New Orleans mayor: "We really don't have the resources to rescue you after this."

Hurricane Gustav has hit Cuba, and is heading straight for New Orleans with great force. From mayor Ray Nagin, who was, of course, also the city's mayor when Katrina struck 3 years ago this week:

"This is very, very serious, and we need you to heed this warning," he said. "We really don't have the resources to rescue you after this."
Mandatory evacuations to begin Sunday morning in New Orleans (CNN, via Clayton Cubitt)

Related: On the other side of the globe, Monsoon flooding in Northern India today has displaced more than 2.5 million people, and killed more than 2,000.


  1. There’s nothing to worry about! McCain and Palin are heading down there to help.

    I expect them to add fifty feet to the height of the levies and double the efficiency of the pumps by Monday evening.

  2. This has got to be a nightmare for the republicans getting ready to be the center of attention for their convention, sharing the spotlight with the possibility of a flooded New Orleans on the three year anniversary of the most horrible f*** up of the U.S. government’s history.

  3. I’ve been listening to Harry Shearer’s “Le Show” for years. He lives in NOLA and has been covering the US Army Corps of Engineers reconstruction efforts at some length, including having experts on the levee system on his show talking about just how flawed the Corps efforts have been. It’s a sad statement that a comedian, a great one mind you, has put more focus on the rebuilding efforts than many in the mainstream press.

    A great piece by Shearer from just today.

    My thoughts and prayers to all the people in the path of the storm and to those lost in India, whom the US press just shrugs at.

  4. @#2 DONABEAN:
    It will most probably be a complete nightmare for the RNC and that would probably not be a bad thing.

    But if Gustav becomes the next Katrina and the same insane non-response happens… I have no words for that.

    1. if Gustav becomes the next Katrina

      Gustav is worse than Katrina. New Orleans will be under twenty feet of fast moving water. Unless the weather changes, there may not be a New Orleans next week.

      And what response could there be? All emergency personnel are being evacuated because there’s no reasonable probability of surviving the storm. We can’t send the troops in because they’re otherwise occupied. The UK had the same problem in the recent floods there. People died because the resources to rescue them were in Afghanistan. Unless Gustav blows in a wave of oil instead of water, it’s not a priority.

  5. Meanwhile the entire country watches intently, hoping and praying that Gustav spares New Orleans and makes landfall in that other, uninhabited half of Louisiana: y’know, my back yard…

  6. Man I’m so sorry for the people in that area. Regardless of any fault or blame last time, it just seems damn unfair that such a random event should happen again so soon.

    And with the massive damage and changes in sea frontage who knows how this one will affect the area?

  7. #8: The wetlands that buffer the coast are probably in worse shape than before. Recent news stories suggest that the levies and pump upgrades aren’t up to snuff.

    So it could be a real mess.


    I guess I know where my charitable donations will be going this year.


    Regardless of any fault or blame last time, it just seems damn unfair that such a random event should happen again so soon.

    What’s unfair is that hurricanes and the Gulf of Mexico are actually not that random at all. It happens every year and to different degrees.

    What is random and insane is the inadequate levee system they have there and how much damage was done to the wetlands that used to help buffer the water surges.

    Holland’s levee system makes the U.S. levee system in Louisiana look pathetic and sad.

  9. There was actually talk of having to abandon New Orleans last time around. Not flippant or cynical talk, but “this is what life in a world afflicted by global warming” talk.

  10. Quick! We need a horse enthusiast! That’ll help!

    I wonder if Nagin ever got around to distributing those DVDs that were to be given to the NOLA poor just before Katrina.

    Nagin can say “ass” all he wants this time, and he’ll only be describing himself and his preparedness approach.

    At least citizen volunteers know a)Red Cross training is crap, b)that there’s a lot that be done as an on-the-ground Red Cross volunteer (they are fabulous, and c) how to marshal Internet resources to help unfuck people’s lives.

  11. lea:
    the red cross refused to send me to nola after katrina because i had a marijuana posession conviction from NINETEEN HUNDRED AND NINETY SIX.


  12. MSNBC Storm Tracker:

    Katrina was a category 3 hurricane when it made it’s second landfall in Lousiana, and it didn’t hit NOLA directly either.

    Gustav is on a path straight through the Gulf of Mexico, unlike Katrina, which traveled over Florida first, it’s traveling over water and will only pick up intensity. There’s speculation, that I hope is just loose talk, of this being a “category 6”, with sustained speeds of 175mph.

    A category 4 or 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans straight on is nothing shy of a killshot for the city.

  13. I narrowly avoided Katrina by exactly one week because I went to rehab in Georgia. My house was on the edge of the bowl and while the roof came off, there wasn’t much flood damage, for which I’m immensely thankful.

    I moved back and watched New Orleans attempt to rebuild itself, and all that became of it was a greater separation between the rich folks, who saw it as an opportunity to upgrade their living situations; and the poor folks, many of whom are now living in tents under the Claiborne Avenue overpass (yes, there’s a city of tents).

    I just started school in San Francisco, and now Gustav is on his way. I can really only hope that it doesn’t completely wipe out the city I grew up in and love to pieces, and I really hope it doesn’t. I’m stuck talking to my friends and family on the phone, wishing them the best of luck and asking one of them who decided to stay to please move anything water-damageable to her apartment on the fourth floor of a concrete building.

    Ray Nagin is a filthy fucking crook, and while the world may be better prepared for this storm, he’s more of a wiener than ever. The reason we don’t have the resources to evacuate everyone is because he’s been living off the city’s budget, taking himself out to lunch on the city’s dollar, skipping out on bullshit vacations to nowhere to avoid the city he’s supposed to be in charge of. If catastrophic flooding is what New Orleans is in for once again, I hope Gustav has the decency to erase the unsightly blemish upon the city that is Ray Nagin.

    I desperately want there to be a New Orleans for me to go home to over Christmas. I desperately want there to be a New Orleans to be full of Mardi Gras, even though I hate Mardi Gras…I want the one house I call home to still be around when it’s time for me to go back there. I want there to be a New Orleans for me to move back to and settle in when I graduate.

    It might be a bum-ass, dangerous, hot, humid, vegetarian-unfriendly, touristed-out, murder capital of the country, hollow shell of what once was a wonderful city, but it’s my city, and it’s still wonderful in my eyes. Being there would do me no good because everyone’s leaving, and no one person can remedy a city, and no number of people can radically and rapidly alter the inevitability of the weather, but all I’ve got left is the ability to hope that New Orleans lives through the week.


  14. The cost of repairing the levees against a 100 year storm (which Gustav could turn out to be) was estimated at around 10 billion.

    That is 2 billion less than is being spent every month in Iraq. has a great video about the misinformation regarding the levees failure, the construction and rebuilding of the city and some of the out and out lies spread about NOLA post-katrina.

  15. He’s just emphasizing the fact that it’s an absolute evacuation. He’s just saying “everybody needs to leave, seriously.”

  16. On the other hand YatPundit notes that right now it looks to be hitting 150 miles west of NOLA. So there could be a whole new bunch of people in deep shit.

    McCain and Palin already ran down thataway. Time to get the photo ops in ahead of time! The Repugnicants are going to try and show how wonderful and prepared they are this time (and it was all the fault of those bastard Democrats the first time! Yes! It! Was! And get those facts outta my face you commie terrorist Frenchman!)

    So…yeah. It’s going to be messy regardless. Hopefully not catastrophic, but then everyone was hoping when Katrina hit too.

  17. i just wanted to be the first person to draw attention to the indian monsoon floods (thank you boing boing) because nobody else would.

    there’s this fantastic scene in aidan hartley’s _zanzibar chest_, a memoir of an incredible reuters correspondent, about a BBC reporter who refuses to shoot pictures of starving africans in a famine because, as he yells to the village leaders, they’re “NOT THIN ENOUGH”.

    hartley notes that reporters have to develop this terrible cynicism because… well, if they’re NOT THIN ENOUGH, footage of starving africans would land up on the cutting room floor, because the viewers aren’t interested.

  18. I’ve got a sick feeling in my stomach. I hope in the event it’s not as bad as they’re predicting.

  19. Maybe the mayor will use the school buses this time…

    Maybe the people of a city below sea level will understand what “mandatory evacuation” means this time…

    I doubt it…

  20. Pope Bug my thoughts are definitely with you and the many others in your situation. I can’t imagine. I have great memories of the time I stayed in that town.

  21. Maybe the mayor will use the school buses this time…

    If the mayor does use the school buses, who will be there to drive them? For how long? Where does the fuel come from?

    There are municipal employees, with homes of their own and families that should be their first concern.

    I’ve been through a couple of hurricanes on the outer banks. There’s only only one piece of advice to follow when the time comes: GTFO.

  22. Thanks so much for publishing the links to Clayton’s work.

    Katrina raises so many deep emotion for so many of us; I always regret not having visited NO pre-Katrina.

    How it gets rebuilt will be a defining moment in early 21st century Am. history and I’m afraid the Grove-faux, Vegas fountains-architecture, planned model may have the upper hand for what I’ve read.

    Obviously, there’s massive complexity there, but it’s disappointing that MSM seems to focus on Bragelina-wena (but not surprising).

    I’d love to be pointed to some favorite NO bloggers by the BB community.

  23. Pope @ 16:

    More virtual hugs from a stranger, mate.

    It’s nice to have money, now! I can donate to a charity. This is scary bullshit. My best friend, period, lives in Mississippi. With Katrina I was terrified because I didn’t know which part (internet friendship) and I didn’t speak to her for a month, nearly two. Phones were down, internet was down, compete lack of communication.

    She’s moved upland, though, for school.

    Here’s hoping that Gustav chokes on its own momentum and dies.

  24. Stop building cities in areas below sea level that are prone to hurricanes! No levies can save you from that level of stupidity.

    Thia is not a lesson in what the government should have done for you over the past three years, but what you should have done for your government by moving the hell away some time over the past three years. I wonder if this storm will convince anyone.

  25. Shokk

    Levies, when constructed and maintained properly, protect many of the world’s cities. The areas of NOLA most affected by the levie breakage of 2005 were all above sea level. As pointed out by the video linked by #18 above, Katrina was not a natural disaster, it was an engineering disaster. Had the levies performed, New Orleans would’ve suffered minimal damage from high winds and rain.

    There is nothing ‘stupid’ about the location of New Orleans.

  26. I agree with #30, Shokk. It is stupid to build below sea level. Tear down the levees, and the government can reimburse people who own homes in those areas.

    I used to live in Florida, and have had to deal with hurricanes. My take on things:

    Hurricanes are not new. Everybody knows about them. They are large, strong, and unpredictable. I lived in a 35-year-old house about five miles from the ocean on the east coast of Florida. I knew that there was always a chance that a cat-5 hurricane could reduce my house to toothpicks. My choice to live there. That is why I had homeowners insurance.

    You get plenty of warning that a hurricane is coming. You also know, in general, what to expect when one comes — no power/phone/water/services/gas for at least a week, probably longer. My rule was: Cat-1: ride out at home. Cat-2: ride out in in-law’s house (newer and stronger). Cat-3 or higher: get out of dodge. Pack up the family and drive.

    People who whine about the government not doing enough: STFU! What did you do to help yourself? Did you stock up on food and water before the storm hit? Did you take basic precautions? Or, did you wait for uncle sugar-daddy to swoop down and rescue you?

  27. There are lots of buses evacuating NO from what I understand, this time around. They’re taking pets this time too.

    “‘this is what life in a world afflicted by global warming’ talk.”

    Get off it, please. We’ve had terrible hurricanes in the past. We’ve only started categorizing and listing them for a little more than a century and a half.

    The real culprit of the disaster of Katrina was urban sprawl. When NO was first founded, the highest, least flood prone land was built on first. Notice that the French Quarter was more or less unscathed. Further expansion was deeper and deeper under sea level.

    I know I’m bordering on troll level by BB standards but it just really pisses me off that the rest of the country thinks that NO is the only shithole worth saving (much less grieving over) down here. Anyone remember her sister, Rita? I bet Floridians haven’t forgotten Andrew.

    I wouldn’t live on any other American coast, given the choice. Hurricane season is the cost of living here. As callous and objectivist as this sounds, if you can’t afford to ride these storms out or supply yourself with transportation out of the state as a last resort, you need to reconsider living here. Relying on the rescue efforts of the government (party affiliation irrelevant) WILL GET YOU KILLED. It really is as simple as that.

    And if not you this time, then sometime down the road when the memory of Katrina is faded, and your children or grandchildren are living in poverty with no transportation, the country is distracted by some other international crisis, and some monster hurricane takes everyone by surprise all over again.

  28. I recently bought a plane ticket to visit my friend down there in early October. (This is just a lead, just an intro, not the most important part of the comment.)

    What I am worried about is that he might not live there anymore in early October. That he might not have an apartment in a week, that his university might be underwater. I am terrified that his life will be totally fucked up by this storm.

    I wish I could do something to help, directly. All I can offer is free room and board (but I live too damn far away to be useful.) I wish I had like a brother that lived in Nashville I could tell him to stay with or something.

    He is fleeing, with his room-mates now, and calling people every day to update them. Talking on the phone, all I can do is listen.

    This is a monster.

    I know it’s not happening to ME, but I really don’t want my good friend’s life to be TOTALLY FUCKED UP. Then I think of the whole city. Fuck.

    My plane tickets might be useless now. The person I love who lives down there might not live there anymore. That place that I was finally going to see after wanting to visit, that pulled him in as a resident like some magnetic magic, might not even be a place anymore.

    Fuck. A whole city. I know about sea levels and urban sprawl, people, but this is a whole city.Not cool.

  29. @32, @33

    Of course, my NO friends are aware of the risk of living in coastal, Gulf cities.

    But you seem to set up this magical, libertarian fantasy-land, that since Mr. Gulf Resident must 1) “know” risks 2) “choose” to live in said neighborhood 3) then it’s a fair, rational “cost”.

    Please, given Chris’ self-admitted rising passion (passion=harsh language=BBmodcensoriness=ourown ChillingEffect), let’s back up and say people, esp. need to live in communities with roots, not digital lalalands, & for human, personal, financial reasons, actually may not have much “choice.”

    So the question does come to mind: should the government help those in need, help engineer our cities better? I’m with @31.

    And as we debate, let’s stop pretending this is some “community”, that we’re all rational creatures, when the BB/Violet cluster-fuck shows this is just one more networks composed of emotional, often-over-attached blogasphmeros (even if the BB-network is one of my faves).

    Maybe if this country and the digital literati had a little more humility and humor, well………

    that’s off topic and don’t want 2b dis-embovoweled/bowed down……

    Good luck NO.

  30. One hopes they’ve planned for an all- out muck up since last time. Though I don’t really blame the city for not having planned for what happened. You tend not to expect the unexpected, which is what the levees breaking certainly was.

    And rescue reaction will be better, I should think. It’s well known the city isn’t really in a shape to handle thing again so soon.

    bet the folks who moved away are losing all lingering doubts about that choice.

  31. mmm, looks to me the type of money needed for such major public works as functional levees can only be OK’ed by senior money at the highest levels. For it to be attractive enough to them, all the land has to be essentially free for the taking and the local peasantry – I mean “citizenry”, willing to work for the proper wage (ideally: “zero”). I hold only amusement for marxism and other political japes, but I know class warfare when I see it.

  32. I’m sure the Blackwater mercenaries will be happy to return to New Orleans to “impose order” after Gustav hits.

    And maybe they’ll get even more than the 300 tax-payer-financed dollars a day they were paid last time to stand around and threaten to shoot people.

  33. “He is fleeing, with his room-mates now, and calling people every day to update them.”

    Good, he’s one of the smart ones. People who’ll die from this storm (and yea, this thing will kill people before its done)are those that know their house won’t make it and will wait till tonight or tomorrow to get the hell out. I do feel sorry for any kids who’s parents are dumb enough to do this.

    “nice having your your own car, eh?”

    Guess what, I’m not going to apologize for having a middle class family that worked for everything they have. 98% of Randian Objectivism is bullshit, I’ll give you that. That other 2% is hurricane season.

    My family is prepared to help out our neighbors should they need it and thats because we know that they are making the same preparations and doing everything they can now. No one expects help from anyone on the block if they never made an effort to help themselves.

    No one wishes this on anyone. Everyone hopes it doesn’t hit them. But its going to hit SOMEONE. If you aren’t prepared with 4 days warning, the consequences are on you. This is just common knowledge in south Louisiana.

  34. @37:

    I live on the other side of the pond – Germany. And even I – as someone who has no connection to New Orleans and most natural disasters – knew that New Orleans would drown in a Cat3 hurricane. That’s because I saw a documentary on TV about the New Orleans levees several years before Katrina, saying that the city has been exposed to that risk for several years already. In other words, this was expected for at least a decade before. The fact that cat5 storms exist should have been enough to convince everyone that a city with nominal cat3 protection was doomed unless something is done about it.

    I wish the inhabitants of NO the best of luck, but I fear the worst will come to them.

  35. The story of what happened to Galveston during and after the Great Storm of 1900 might be useful to NO, if only those in charge would take note.

  36. From Hurricane Katrina, I learned that it’s senseless to ask the question, “When will people start taking responsibility for their own lives?” It’s clear that a certain percentage never will, probably because they simply never learned how. I think it’s one of the most overlooked life-skills, and should be taught in school along with algebra and English.

    We’d have a lot fewer “victims” in the world.

    There are hundreds of thousands of future “victims” sitting in New Orleans right now, preparing to start yelling for rescue, food and free housing just as soon as the wind dies down and the National Guard helicopters start flying. They’re making their protest signs right now: “It’s Bush’s fault. Again.”

    How many times do you have to be voluntarily flogged before you remove your shackles and walk away?

    How much blame can you put on others without seeing there truly is no one to blame?

    How stupid do you have to be before the universe notices, and tries to eradicate you?

  37. I really hope that the city is doing a good job evacuating people who don’t have transportation. I think there was a nursing home where everyone died last time ? Some people just can’t evacuate themselves.
    It’s great and all to say every person should be prepared, but not everyone has the same means. If you can get out yourself – great. I’m really sorry and I really hope that you have a home to come back to! I also think that the govenment/city needs to make sure they help the people who can’t help themselves.

  38. uumm I don’t know, how about we drop a small nuke on your city and see how you cope? It’d be your fault you know, after all, nuclear terrorism IS an actual possibility. No whining now. Glow quietly.

  39. heh! The rat-in-chief and rat-behind-the-throne have just announced formally they ain’t going anywhere near the hurricane, conventions or not. Talk about pre-deserting the sinking ship.

  40. @#40 POSTED BY CHRIS L

    Guess what, I’m not going to apologize for having a middle class family that worked for everything they have. 98% of Randian Objectivism is bullshit, I’ll give you that. That other 2% is hurricane season.

    Let me explain what the problem is with your logic. Local government in Louisiana collects taxes and issues bonds just to deal with flooding. But guess what? The system their is so corrupt that most of that money is never used to actually protect the people who paid into the pool.

    People in New Orleans have a right to be angry at local government. Their corrupt scumbags. Much worse than other municipalities and ultimately they do nothing.

    And since nobody has said it yet, if New Orleans were predominately (1) white and (2) middle-class there would be no debate. The levees would be properly built and maintained and there would be no crisis. But because New Orleans is (1) poor and (2) predominately black, nobody cares. And it seriously extends back to the racism of the Louisiana Purchase.

    What happens and has happened in Louisiana is American racism at its worst. And that’s the tragedy here.

  41. Apologies for my misuse of “their” instead of “there” in “The system there is so corrupt…” and “They’re corrupt scumbags.”

  42. @Jack: I know it was a typo, but the local politicians are “Their corrupt scumbags”. They don’t get elected without the most votes (usually).

  43. “My thoughts and prayers to all the people in the path of the storm and to those lost in India, whom the US press just shrugs at.”

    …nd yt thr’s rsn vry lttl cncrn s shwn. Tht r f th wrld s s vrppltd tht t tms t sms t cld *s* n nm t flsh thngs t. Scrg wld hv clld t “rdcng th srpls ppltn”.

    Of course, similar things were said about NOLA, but now that we’ve spent the money to rebuild things a bit, now more than ever nobody wants to see it all washed away again. At least so soon…

  44. So what happens to taxes and things? Isn’t the government responsible for maintaining upkeep of the public works?
    Future generations will look back and pinpoint Hurricane Katrina as the beginning of the end of the current US system. The Iraq war started it all but the mismanagement was shown there. There will be elections but it will be in decline from now on.
    In Bangladesh, they don’t have the money to build levees. Life sucks if you are poor, and rich idiots sitting comfortably in front of a computer can declaim “it’s your fault, shouldn’t live there”. Not really an option. If New Orleans and the surrounding area was in Japan or in Canada, I don’t think it would be in the same situation.

  45. Either it is technically feasible to build a working flood defense, or it’s not. If it’s technically feasible then the State or Federal government should bank-roll it.

    eg. The US spends an inordinate sum on “defense”, but it’s all taken to mean military defense against an enemy armed with guns and IEDs, or nukes in Russia, etc.

    Probably it would defend many American lives and livelihoods/commercial interests to build a decent flood defense system.?

    The housing market slump means that a lot of construction jobs are in danger, since there’s a surplus of built houses and no mortgages to buy them with.

    Could the U.S. government engage in a New Deal-esque levee building spree and create some socially useful jobs for people with skills in construction for a few years while the banking system sorts itself out?

  46. Totally off topic, but I’m really sad. BB, one of my fave sites, seems to have really become infected with Republican Apologistas in the past few days. :(

  47. Thank you, Takuan.

    I’ll just summarize how I feel: a lot of people in those towns live in the homes that their now dead relatives built by hand. Most of the people in LA are not rich. Look at the poverty index. Thanks to a combination of local and federal government mismanagement, they had nothing before Katrina and Rita and now they really have nothing. How eager are all of you to abandon over a hundred years of family history? A lot of people in those towns aren’t changing apartments, they’re loosing continuity with their past and their way of lives. No one I know of from living down there had much of anything in the bank, and especially not after the disaster. And since the infrastructure was severely damaged, no jobs, either. Yeah, bad situation, but if that’s the only home you’ve ever had, you will get a bit attached and try to rebuild, even in the face of overwhelmingly nasty odds.

    For the record, Louisiana is not all NO. NO got the majority of the funding and the planning committees used it (the NY Times had some great articles about this) to bulldoze the low income neighborhoods and get rid of those unslightly poor people, who happened to be mostly black. The phrase institutionalized racism fits nicely here.

    The town my grandmother (who cannot walk), my aunt, my cousins and uncles just got evacuated from is roughly 30 miles off the coast. They got no funding worth speaking of and Rita and Katrina flattened the place. Far as I know, there’s still tarps for roofs around town. Holly Beach, where I learned to swim, will never, according to the Corps of Engineers, ever be rebuilt. The house my grandmother lives in was built by my now dead grandfather. It flooded and lost part of the roof during Rita and Katrina, which tore up the orchard he planted behind the house and drove some of the trees through the walls. We have no idea if it will survive Gustav.

    I’m sorry we’re being stupid, living in and/or missing south Louisiana. Let’s be safe and evacuate all these unstable areas so there’s no one left to blame: we’ll start with southern Louisiana and then the California coast (earthquake) and the mid-west (tornado) and most of the east coast (flooding from coastal storms.)

    In the mean time, I’m waiting for a phone call from my grandmother to let me know they got to an uncle’s house, in Dallas. Don’t let me rain all over that blame-the-victim parade. It must be comforting for some of you.

  48. I was living in Savannah, GA when Hugo hit. I recall the city half-heartedly recommended evacuation. As I left the city I was quite aware of all the people who weren’t going to leave because they could not go. What was there for them to do but sit in their houses behind taped up windows and wait. For years afterward I would return to Savannah and see some windows still crossed with X’s of masking tape.
    Of course, Hugo veered off unexpectedly and leveled Charleston, about an hour away.

  49. “uumm I don’t know, how about we drop a small nuke on your city and see how you cope?”

    I would evacuate. That’s the difference. It’s not rocket science.

  50. walk out through the fire, debris walls, screaming wounded and general mayhem on your bleeding stumps I guess?

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