people
are streaming inland,
hoping to avoid Katrina's wrath.
Hotels book up.
Lines form at grocery stores
and gas stations.
Woman: Just recently gotten
out of a gas line.
That was about
two or three hours.
Most of the gas stations
are closed down.
Narrator: But there are
tens of thousands of people.
Who are just staying put.
The people I talked to
and asked them to get out,
they were like, well,
we don't have anyplace to go,
so we're just hanging in here.
Narrator: That attitude pervades
parts of New Orleans as well.
And this city of nearly
half a million people
is unprepared to deal
with the consequences
of so many people who decide
to stay in their homes
and ride out
what threatens to be
one of the most dangerous
hurricanes in American history.
Saturday afternoon,
August 27, 2005.
A possibly catastrophic
hurricane is now forecast
to slam into the Gulf coast
on Monday morning.
One statistic reveals
the tragedy about to unfold:
According to the New Orleans
emergency management plan,
roughly 100,000 residents
of New Orleans...
More than 20 percent
of the entire city...
Do not have cars
or other means
of personal transportation.
Many of these same people
have no money for a bus,
a train, or a hotel.
Many depend on welfare checks,
which tend to run out
by these last few days
in the month.
Despite the dollars that
tourists bring to the big easy,
New Orleans has long been poor.
It has a poverty rate
of more than 23 percent,
almost twice
the national average.
And its murder rate
is one of the highest per capita
in the country.
Many of the city's
poorest residents live here,
in the sprawling ninth ward.
People live
in ramshackle housing
that sits as much as 4 feet
below sea level.
Crawford, Texas.
President Bush is on vacation
today at his ranch.
He receives and signs a request
from Governor Kathleen Blanco
to declare a federal state
of emergency in Louisiana.
The white house can now direct
any federal agency
to use its resources
to help the area.
Saturday evening.
FEMA has dispatched
five search-and-rescue teams
to Shreveport, Louisiana,
and Meridian, Mississippi.
FEMA positions the teams,
totaling 262 people,
out of the line of fire...
But close enough to perform
rescue operations
after the storm hits.
FEMA headquarters.
Washington, D.C.
An emergency specialist and
union president named Leo Bosner
is also tracking Katrina.
Bosner believes
the agency is unprepared
for the kind
of disaster predicted
in the Hurricane Pam scenario.
And as this went along
Saturday night and into Sunday,
i think all of us just felt
this, this terrible
hollow feeling.
Why aren't greater measures
being taken?
Narrator: The director of FEMA
is 50-year-old Michael Brown.
He's been running it since 2003,
and has handled disasters
including California wildfires
and the Columbia
space shuttle explosion.
FEMA is not the organization
it once was.
After 9/11,
as the country focused
on preventing
another terrorist attack,
congress voted to downgrade FEMA
from a cabinet-level agency.
In 2003 it became part
of the new homeland security
The problem with putting FEMA
into the office
of homeland security
was that it took it
out of the white house,
and there is nothing
more effective
for any government agency
than being right next
to the president.
Narrator: Saturday, August 27th.
7:00 P.M. central time.
Katrina is a dangerous
category 3 hurricane.
She's barreling toward
Louisiana and Mississippi,
on her way to becoming
a cataclysmic 4 or 5.
Weather maps show Katrina
expanding so rapidly
that she seems to overwhelm
the entire Gulf.
Her 12-foot waves are already
approaching parts of the coast.
By this point,
across New Orleans,
floodgates are closing
on the levees
that surround and cut
through the city,
including the industrial canal
on the city's east side,
the 17th street canal
on the West Side,
and the London Avenue canal
in the gentilly neighborhood.
The levees are embankments
made of dirt.
Some are topped with reinforced
concrete floodwalls.
They range between
13 and 18 feet tall.
Some date all the way back
to the 1920s.
The army corps of engineers
maintains them
and acknowledges
that budget shortfalls
have prevented
urgently needed repairs.
The levees are built
to protect New Orleans
from the storm surge
of a category 3 hurricane.
Storm surge is when high winds
push massive amounts of water
above the normal sea level.
As thousands of people
stream out of New Orleans
on Saturday night,
jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins
is headed back in.
He's just finished
a gig in San Diego.
I said, man, I need
to get to home real quick
and board up my windows
and get my family together
and get out of here.
Narrator: Ruffins is not
quite ready to evacuate.
He secures his house,
then heads to the French Quarter
to bar hop.
Ruffins: The bars are packed.
Saw a lot of friends, and with
typical New Orleans, um, humor,
"hey, man, this place will be
under water tomorrow."
Narrator: 9:30 P.M.
Louisiana Governor Blanco
joins the conference call
with emergency officials.
She reports on her latest
conversations with FEMA.
Narrator: And yet, despite the
warnings and doomsday scenarios,
a FEMA report will later note
that on Saturday night,
August 27, 2005,
"the bars were rocking"
in the French Quarter.
Woman: The weather is fine!
Everything's nice and hot!
Narrator: After midnight, as the
big easy slowly winds down,
Hurricane Katrina proves
the forecasters correct.
Sunday, August 28th. 12:40 A.M.
Katrina becomes
a category 4 hurricane,
hell-bent on destruction.
Hurricane Pam is no longer
just another doomsday theory.
The worst-case scenario
will soon be reality.
Sunday, August 28, 2005.
7:00 A.M. central time.
Hurricane Katrina is 250 miles
out in the Gulf of Mexico.
She has become an extremely rare
category 5 monster,
forecast to come ashore
in less than 24 hours.
At this point,
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin
decides to announce a mandatory
evacuation of the city...
Something that's never
been done before.
He puts the plan in motion.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Narrator: On a conference call
with state and FEMA officials,
the New Orleans representative
voices one overriding concern.
Narrator: 8:00 A.M.
the refuge of last resort,
the Superdome,
begins taking in evacuees.
Behind the scenes,
FEMA director Michael Brown
expresses frustration
that a mandatory evacuation
has not yet been announced.
Brown appeals
to New Orleans residents.
Voluntary evacuations right now.
I'll tell you this personally.
If I lived in New Orleans,
I'd be getting out of there.
Narrator: Crawford, Texas.
9:25 A.M.
President Bush: cmo estas?
Narrator: From his ranch, president
bush calls Governor Kathleen Blanco.
To discuss the New Orleans
evacuation plan.
At this point
the Governor and the Mayor
have the power,
and the responsibility,
for getting people
out of harm's way.
New Orleans. 9:30 A.M.
President Bush called and
told me to share with all of you
that he is very concerned
about the citizens,
he is concerned about the impact
that this hurricane would have
on our people.
And he asked me to please ensure
that there would be a mandatory
evacuation of New Orleans.
Narrator: Now there is one.
Katrina's landfall
is about 20 hours away.
Nagin: This is going to be
an unprecedented event.
We want everybody to get out.
The city of New Orleans
has never seen a hurricane
of this strength
to hit it almost directly.
Narrator: Mayor Nagin
also imposes a 6:00 P.M. curfew.
10:11 A.M.
The National Weather Service
issues an apocalyptic advisory,
the kind of warning
it would seem positively
suicidal to ignore:
Devastating damage expected...
Most of the area will be
uninhabitable for weeks...
Perhaps longer.
At least one half
of well-constructed homes
will have roof and wall failure.
All windows will blow out...
Airborne debris
will be widespread...
Persons... pets... and livestock
exposed to the winds
will face certain death
if struck.
By this point on Sunday morning,
most people have either
fled New Orleans
or are in the process
of doing so.
But tens of thousands of people,
many in the lowest-lying
and poorest parts of the city,
are not leaving.
They scramble to grab
last-minute supplies.
We've got oil, we've got water,
we've got food.
Pray for us...
Pray for all of New Orleans.
They'll tell you,
"Well, I lived here
through Betsy or Camille"
or one of the previous
There've been
all kinds of hurricanes
that have come through.
None of them could
truly devastate the area.
Narrator: With a police force
of only 1,600,
the Mayor does not send
his officers out
to enforce
the mandatory evacuation.
It's not just a question
of manpower.
There is also a traditional bias
against forcing people
out of their own homes.
Still, officers do use
their powers of persuasion.
I went as far as telling people,
i said,
"Well, just do me a favor."
Make life easy on us.
Take a permanent marker.
Write your
social security number
along one arm and one leg,
so when we find your body,
we can check
the social security records
and find out who you are.
Then we don't have to try
"and fingerprint
a decomposed body."
Narrator: Mayor Nagin dispatches
regional transit buses.
To pick up residents
at 12 locations around the city
and ferry them here
to the Superdome.
Come with enough food,
perishable items,
to last for three to five days.
Come with blankets,
with pillows.
No weapons, no alcohol,
no drugs.
You know, this is
like the Governor said,
you're going on a camping trip.
Narrator: According to amtrak,
the city declines an offer
to put hundreds of evacuees
on the last passenger train
leaving the city.
The predictions about Katrina
are so ominous
that National Hurricane Center
director Max Mayfield
not only briefs
FEMA director Michael Brown
and homeland security chief
Michael Chertoff,
but also President Bush.
Louisiana state representative
Arthur Morrell
and his wife, Cynthia,
a New Orleans city councilwoman,
argue about whether to evacuate.
He and my son
did not want to leave.
They were gonna ride out
the hurricane,
and I said, "Oh, no."
Narrator: Jazz trumpeter
Kermit Ruffins.
Has already
boarded up his house.
Now he and his fiancee consider
whether to hit the road.
Normally I would
stay home, you know,
board up my windows,
light a few candles
and relax for a day or two.
But, um, my fiancee said,
"Kermit, we'd better
get out of here."
Narrator: Elsewhere,
people stand on street corners.
Holding a few spare possessions:
Bags of clothes or pillows.
It's 91 degrees and humid
as they wait for buses
to take them to the Superdome.
The process takes hours.
When they arrive, they find
a shelter with security,
medical facilities,
food and water.
Between them, FEMA
and the Louisiana national guard
have trucked in tens
of thousands of liters of water
and mres,
or "meals ready to eat,".
The standard military ration.
By nightfall, nearly
10,000 people take shelter here.
I think the people in here
are pretty happy to be inside.
Indeed I'm very grateful
for the Superdome,
because without it I don't know
where we would-a went.
Narrator: By now FEMA
has mapped out 11 storage sites.
In and around
the hurricane zone.
They have stockpiled supplies:
More than 2.5 million
liters of water...
More than 1.3 million mres...
And 17 million pounds of ice.
6:00 P.M., curfew time
in New Orleans.
The French Quarter is empty.
It's warm, quiet, and calm.
The news reports tonight
all say the same thing:
Katrina is barreling across
the Gulf of Mexico
at cat 5 strength,
the highest ranking.
In the world of weather, this is
the weapon of mass destruction.
This is pretty much
the hurricane.
That we always talk about.
If it should stay
on that current trajectory
just east of downtown
New Orleans, that's bad.
They avoid the direct hit
from the south,
but look, on the east side,
that's the worst
flooding scenario.
Narrator: 9:30 P.M.
Louisiana and FEMA officials
hold one more conference call
before Katrina strikes.
The tone of the call
is professional, matter-of-fact,
but it seems the state and FEMA
are still pinning down
some basic details.
Narrator: The National Weather Service
gives a dire flooding report.
Narrator: Monday, August 29th.
2:00 A.M. central time.
Katrina starts to lose energy
as she nears land
and hits shallow water.
She weakens to a category 4
or possibly a 3.
Her leading edge
is now lashing at towns
along the coast of Louisiana
and Mississippi.
Her winds roar
through dark neighborhoods.
At least a million people
have moved out of harm's way.
But along the Gulf coast,
many people
are riding out the storm
in century-old homes,
scattered shelters,
and the Superdome.
This is where they will stay.
Katrina is here.
Time has run out.
Monday, August 29, 2005.
The nightmare is real.
The brutal assault
of Katrina begins.
4:00 A.M. central time.
Katrina's monstrous winds push
a storm surge of 14 to 17 feet
toward the Louisiana coast.
5:02 A.M. parts of news Orleans
lose electricity.
The Superdome goes dark.
The structure has
backup generators,
but they run
only reduced lighting.
About 10,000 people here
inside the dome listen
as the air conditioning system
shudders to a halt.
Most of the evacuees
remain calm.
Man: Everybody nice.
They fed us, and we just waiting
'til we ride the storm out.
Narrator: 6:10 A.M.
Katrina storms ashore in
plaquemines Parish, Louisiana,
60 miles southeast
of New Orleans.
Our account of how the hurricane
now decimates the city is based
on the first comprehensive
analysis of the events
by the Louisiana state
university hurricane center.
First, the gargantuan
storm surge
pushes up the Mississippi River.
It also races here,
into the Mississippi River
Gulf outlet,
and here, through lake borgne,
converging in this area,
known as the funnel.
In New Orleans,
the winds are furious.
A few hundred feet
from the Superdome,
two brothers, both police
SWAT team members,
Dwayne and Daryl Scheuermann,
have spent the night
sleeping in their trucks.
We just left the doors open,
we're sleeping...
My brother on the back seat
of his truck,
me on the back seat of mine...
And when we heard
the wind picking up,
actually it sounded
like somebody beating
on those steel doors.
[Winds roaring]
Narrator: Doug Keisling,
a professional storm chaser,
sets up his camera
and starts recording.
Keisling: I just had
like cat 3 or cat 4 winds.
Going through these buildings
here, just ripping off stuff.
[Debris crashing]
Narrator: Evacuees in the Superdome
hear a heart-rending noise.
Man: It looks like one section
of the Superdome roof.
May soon, uh, peel away
from the actual stadium...
Man: We're going to go now
to Governor Blanco.
Blanco: Reports that we have
gotten from people in the dome.
Tell us that there has been,
um, a portion of the roof
that is leaking.
[Crowd gasps]
Narrator: Water pours
into the stadium.
Katrina's winds
tear at the roof,
as she rips away
15-foot-long sections.
On the streets,
a man struggles to stand
in the blinding rains
and relentless winds.
7:00 A.M.
With the eye of the hurricane
still south of the city,
the storm surge tops the levees
in the funnel.
St. Bernard Parish
begins to flood
on both sides
of the intracoastal waterway.
So does the lower ninth ward
in New Orleans.
Here, all along
the industrial canal,
Katrina's floodwaters
now overtop the levees.
Water starts cascading
into the city,
flowing from the canal
both east and west.
7:30 A.M.
Narrator: It's the first chance.
For local, state,
and FEMA officials
to report to each other
on Katrina's assault.
Narrator: Inside the Superdome,
terrified evacuees
are still watching
as Katrina continues
to tear away at the roof.
Man: Right over 50-yard line.
A big chunk of the roof
tore off.
It came down suddenly.
All of a sudden it just...
Scared everybody.
It scared me.
I didn't know it was going...
It just came suddenly, bam.
Oh, again!
Look at that. Again.
At that point nobody knew
if the building
was going to hold.
Narrator: 7:45 A.M.
By now, in the lower ninth ward,
the storm surge has begun
to erode the earthen levees.
Along the eastern side
of the industrial canal
the levees now suffer
an explosive break.
The lower ninth ward
and New Orleans east
flood rapidly.
The floodwaters reach
to 12 feet above sea level,
completely submerging
many homes.
The flooding in east New Orleans
as the storm surge begins
to overtop the levees
on lake pontchartrain.
The city is going under.
At this moment,
storm chaser Doug Keisling
is driving through
downtown New Orleans.
He meets a man who knows more
about the flood
consuming the city
than the reporters on the scene.
Narrator: Back on the conference
call in Baton Rouge,
the emergency director
for St. Bernard Parish
asks the state official,
Jeff Smith,
for emergency supplies.
Narrator: 10:00 A.M.
Katrina now whirls north
and slightly east,
and delivers a direct strike
near the Louisiana-Mississippi
She decimates towns
including slidell, Louisiana,
as well as waveland,
bay St. Louis, pass Christian,
and biloxi, Mississippi.
Narrator: Other storm chasers
here describe the scene.
Narrator: It comes in
wherever he turns.
Man: Oh, yeah.
Storm surge.
Narrator: These men
help an elderly woman.
Escape the rapidly rising water.
Narrator: The enormous surge
lifts up this car.
And rams it
into the lobby doors.
Man: Jim, look at this
over here.
Narrator: It's time to head
to higher ground.
Narrator: The surge
chases people up the stairs.
Man: Whoa!
Narrator: The Mayor of gulfport,
Mississippi, Brent Warr,
is at his mother's house.
On his two-way radio,
he monitors police dispatch.
Warr: And you can hear
the anguish in their voice,
and all I could do was sit there
and listen to it
hour after hour.
And then finally the lady said,
you know,
they were swimming for it.
And I don't know whether they...
I don't know whether they
survived or not, you know.
Narrator: Biloxi, Mississippi.
Mayor a.J. Holloway is
in city hall with his family.
He watches Katrina's
merciless assault on his city.
And then we looked
down towards the beach,
and all of a sudden we see
these big waves coming.
And they were just coming
one right behind the other one.
And then we started seeing
debris washing up.
And we started seeing
parts of buildings,
and I could recognize
the buildings.
I knew where they were,
i knew what they looked like.
Then we see furniture
floating all around.
And then we started seeing
cars floating by.
And of course tin
off the buildings, and shingles,
just sort of like
the wizard of oz, you know?
Narrator: Heading further east,
Katrina swallows
mobile, Alabama,
submerging some parts
of the city
in as much as ten feet of water.
Back in New Orleans,
Katrina is keeping
her worst nightmare for last,
as her winds
push the storm surge
against the levees
on lake pontchartrain.
And yet, at the very moment
that New Orleans is drowning,
journalists here are unaware
of the catastrophe unfolding
elsewhere in the city.
Unwittingly, their live reports
give the rest of the country
a false sense of comfort.
Man: They dodged the bullet,
but they still got
a sound bruising.
Narrator: New Orleans.
Monday, August 29th, 10:00 A.M.
The Jackson barracks, downriver
from the French Quarter.
Katrina's floodwaters surround
337 national guard troops.
It was 14, 15 feet high
in the armory
in just in,
in less than an hour.
You could physically
just sit there
and watch it inch by inch going
up the walls of the armory.
You could hear pieces
of the roof ripping off,
glass breaking.
We have huge brick walls
around our armory,
and, you know, as the water
came up with the hurricane,
you could just see them
In homes across the city,
the water forces people
to move to higher floors.
Angela green and Chris erskine
are in their home
in the mid city neighborhood.
We were in a single-story
duplex, you know.
It came up to our steps
probably within the first hour
and then, uh, it probably
came up further into the house
within the next two hours.
I had to axe through
into our neighbors.
Through our wall.
Right, and then get
whatever perishables we could,
because ours were running out.
Then we had to swim
about 40 feet
and get into
another neighbor's house
to get upstairs
to the second floor.
If the waters rose high enough
in your home,
the potential is you drowned
in your attic
if you couldn't
break your way out.
Narrator: Baton Rouge.
FEMA director Michael Brown
contacts homeland security chief
Michael Chertoff in Washington.
Brown wants 1,000
temporary relief workers
moved into the hurricane zone
within 48 hours.
FEMA has about 3,000 employees.
Because it's not
a first responder,
it doesn't have ambulances,
fire trucks,
or helicopters of its own.
The agency relies
on state workers,
the national guard,
private contractors,
the U.S. military,
and other federal agencies.
Brown orders emergency workers
to wait
until federal, state
and local officials
establish a unified
command structure...
Standard FEMA protocol.
Man: Sorting through that
in the fog of war.
Can be very difficult.
Because it's the very time when
it's the hardest to do that,
to be able to say,
"hey, whoa! Slow down here.
Let's work through this."
But they don't want
to hear that.
You know, the state's left
with the difficult task
of trying to figure out,
well, what is it that we can do
to meet that need
versus what we're going to go
and ask the federal government
to provide.
Narrator: Katrina knocks out
most communications systems.
Phones are out.
TV and radio stations
cannot broadcast.
Even satellite communication
is unreliable.
It made the first responders
Narrator: A three-star
army general, Russel Honore,
will receive orders later today
to oversee the military response
to Hurricane Katrina.
And when the first responders
become victims,
they have a challenge in
communicating and coordinating.
Narrator: The worst blow
from Hurricane Katrina.
Is about to hit New Orleans.
Her eye is now
northeast of the city.
As her winds swirl
she pushes
a colossal storm surge
up and over the levees
here on the south side
of lake pontchartrain.
The storm turns this way,
it pushed all that water
back in this direction,
forcing it into these canals
into the intracoastal waterway.
Narrator: Floodwaters race.
Into both the 17th street
and London Avenue canals.
The levee walls here
along the London Avenue canal
start to creak and bend outward.
Then, near the mirabeau Avenue
the walls on the east side
of this canal collapse.
Floodwaters cascade
into the city.
10:30 A.M.
The levee wall
along the West Side
of the London Avenue canal
now fails.
So does the eastern levee
on the 17th street canal,
near the old
Hammond Highway bridge.
That breach sends floodwaters
into the Western portion
of Orleans Parish.
The average home in New Orleans
is drowning in six to nine feet
of standing water.
Everything was damaged.
I didn't see one thing
that was not damaged...
One house, one business.
I particularly noticed that
almost every roof was damaged.
And I knew at that point
we had a big problem.
Narrator: Rescuers are now heading
out into the floodwaters.
Among them,
New Orleans police officers
Dwayne and Darryl Scheuermann.
Dwayne Scheuermann:
We started receiving reports.
That there was just
hundreds and hundreds of people
stranded in attics and on roofs.
Narrator: New Orleans times-picayune
photographer Alex Brandon.
Joins the Scheuermann brothers
and documents
the search-and-rescue mission.
Dwayne Scheuermann: We decide at
that point to make our way down.
We had to take a chainsaw
and the entire SWAT team
to clear a path
because of all the oak trees
that were down.
There's already people
inside their roofs and attics
yelling for help.
Scheuermann: At that point,
you say to yourself,
and you're looking
at what you know,
when you used to patrol it,
as the lower ninth ward
was now a lake...
It just so happened
it was full of houses...
And you said,
"this is gonna be bad."
We pulled up to a roof
to rescue a young man,
and he waved us off
and said "look, I'm fine."
But there's some old people
in that house right there."
And as we pulled up,
there was an elderly couple,
i would guess they were probably
in their 70s,
in a single-story dwelling.
Narrator: Throughout the day,
the Scheuermanns,
along with Brandon,
go from house to house
to rescue the young,
the old and the poor.
Brandon: I'd take a picture,
and I'd set the camera down,
and I'd help the person
in the boat.
I'd take a picture,
I'd set the camera down,
and help the person in the boat.
These poor people...
Their strength is just gone.
Gratitude is immediate.
At one point,
Brandon photographs
entertainer fats domino
moments after his rescue
from his house.
General Honore regards Katrina
as a worthy adversary.
Honore: What this storm did was
a classic military operation.
The storm gathered strength,
attacked the coast
of Louisiana and Mississippi
with overwhelming force.
One of the things
in a military attack
you'd want to do
is to cut the enemy's
ability to communicate.
It took out all cell phone
and regular phone services.
The other thing this storm did
is it cut the road network.
Man: It's totally flooded out
down there.
As this storm moved north,
it protected its left flank
by leaving a flood.
Man: Yeah, it's [Beep]
This whole place
is going underwater.
Honore: Again,
a classic military attack;
take the enemy's eyes out,
take his ears out,
then fix him
so he can't maneuver.
Narrator: Katrina has declared
war on the Gulf coast.
She is winning handily.
Man: Downtown New Orleans
is trashed.
Narrator: 1:00 P.M.
At this moment, npr reaches one
of its reporters, John Burnett,
at his hotel room
in New Orleans.
Burnett and
many other journalists
are unaware of the levee breaks.
Burnett: It was just
the best eventuality.
Of the worst possible scenario.
They dodged the bullet, but they
still got a sound bruising.
The media were what people
relied on back in Washington
to get a picture
of what was going on there.
And when the report was
that everything looked ok
on Monday afternoon,
that's the impression that was
conveyed back in Washington.
Narrator: To the east,
once Katrina passes,
the damage is shocking.
Off the coast
of mobile, Alabama,
Katrina has rattled this
oil platform from its mooring.
Biloxi, Mississippi.
A 911 dispatcher is talking
to a hurricane victim.
Woman: We gonna get you
outta there.
You need to calm down now.
Man: Like to have drowned
in my house.
My house is totally gone.
Narrator: The floating gambling
barges in biloxi and gulfport.
Have taken a direct hit.
Katrina hurled the grand casino
in gulfport
150 yards onto U.S. 90.
The region's gambling industry
is out of luck.
So are many homeowners.
Man: We lost everything.
I don't even know
if my kids are alive, man!
Man: I couldn't believe my eyes.
Everything was gone.
People were just coming
out of their homes
with a dazed look
on their faces.
Their neighbors in many cases
were, were just gone.
Narrator: Monday afternoon.
Nature's fury
and the politics of disaster
are on a collision course.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
FEMA director Michael Brown
reports back
to both homeland security
and the white house.
The scope of the natural
disaster is unprecedented.
Relief efforts in New Orleans
are uncoordinated.
Brown has concluded
that Louisiana is incapable
of handling the crisis.
As night falls, some survivors
wade through the brackish water
as corpses float by.
This evening,
an abc news correspondent
on the scene in New Orleans
reports that the levees have
only overtopped, not broken.
Just how wrong such reports are
will become abundantly clear
over the next 24 hours.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005.
As the morning sun illuminates
the shattered Gulf coast,
early risers in other parts
of the country
are greeted with
surprisingly good news.
A New York times headline.
Is one of many reports
expressing relief:
"Escaping feared
knockout punch, barely,"
it says, "New Orleans is
one lucky big mess."
Here's the real scene
Tuesday morning in New Orleans.
Floodwaters cover 80 percent
of the greater New Orleans area.
In the city alone,
Katrina has destroyed
at least 200,000 homes.
Survivors navigate
through the city...
On top of a mattress...
In a tub... or on a crude raft.
Cars, houses, street signs
are all submerged
in a muddy brown layer of water,
gas, sewage, and chemicals.
Thousands of desperate residents
are trapped in their homes,
chased by the rising waters
into attics,
breaking through
to their rooftops.
They wait and pray for help.
A depleted police force
struggles to come
to the city's aid.
Police will later report
that 249 officers deserted their
posts during the hurricane.
You know they left us
at the most critical time
in the city.
Um, it hurt us bad.
It really did.
Narrator: And yet, rescue
missions are in full swing.
Leading the charge...
The U.S. Coast Guard,
national guard units,
FEMA search-and-rescue teams,
and the Louisiana department
of wildlife and fisheries.
Even in the midst
of a communications blackout,
they pluck the stranded
off rooftops
and motor up
to their flooded homes.
The floodwaters
are still coming in.
San Diego, 9:00 A.M.
pacific time.
President Bush sticks to his
previously scheduled agenda.
He arrives in California
from Texas
and gives a speech at
the coronado naval air station,
the 60th anniversary.
Of the end of world war two.
After the speech, a white house
spokesman announces
that the president
is cutting short his vacation
and flying back
to Washington tomorrow
to deal with Hurricane Katrina.
New Orleans.
Mayor Ray Nagin manages
local relief efforts
from his command post
on the 27th floor
of the downtown Hyatt hotel.
In the first 24 hours
after the disaster,
response time is critical.
But officials at the local,
state and federal levels
have yet to get a clear picture
of the situation.
Chaos in the streets is matched
by chaos in government.
I don't think there was a system
for them to push
the S.O.S. Button, you know,
from the state...
The city, state, local level
that said, "we've got,
we've got a big problem here."
Narrator: As rescue workers
save people from the floodwaters.
In 90-degree heat,
they bring them here
to the Superdome.
The stadium is now an island
amid the floodwaters.
Trucks with fresh supplies
of food, water, and medicine
cannot approach the building.
The crowd inside
swells to 20,000
and spills outside as well.
Many have now been here
for three days.
Conditions deteriorate
by the hour.
Toilets back up and overflow.
The smell of sewage, sweat
and filth is everywhere.
A similar situation
is developing
one and a half miles away,
here at the New Orleans
convention center.
The city never planned to use it
as an official place of refuge.
But today it's becoming
a spontaneous shelter
for about 25,000 evacuees,
including tourists,
whose hotels were flooded out.
There are no emergency supplies
in the building...
No food, no water, no medicine.
Both the Louisiana
national guard and FEMA
will later acknowledge that,
at this point on Tuesday,
they were unaware that people
were taking shelter here.
My mother and sister
has diabetes real bad,
so I just want them to be safe.
Narrator: Hundreds of other
people are stranded.
On Bridges and roadways
around New Orleans,
without food, water, or shelter.
Many will remain exposed
to the elements
for days to come.
It's just disgusting
and frustrating,
and we are human beings,
and they're treating us
like we're criminals.
Narrator: Throughout the city,
chaos reigns.
Looters shatter store windows.
They cart off everything from
food to entire display cases.
The U.S. army corps of engineers
meantime tries
to repair the break
at the 17th street canal
They fly in sandbags
via helicopter
and drop them onto the break.
It doesn't work.
The bags are too small.
The floodwaters carry them off.
And New Orleans
keeps filling with water.
The levees and canal walls,
once the city's great protector,
now trap the floodwaters
inside the city.
New Orleans has
an extensive pump system
to send the floodwaters
into lake pontchartrain
and the Mississippi River...
But most are either broken
or choked with debris.
If this city dies,
it's really going to be
the things that happen
after Katrina.
Narrator: Tuesday night,
10:15 P.M.
Governor Kathleen Blanco
calls for the full evacuation
of the Superdome.
With the area
around the stadium flooded,
transportation will be
a slow process.
The plan is for buses
to carry 20,000 people
to the Houston astrodome
and other shelters.
Crowd chanting:
We want help! We want help!
Help us!
Narrator: Night falls on this
second day after Katrina.
Tens of thousands of people
remain trapped in New Orleans...
Some on the streets
without basic necessities,
others in the Superdome
and convention center.
Wednesday will bring
full-out chaos,
including wild rumors of
widespread murder and gang rape.
And in a country accustomed
to watching its troops
swoop into foreign terrain
and deliver aid,
seemingly at a moment's notice,
people are beginning to wonder:
What's going wrong?
Wednesday, August 31, 2005.
48 hours since Hurricane Katrina
slammed into the Gulf coast.
In a typical hurricane,
relief efforts might already be
under control.
But the scale of this disaster
is unprecedented.
New Orleans.
According to FEMA, floodwaters
keep its supply trucks
from entering the city.
FEMA will also later report
that over the next several days
it has trouble communicating
with local and state officials,
and, quote, "doesn't know
where critical help is needed,"
In the Superdome,
20,000 evacuees
now wait for buses
to take them to Houston.
When the Tsunami happened,
when the hurricane
was going on in Florida,
they ran over there to help 'em.
Here we're in our own town, and
they will not give us nothing!
Narrator: 10:40 A.M.
President Bush takes off
on air force one,
headed back to Washington.
He asks the pilot to fly low
over the hurricane zone.
Down below,
tens of thousands of people
pack shelters
across three states...
All hoping
to return home quickly.
Many do whatever it takes
to get by.
Mobile, Alabama.
Survivors are salvaging
whatever they can,
picking through what was once
this family's living room.
In New Orleans there's
still no electricity.
Survivors bake in the sweltering
90-degree heat.
Man: No water. No food.
No food.
We got babies out here.
We got handicapped people.
People are dying
in the building.
We're starving out here.
Narrator: General Russel Honore
has now arrived in New Orleans.
To head up
U.S. military efforts.
The general leaps into action.
Narrator: Mayor Ray Nagin
tells a radio interviewer.
That he's pleased
with Honore's deployment.
Narrator: General Honore regards
the crisis here in New Orleans.
As much more challenging
than the one in Mississippi.
The big difference
is Mississippi didn't have
standing water.
They didn't have coms,
they didn't have roads,
but the water went back to sea.
In the case of New Orleans,
it created this big tub of water
right in the center.
Narrator: Relief efforts
are still in disarray.
Mayor Nagin predicts
the death toll
in New Orleans alone
will be in the thousands.
Over the next two days,
Louisiana officials begin
predicting 10,000 dead.
Helicopters carry wounded
and sick evacuees here
to Louis Armstrong airport,
which is fast becoming
a makeshift hospital.
Man: I've never seen anything
like this before.
Everyone's doing
the best that they can.
We need Insulin.
Narrator: As the day wears on,
the looting intensifies.
Mayor Nagin orders police to
stop search-and-rescue missions
and focus on law and order.
Drop it! Hey, stupid, drop it!
Narrator: Some steal to survive.
They said we could come in
and get the necessities.
I don't have any clothes
or nothin'.
I'm just getting food.
Narrator: Others simply
take advantage of the situation.
There are too many looters
to round up
and too few police officers.
National guard troops are not
handling law enforcement,
because Governor Blanco
has made search and rescue
their top priority.
Rumors begin to spread
of rampant violence
in the Superdome
and the convention center...
Tales of widespread homicide,
assault and gang rapes.
The national media
report many of the rumors
as confirmed facts.
Most will turn out to be either
false or highly exaggerated.
Estimates of 200 dead bodies
in the Superdome
turned out to be untrue.
A total of six people died
in the stadium;
four of natural causes, one from
an overdose and one suicide.
Horror stories of mass murder
inside the convention center
also turn out to be
way off the mark.
Police recover four bodies.
One is a homicide victim.
And I love the press, I mean...
It's just that their perspective
of what they're seeing
and they're hearing,
then it becomes
circular reporting.
One person reported it was two,
the next time you hear it,
it's five.
Narrator: Nonetheless,
these two buildings.
And the anguished people
inside them
become the public face
of an unfolding catastrophe,
the kind that
most Americans associate
more with the third world
than with their own country.
I don't have a home.
I had a home downtown.
But it's gone.
It's under the water.
I have nothing.
We have over 3,000 people
out here
with no home, no shelter.
What are they gonna do?
What we gonna do?
Narrator: The plight
of Katrina's victims.
Touches people
all across the country,
including this man,
the owner of a bus company
in a small town
outside Minneapolis.
He and his friends
start a local relief effort.
We collected over 90,000 pounds
of food and supplies in probably
about a 24-hour period.
Narrator: They caravan down
to Louisiana,
driving through the night,
six buses and a truck.
They deliver their food
and emergency supplies
to hurricane victims
in Shreveport and natchitoches.
Bentonville, Arkansas.
Wal-Mart's emergency
operation center.
What started a week ago
as an emergency effort
to stock its stores
has evolved.
It's now a cooperative
relief effort
with the red cross
in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Man: We needed to start sending
five trailers a day.
In to support Jefferson Parish.
To provide them water, dry food.
And I remember there was
one load of chainsaws
to help cut some of
the people out of the buildings.
Narrator: Wednesday afternoon.
Washington, D.C.
President Bush returns
to the white house
and convenes a cabinet meeting.
Bush and his advisors debate
whether the federal government
should try to take over
the relief effort
and take command
of the Louisiana national guard.
According to published reports,
the president calls
Governor Blanco on Wednesday
to float this idea,
but cannot persuade her.
In the weeks to come,
aides to Blanco acknowledge
that the Governor spoke
to the president on this day,
but firmly deny that Mr. bush
made any such offer.
It's an issue of control.
If she had allowed the president
to take over the national guard,
she feared
political recrimination.
Here again is where politics
immediately takes part,
enters into these
Narrator: Confusion
about who's responsible.
For what relief effort
is a problem reverberating
all along the Gulf coast.
FEMA, red cross.
They got a few feeding trucks
into the areas.
But the assistance
that you would typically think
for a storm of this magnitude in
an area that was so hardly hit,
they just didn't show up.
Narrator: New Orleans.
Wednesday night.
Buses arrive at the Superdome
to begin the evacuation,
but one group
of New Orleans residents
is already being evacuated.
Not by the city,
the state, or FEMA.
This young man,
20-year-old jabbar Gibson,
commandeers a school bus.
He loads it up with people
in need of shelter,
and off they go to Texas.
10:35 P.M.
Gibson arrives
at the Houston astrodome.
He deposits his passengers
at the newly designated shelter.
TV networks replay the footage
of Gibson at the wheel.
In the midst of a crisis
that's overwhelming government
at all levels,
here, at least,
is a private citizen
seizing the moment,
acting heroically.
But people are wondering,
where are the public officials
who should be doing the same?
Thursday, September 1, 2005.
7:00 A.M. eastern time.
On abc's good morning America,
President Bush offers a comment
about Hurricane Katrina
that kicks up
a political dust storm.
I don't think anybody
the breach of the levees.
Narrator: Some experts
had in fact warned.
That the levees might fail
if a big hurricane
swept through New Orleans.
The president said
he's gonna lead
the investigation
into what went wrong.
He need look only in the mirror.
Where in God's name
were the people
who were supposed
to get water and support?
People were dying there, what
in heaven's name was happening?
Narrator: Next target
for outrage:
The slow evacuation
of the Superdome.
It will take three days
to transport all 20,000
stranded evacuees
to Houston and elsewhere.
Have the guys
put it on the ground
and send these trucks
back for another load.
Yes, sir.
Make that happen now.
Yes, sir.
Army general Russel Honore.
Is in charge of the transport.
To many observers, Honore is
the first official on the scene
who seems to be
actually taking charge.
This whole humanitarian thing
comes down to logistics.
You can't get buses in there
because of the water.
Then we could get them in there,
we had to bring them in
two at a time.
Narrator: The red cross offers
its services in New Orleans,
but Louisiana officials
will decline the offer.
They tell the red cross they
cannot guarantee their safety,
and that red cross vehicles
might disrupt rescue efforts.
Getting aid to some hurricane
victims is time consuming
because the population
is so spread out.
Woman: George w. Bush,
get out the white house
and come help us.
Man: Police ain't helping.
There's been one salvation army
truck come by.
You know, they set up
over there.
They stood there about
three hours, they were gone.
Narrator: Help can't come
fast enough for New Orleans.
Massive sandbags
start to plug the hole
in the 17th street canal
to keep floodwaters at bay.
National guard troops
now begin to retake the city.
Their mission
is to go door to door
and look for survivors.
Search and rescue.
Call out, make a noise.
We're here to help.
Some of them didn't want
to evacuate with us,
and, you know, we didn't want
to let people back out
into the city.
We didn't want
to have to come in
and rescue again
in those conditions.
Narrator: New Orleans police
team up with other rescuers.
Narrator: This officer trudges
through knee-deep water.
To see if anyone
is trapped inside here.
Good news.
At least she's not there.
It looks like the water came up
probably another foot
into the house,
but it looks like
she made it out.
Narrator: Not everyone did.
Man: My kids are dead.
I wasn't there.
I come home, you know.
I went out to get
my money, you know.
I come back.
Everything's under water.
My, my wife's gone.
I don't want
to talk about it, man.
Narrator: Bureaucracy slows down
the relief effort.
This group drove 22 hours
from Florida.
When they arrive, officials
ask them to show credentials
and sign paperwork.
The process takes two days.
Narrator: And still
the relief efforts are stalled.
Thousands of people
remain stranded
at the convention center
in horrendous conditions,
with no food or water.
Garbage overflows
onto the sidewalks and streets.
The sick, like this man,
are carried on gurneys
over strewn debris.
Narrator: Thursday evening.
In a radio interview,
Mayor Ray Nagin takes a shot
at both state
and national officials.
Narrator: 11:30 P.M.
eastern time.
FEMA director Michael Brown
appears on abc news nightline.
Ted koppel asks him
about reports
that FEMA did not know
about the people
stranded in
the convention center
until today.
Don't you guys watch television?
Don't you guys
listen to the radio?
Our reporters have been
reporting about it
for more than just today.
We learned about it
factually today
that that's what existed.
We've been so focused on doing
rescue and lifesaving missions
and evacuating people
from the Superdome
that when we first
learned about it, of course,
my first gut instinction,
instinct was,
get somebody in there...
Narrator: Koppel also asks brown.
Why FEMA did not respond faster
to Katrina.
Brown: When the levees
did break,
we were already moving in
and then had to move back out.
Then I think the other thing
that really caught me
by surprise
was the fact that
there were so many people,
and I'm not laying blame,
that either chose not to
evacuate or could not evacuate.
Narrator: The explanations
might be logical.
But in the hurricane zone,
the problems
are vast and urgent.
People are growing furious
at the slow pace
of the relief efforts.
It's still a slow,
slow, slow process,
'cause you got
a whole city here,
you know what I'm saying?
We don't have nothing
to go home to, nothing.
Narrator: Mobile, Alabama.
Friday, September 2, 2005.
10:35 A.M.
President Bush gets
his first ground-level look
at the devastation
of Hurricane Katrina.
With FEMA director Mike brown
at his side,
he responds
to the growing criticism
of federal relief efforts.
President Bush: If it's not
going exactly right,
we're gonna make it
go exactly right.
If there's problems, we're gonna
address the problems.
And that's what I've come down
to assure people.
And, brownie, you're doing
a heck of a job.
The FEMA director
is working 24...
Narrator: New Orleans.
12:00 P.M.
Louisiana national guard troops
march into
the convention center.
Within 30 minutes
they restore order
and begin to distribute
food and water.
Within 36 hours, they evacuate
25,000 people from the building.
They're bused and flown
to shelters around the country.
5:00 P.M.
Air force one touches down
at the Louis Armstrong airport
in New Orleans.
In his office on the plane,
the president meets
with both Governor
Kathleen Blanco
and Mayor Ray Nagin.
The Mayor later
describes the meeting.
We're in air force one,
i said, "Mr. president,
madame Governor",
you two have to get in sync.
"If you don't get in sync,
more people are gonna die."
Narrator: But the president and
the Governor do not get in sync.
Blanco will reject
bush's proposal
for a federal takeover
of the relief effort.
When the president returns
to Washington,
he signs the first
of many aid packages
for hurricane victims.
Monday, September 5th.
Tensions are also building
between Governor Blanco
and Mayor Nagin.
In one interview,
the Mayor compares the relief
efforts of general Honore
to those of
the state government.
Narrator: Tuesday,
September 6th.
The army corps of engineers
begins pumping water
out of New Orleans
and back into lake pontchartrain
and the Mississippi River.
We established
a separate task force,
task force unwatering,
so that they could focus totally
on just pumping out water
and getting the pump stations
Narrator: Friday, September 9th.
11 days after Katrina struck,
more than half of New Orleans
is still under water.
Roughly one million people
have evacuated
from the hurricane zone.
Government agencies
and volunteer groups
are providing shelter to more
than a quarter of a million.
Others are living with friends
or relatives around the country.
In the flooded streets
of New Orleans'
arabi neighborhood,
filthy water laps
at second-story windows.
Man: You're gonna die man,
I'm telling you.
You're gonna die.
I don't want you to die, man.
Narrator: National guard
and FEMA crews search.
From house to house,
trying to clear out
the bitter-enders
who refuse to evacuate.
Mayor Nagin has called
for everyone to leave the city.
He has clashed
with Governor Blanco,
who insisted the Mayor
had no authority
to enforce
such a total evacuation.
By now, local, state
and federal forces,
as well as volunteers, have
performed almost 50,000 rescues.
FEMA has delivered
18 million packaged meals
and 10 million gallons
of drinking water
to flood victims.
Here you go, guys.
Hooray! You're not leaving!
No, we're not leaving.
Narrator: And people all across
America have chipped in to help.
Y'all have met us
in every need, in every way.
And we couldn't ask for no more.
Narrator: Donations to groups
providing Katrina relief.
Top $1 billion.
It's the biggest outpouring
since 9/11.
Baton Rouge.
Land-line telephone connections
are coming back up.
For the first time
since Katrina hit,
Louisiana emergency officials
are able to convene
a conference call.
No FEMA liaison is on the line
as local officials unload their
frustrations with the agency.
Narrator: One of the big gripes.
Has to do
with temporary housing.
It's FEMA's job to provide it
across the hurricane zone.
Narrator: State emergency
official Jeff Smith says.
He's taken the problem
to a higher level.
Narrator: The emergency director
from Jefferson Parish,
Walter maestri, is angry
that FEMA has not fulfilled
promises made
before the hurricane struck.
Gen paks are generators.
Without them,
maestri cannot operate
his Parish's sewage system.
Narrator: This same afternoon,
homeland security chief
Michael Chertoff
holds a press conference
in Baton Rouge to defend FEMA.
Mike brown has done everything
he possibly could.
Narrator: Nevertheless, chertoff
is sending Mike brown back to D.C.
He appoints
vice admiral thad Allen,
a 34-year coast guard veteran,
to oversee
the FEMA relief effort.
Three days later,
on September 12th,
Michael Brown resigns.
He leaves behind
a tarnished organization...
And an enormous
political problem
for the bush administration.
The following week, another
hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico
gives officials
at all levels of government
a chance to prove they learned
something from Katrina.
Honore: Let's not get stuck
on the last storm...
Cynthia morrell: Right now
we're going down Paris Avenue,
which is like a major hub
going to the lakefront
of New Orleans.
Most of these
are single family homes.
Narrator: Two weeks after
flooding from Hurricane Katrina.
Decimated New Orleans,
city councilwoman
Cynthia morrell
and her husband Arthur,
a state representative,
boat through their neighborhood.
Cynthia: Ha ha ha!
That's my son's car,
right there... the top of it.
Arthur: That's my jeep
over there.
Cynthia: And that's his jeep.
Arthur: The pressure
from the water.
Pushed these concrete retainers,
and the dirt gave way.
And then the water
just pushed in.
Down on the other side
they just fell,
because those rebars
and that concrete
could not hold all this.
It's too heavy.
Narrator: Some of the city's
giant pumps have begun.
To send the floodwaters
back into lake pontchartrain.
People are returning
to inspect their homes.
Man: As you can see, this used
to be a pretty nice block,
with the houses,
mostly families all lived here,
all of the families... monleys,
miss Kate, Mr. hale,
miss Johnson, the yancies,
You know, ah, Langley,
he had the barbershop there.
Narrator: City council president
Oliver Thomas.
Visits his neighborhood
in the ninth ward...
And the house where he grew up.
Thomas: I said that
all my crying was done...
But I guess it's not.
This is the house
that my father used
his g.I. Bill to buy this house,
so we wouldn't have to rent
or live with family anymore.
Narrator: As authorities search
more neighborhoods in New Orleans,
the death toll climbs.
Over the next month
it will exceed 1,200
across Louisiana, Mississippi
and Alabama.
The Gulf coast has lost its
battle with Hurricane Katrina.
Survivors remained trapped
for days,
while the most powerful nation
on earth
struggled to bring them
food and relief.
Hardly an inspiring performance,
especially in a post 9/11 world.
I think that people
in this country
had a right to believe
that the country was being made
more safe after September 11th.
Everybody dropped the ball
on this.
There's no question about it.
Narrator: Tuesday,
September 13th.
President Bush becomes
the first top official
to accept blame
for the Katrina crisis.
President Bush:
Katrina exposed serious problems.
In our response capability
at all levels of government.
And to the extent
that the federal government
didn't fully do its job right,
i take responsibility.
Man: Mike check, 1, 2.
Mike check.
Narrator: Tuesday,
September 20th.
Another hurricane, Rita,
storms into the Gulf.
Public officials have
a second chance to get it right.
Don't get stuck
on stupid, reporters.
We're moving forward, and don't
confuse the people, please.
Let's not get stuck
on the last storm.
Blanco: Our first mission
is to save lives.
We have a coordinated federal,
state and local effort
moving in place as we speak.
Plante: The federal government
was busy assuring us...
There had been plans made...
People pre-positioned,
plenty of supplies, water,
and meals ready to eat.
They were determined not to make
the same mistake again
three weeks later.
Narrator: Saturday,
September 24th.
Hurricane Rita comes ashore
between Johnson's bayou,
and sabine pass, Texas.
Damage is extensive and
dozens of people are killed.
But this time, the government
seems to have its act together.
[Gavel bangs]
Man: The select committee
will come to order...
Narrator: Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, September 27th.
Man: Good morning and welcome
to this morning's hearing.
Narrator: The recently resigned
FEMA director, Michael Brown,
testifies before
a house committee.
Brown places blame
for the events in New Orleans
squarely at the local
and state level.
I very strongly
personally regret
that I was unable to persuade
Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin
to sit down,
get over their differences
and work together.
I just couldn't pull that off.
My biggest mistake was
not recognizing, by Saturday,
that Louisiana
was dysfunctional.
Narrator: The very next day,
Louisiana Governor
Kathleen Blanco
appears before
a senate committee
but does not answer
brown's attack.
Conrad: You were criticized
yesterday heavily by Mr. brown.
I'd just give you a chance here,
if you would like to,
to respond to that.
Blanco: Senator Conrad,
i appreciate that,
but today I came really to talk
about job creation.
Narrator: Monday, October 17th.
FEMA has released e-mails
to the house committee
investigating Katrina,
and they are leaked
to reporters.
Michael Brown sent one
to a colleague
two days before Katrina struck.
In it, he alludes to FEMA's
2004 Hurricane Pam war game:
"Look at this scenario"
compared to the planning
we did for New Orleans,
"and, well, you get the picture."
But who did get the picture?
Five days after Katrina,
another e-mail,
from a frustrated FEMA official
in Mississippi,
suggests the agency did not:
"Resources are far exceeded
by requirements," he writes.
"Getting less than 25 percent
of what we have been requesting
from hq daily."
Katrina has caused
Americans to wonder
whether the government,
at any level,
is prepared to respond
to a major disaster
or terrorist event
in their hometowns.
After 9/11, congress provided
billions of dollars
for cities and states to improve
their evacuation plans.
How good would those plans be
in a crisis?
Take New York City.
It depends on its vulnerable
public transit system
to get people to safety.
Or Los Angeles.
In the event
of a catastrophic earthquake
that would require people
to flee the city,
L.A. has no plan for evacuating
millions of people
or housing them.
I don't see a waterline.
May be lucky...
Big gray house on the corner.
Narrator: Jazz trumpeter
Kermit Ruffins returns home.
His house is
on relatively high ground
and escaped significant damage.
Ruff ins: To look
at that city now.
Is just like...
We can't wait to rebuild.
I mean, that's all
we can think about.
There's my baby picture there,
some of my records right here.
Nice kitchen back there.
I love those red beans and rice.
Narrator: Ruffins then
checks out Vaughn's,
the neighborhood bar where he's
played a Thursday night gig
for the last 13 years.
Ruff ins: I'll tell you one thing,
it looks exactly the same.
This place will be rolling
in no time.
All we need is electricity here.
Narrator: Hurricane Katrina
has dampened the spirit.
Of the big easy.
But it has not drowned it.
Ruff ins: It may take a year.
For it to really start
thriving again.
[Playing jazz]
We will swing again.
Have you ever been
to New Orleans?
it's the hottest city
you've ever seen...