Inside Hurricane Katrina

Images inside the eye of hurricane Katrina taken by Lt. Mike Silah, a pilot on the NOAA WP-3D Orion Hurricane Hunter.

A geek to the rescue!

According to this article, mayor Nagin's command post had no communication to the outside world until Wednesday, and for the next five days their only method of communication was from the single internet phone account of Greg Meffert, the city's chief technology officer. On Thursday, they had to fight off 200 gang members trying to loot their command post in the Hyatt.


The amateur bus smear

I got a pointer from a friend of mine about this image that has been going around. She asks for no credit so... um... this is all my idea!

Actually I'm going to copy some things she sent me and add some of my own.

I don't know the source of this image, but by it's amateur nature, sneaky lies and pure political message, I'd wager it was hatched by some crackhead freeper.

It gets an "A" for creative use of an image manipulation program, but that "A" will be of little consolation when I'm through tearing this piece of crap to shreds.

We'll get to the fun part of imagery deconstruction in a moment.

The image, as I received it, was called "Stop-Blaming-FEMA.jpg" and it's message is clear. FEMA is not to blame for the deaths resulting from hurricane Katrina, it was all the fault of the locals who, apparently, just decided to let people die for the hell of it.

Well, that's pretty illogical from the start. First, speaking only for myself here, I don't "blame" FEMA for anything. But I do think it's clear that FEMA failed to do the job it was supposed to do. That's a problem and it's clear they need some major work before we can trust them to do a job like that.

That doesn't mean I let the locals off the hook. But the more local you get in a situation like this, the more variables there are that have to be decided before you can start throwing blame around.

For example, a FEMA memo was released that showed that FEMA head Michael Brown gave relief efforts two days to get to the area. With that one piece of data you have enough information to form a judgement.

But when you get down to the local level things get more complicated because it all takes place in the middle of a shit storm. There are no clinical decisions, it's all seat of the pants stuff taking place in a whirlwind of variables.

The question this image asks is "why didn't the mayor bus the people out?"

To answer that you have to first figure out the variables. Here are a few off the top of my head:

* Are buses available?
* Is fuel available?
* If a fleet of buses is not available, can you scour the city to find as many as you can?
* Would the people looking for buses be safe?
* Do you have people available to look for buses?
* If you find buses, what do you do if they're locked, and/or have no keys?
* Do you have drivers?
* Will you have to take people from the rescue work and have them look for buses or drive buses if they're found?
* Where do you take 50,000 people?
* If the buses trickle in, will it start a riot as people fight for seats?
* The image says food and shelter for everyone is right across the bridge, but how do you scour for food for 50,000 people? How many 7-11s do you have to loot to feed these people?

When I think about all these things, I come to the realization that the best thing for those evacuees may have been to stay at the Superdome or Convention Center and have security and food provided there until they could be gotten out. There was, of course, a breakdown in food and security and it would have been much better if they could have been evacuated on the first day, I just don't think there was anywhere else in the area they could go without causing chaos. But my point is, yeah, there's a lot of variables. This isn't some yes or no executive decision made in a boardroom.

Top this off with the fact that the people defending FEMA are conservatives who, allegedly, aren't fond of big government. A few years ago, 99% of conservatives thought Clinton was planning to allow the UN to invade America and FEMA was going to haul dissenters off to concentrate camps. Seriously, I'm not making it up, that was widely believed by conservatives. But get a republican in the White House and you can't dare question a bureaucracy, even if thousands of lives were lost and you want to understand why and fix the problem.

Gosh, I'm rambling. Let's have some fun with the image.

First, let's look at the insert that says "unused buses, water two feet deep"

True, there are buses at this location, I assume they belong to Warren Easton High School next door. However, I question how the maker of the image concluded the water was two feet deep given the fact that the hoods of most cars in the parking lot appear to be underwater. (I am assuming that the buses along the parking structure are in a shadow instead of being completely underwater.)

Let's move on to the insert that says "unused buses at dome with access to highway." Well, it turns out those are vans and trucks. Big rigs, 18-wheelers, ten-four good buddy? The fact that they are all different colors should have been a tip off, but it's amateur day at the smear camp.

I'm curious what "with access to highway" means. It looks to me like they're on top of a parking structure or something that is flooded at ground level. The exit ramp is not accessible at the level of the trucks, and below that the ramp is flooded. If you zoom out a good distance it looks like the exit ramp must be easy to get to, but by zooming in it's clear that instead of "with access to highway", this person meant to say "trapped like a mo-fo."

Moving on, let's examine the section saying "several buses in parking lot of the Convention Center." Those aren't buses either, they appear to be shipping containers or some other sort of large box-like container. It's curious that the person focused only on the buses that were mostly hidden from view but I've included the other "buses" that are out in the open and easier to identify as "not buses."

Ok, so now let's go to the northern Algiers and examine the section labled simply "60 buses." Oddly, they used an old image here that shows 60 vehicles but imagery from August 31 shows only 32 vehicles. At any rate, these are not "buses" either, they are "trucks", sorta like long Ryder trucks. My guess is that they are used to unload the barges across the street. Interestingly, there appear to be 3 police cars in the driveway. (I assume they're cops. I see these cars all over New Orleans imagery but they are different from marked police cars in that they don't appear to have lights or numbers on top). Are they there borrowing trucks to haul supplies? Who knows.

I could almost forgive the person for thinking these are buses because they do look the part, but there is more to being a bus than being long and yellow (or grey or white or brown as the maker of the image assumes). The real giveaway is that buses have rounded top edges with vents and things and box trucks are perfectly square and flat. Plus side-by-side a bus has a near vertical windshield and when viewed aerially you only see a small black slit whereas you see more black on a truck with a slightly more aerodynamic windshield. You can't rely on windshields every time but it becomes apparent when you have a large number to look at.

Here are some real buses.

They get blurry if I zoom in any farther, partially because there is less reflected light in this area, plus they have softer lines than the trucks (round roofs, grasshopper). I'll try to re-crop the scene later, but right now I don't have a clue which of the thousand images I found them in.


Katrina Imagery - 3

Some sort of aircraft museum in the New Orleans flood.

Possibly Alvin Callender Field which was supposed to have the following aircraft:

* Convair YF-102A Delta Dagger
* Lockheed P-3B Orion
* McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet
* McDonnell-Douglas F-15A Eagle
* McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II
* North American F-100D Super Sabre
* North American F-86D Sabre

The Orion is oviously not there, it's too large to miss, and I don't see a Hornet. I can make out the Delta Dagger, Eagle, Phantom, Sabre and Super Sabre. There also appears to be a Lockheed F-94 Starfire half submerged, a DC-3 across the street and a semi-large unknown prop plane, perhaps a C-47?

Time for random blog links

Yes, it's time again to post other blogs that have randomly sent visitors here through the "Next Blog" button on the blogger toolbar


You have got to be kidding me!!

Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA
By Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune

Firefighters endure a day of FEMA training, which included a course on sexual harassment. Some firefighters say their skills are being wasted. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune)

ATLANTA - Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic.

"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.

The firefighters - or at least the fire chiefs who assigned them to come to Atlanta - knew what the assignment would be, Hudak said.

"The initial call to action very specifically says we're looking for two-person fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in communication], it was likely in their own departments."

One fire chief from Texas agreed that the call was clear to work as community-relations officers. But he wonders why the 1,400 firefighters FEMA attracted to Atlanta aren't being put to better use. He also questioned why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - of which FEMA is a part - has not responded better to the disaster.

The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for "austere conditions." Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."

The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.

On Monday, two firefighters from South Jordan and two from Layton headed for San Antonio to help hurricane evacuees there. Four firefighters from Roy awaited their marching orders, crossing their fingers that they would get to do rescue and recovery work, rather than paperwork.

"A lot of people are bickering because there are rumors they'll just be handing out fliers," said Roy firefighter Logan Layne, adding that his squad hopes to be in the thick of the action. "But we'll do anything. We'll do whatever they need us to do."

While FEMA's community-relations job may be an important one - displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources - it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton.

"It's a misallocation of resources. Completely," said the Texas firefighter.

"It's just an under-utilization of very talented people," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta. "I was hoping once they saw the level of people . . . they would shift gears a little bit."

Foote said his crews would be better used doing the jobs they are trained to do.

But Louis H. Botta, a coordinating officer for FEMA, said sending out firefighters on community relations makes sense. They already have had background checks and meet the qualifications to be sworn as a federal employee. They have medical training that will prove invaluable as they come across hurricane victims in the field.

A firefighter from California said he feels ill prepared to even carry out the job FEMA has assigned him. In the field, Hurricane Katrina victims will approach him with questions about everything from insurance claims to financial assistance.

"My only answer to them is, '1-800-621-FEMA,' " he said. "I'm not used to not being in the know."

Roy Fire Chief Jon Ritchie said his crews would be a "little frustrated" if they were assigned to hand out phone numbers at an evacuee center in Texas rather than find and treat victims of the disaster.

Also of concern to some of the firefighters is the cost borne by their municipalities in the wake of their absence. Cities are picking up the tab to fill the firefighters' vacancies while they work 30 days for the federal government.

"There are all of these guys with all of this training and we're sending them out to hand out a phone number," an Oregon firefighter said. "They [the hurricane victims] are screaming for help and this day [of FEMA training] was a waste."

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.



Katrina Imagery - 2

A wall of water rushes up the I-10?

No, this is apparently turbulent water lapping at the roadway and splashing and reflecting for the camera. As this snip from a DigitalGlobe image shows, the dry section of I-10 stayed dry.

The people below in the Lakewood and Navarre neighborhoods, of course, did not fare very well. Even the dead could not escape. To the right and left of the interstate in the image above, the densely packed area of white boxes too small to be houses are above ground cemetary plots.

Again, this is raw, unrectified aerial imagery from NOAA. This image correctly rotated, or close to it, and an image and map from Google Earth.

Katrina imagery

Oil Terminals at Grand Isle Louisiana, Aug 31. Raw aerial imagery from NOAA. (Not orthorectified, i.e. up isn't north - [N=left actually] - and lens artifacts, if any, not corrected.)


Jolie Holland - I wanna Die

It's been a long time since I've done any mp3 blogging, but Katrina needs some blues. It may be from a beautiful white redheaded Texas girl instead of a poor black blues singer, but it'll do.

Jolie Holland - I Wanna Die.mp3

I wanna die
I wanna die
Down south Louisiana
And the gray evening sky

I wanna die
I don't care how
I'm getting out
Down south Louisiana
And the lonesome highway sound

Well there's a cajun lady
Down in New Orleans
There's a cajun lady
And I saw her in my dream

Well if I'd held her in my arms, girls
Oh and if I'd held her in my arms
Our friendly love
Might have kept my heart from harm
But I'm out here on this road, girls
And I'm out here on the road
And I'm just a poor girl
And I ain't got a home

And I wanna die
I don't care how
I'm getting out
Down south Louisiana
And the lonesome highway sound

Oh I ain't got a home, girls
And I ain't got a home
And it's through this world I ramble
And it's through this world I roam

Well, as through this world I ramble
And as through this world I roam
I'm just a poor girl
And I ain't got a home

And I wanna die
I wanna die
Down south Louisiana
And the gray evening sky

Well I wanna die
I don't care how
I'm getting out
Down south Louisiana
And the lonesome highway sound

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?