Ignoring any levee building business, since I’m of the belief that any sized levee can still break. The blockquotes (in yellow and/or indented) are from this Guardian article and this timeline, and are things that actually happened.
Wednesday, Aug. 24:
- Tropical Depression 12 strengthens into Tropical Storm Katrina over the Central Bahamas; a hurricane warning is issued for the southeastern Florida coast.
With a tropical storm on the horizon, FEMA should coordinate with the department of homeland security to place the National Guard and reserves on alert. A percentage should be on call and ready to mobilize within two hours. (packed, dressed, napping on the couch waiting for the call)
Thursday, Aug. 25:
- Hurricane Katrina strikes Florida between Hallandale Beach and North Miami Beach as a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds.
After landfall of a minor hurricane, FEMA should ensure that local law enforcement and rescue operations have the resources that they need. Were any police or fire stations compromised? Hospitals? Where is the hurricane headed?
Bush cancels his vacation and returns to Washington. Dick Cheney is revived from his daily sleep in the crypt and brought up to speed on the minor disaster and possible continuing action.
Friday, Aug. 26:
- Katrina weakens over land to a tropical storm before moving out over the Gulf of Mexico. It grows to a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds, veering north and west toward Mississippi and Louisiana.
- 10,000 National Guard troops are dispatched across the Gulf Coast.
I do not believe that 10,000 troops were dispatched at this point. In my plan, on this day, everyone in the country is on alert now, since this is the big one.
FEMA flies emergency services (medics, engineers, radio operators, people to move sandbags) to Houston, Memphis, Atlanta, or whichever locations will be best for fast deployment of front-line rescue services. At minimum, several teams per hot spot with the ability to set up mobile command centers capable of dispatching an entire city’s worth of police (that’s a lot of powerful radio equipment) and several battalions of troops. A battalion may have up to a thousand soldiers.
Saturday, Aug. 27:
- Katrina becomes a Category 3 storm, with 115 mph winds; a hurricane warning is issued for Louisiana’s southeastern coast, including New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, and for the northern Gulf coast.
- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declares a state of emergency and urges residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.
- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour declares a state of emergency. A mandatory evacuation is ordered for Hancock County.
- Coastal Gulf residents jam freeways and gas stations as they rush to evacuate.
President Bush, like the rest of America is glued to the television and other news sources. He contacts the state governers personally to find out the status of their aid requests. He coordinates with FEMA to determine effective coverage. He ensures that the military is at ready. The Coast Guard and Navy are as close as can be without risking loss of ship or life.
Sunday, Aug. 28:
- Katrina grows into a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds and heads for the northern Gulf coast.
- Nagin orders a mandatory evacuation for New Orleans. But 10 shelters are also set up, including the Superdome, for those unable to leave.
- Evacuation orders are posted all along the Mississippi coast.
- Alabama Gov. Bob Riley declares a state of emergency.
Since a city of 500,000 people has been ordered to evacuate, FEMA determines the actual evacuation levels and to where those evacuees are fleeing. At this point the fate of New Orleans is unknown, so FEMA finds out how many people remain and plans for the eventualities of forcibly removing them and simply supplying them where they are. This storm is the big one, so all available National Guard members are expected to be ready. Most of those who had been “on call” are indeed called up, and plans to mobilize for relief and sandbagging duties are roughed out. The Mississippi floods, but we don’t normally get this much warning.
Monday, Aug. 29:
- Katrina, a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds, makes landfall near Buras, La., at 6:10 a.m. CDT (7:10 a.m. EDT).
- Katrina rips two holes in the Superdome’s roof. Some 10,000 storm refugees are inside.
The soldiers are at base and getting ancy as the footage of the storm damage rolls in. They are informed that they will be deploying as soon as the weather permits them to land in the Gulf Coast. The military flies data collection passes over the area hourly to survey the storm and damage.
As soon as the skies are clear enough to land a helicopter, the advance teams rush in, setting up communications for the affected cities. After landfall of a major hurricane, FEMA should ensure that local law enforcement and rescue operations have the resources that they need. Were any police or fire stations compromised? Hospitals? Where are the people who did not evacuate?
Every Greyhound in the neighboring six states is requested for evacuation assistance.
The Coast Guard and Navy are at full steam towards the Gulf Coast. Any troops that can be in the air are in the air. Troops at staging area are mobilized for multi-hour drives to affected states.
In a disaster involving flooding of populated areas, many boats will be needed to do house-to-house searches. These should be ready for any areas that had a danger of flooding or storm surges.
Tuesday, Aug. 30:
- Two levees break in New Orleans and water pours in, covering 80 percent of the city and rising to 20 feet deep in some areas. Many people climb onto roofs to escape.
- Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco says everyone still in New Orleans - an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people - must be evacuated. Crowds swell at the Superdome and the New Orleans convention center.
- Rescuers in helicopters and boats pick up hundreds of stranded people in New Orleans. Reports of looting emerge.
- About 40,000 people are in American Red Cross shelters, not including New Orleans.
UAVs (Predators. Unmanned flying things with cameras that we used all over the place in Iraq) fly non-stop to spot persons in need. Helicopters with infrared cameras are dispatched en masse.
Troops begin arriving. Emergency hospitals are built in mere hours, just like the commercials on television. Some food and water is air dropped under the supervision of coordinated police and military efforts. More supplies are ordered to be dropped. Troops continue to arrive. Heavy equipment is deployed to clear the path for evacuees.
The president is on the phone with every governor finding homes for people. Those greyhounds are swiftly dispatched. So are school buses from every state for a thousand miles.
- Nagin offers a startling estimate of New Orleans’ death toll: “Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands,'’ he says.
- “At first light, the devastation is greater than our worst fears,'’ says Blanco, Louisiana’s governor.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt declares a federal health emergency throughout the Gulf Coast, sends in medical supplies and workers.
- Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will be at least 30 days or more before New Orleans will be pumped out.
- An estimated 52,000 people are in Red Cross shelters. An additional 25,000 are in the Superdome, where conditions are worsening by the hour.
- An exodus from the Superdome begins, with the first buses leaving for Houston’s Astrodome, 350 miles away.
- Pentagon mounts one of largest search-and-rescue operations in U.S. history, sending four Navy ships with emergency supplies.
- Water levels stop rising in New Orleans. Engineers work to close a 500-foot gap in a failed floodwall.
Residents are instructed to amass in particular locations like the Superdome and Convention Center, where troops and buses are already standing by. Emergency hospitals and food centers are being built at those locations.
Well, at this point things are a little sketchy. I’m not sure what to do with the thousands of troops flowing in to New Orleans and the forced evacuation of the remaining folks. I imagine that it will be just like what didn’t happen in reality until Friday, September 2nd, or more realistically, Saturday and Sunday, when suddenly the Superdome and convention center just magically emptied. My plan might not save that many lives, but it would make us all look a lot less like colossal douchebags.
Thursday, Sept. 1:
- Outside the New Orleans Convention Center, the sidewalks are packed with people without food, water or medical care, waiting for buses that do not come. Tempers flare.
- Nagin, the New Orleans mayor, calls the situation critical and issues “a desperate SOS'’ for more buses.
- Crowds at the Superdome swell to 30,000 with another 25,000 at the convention center. The first refugee buses arrive at the Houston Astrodome. Elsewhere, 76,000 people are Red Cross shelters.
Friday, Sept 2:
- Thousands of National Guardsmen arrive in New Orleans in truck convoys carrying food, water and weapons.
Yes, I have the benefit of hindsight, but I wrote this in an hour in my underpants, for free. It wasn’t my job to be prepared for disaster or lead us through it.
Whose job was it to be prepared and lead us through it?