Thad Allen: “The real problem in New Orleans was they experienced the equivalent of a weapon of mass effect. And they lost continuity of government.”
Former Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen is fond of using that description of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. Often he adds, “without the criminality.”
That is an important distinction. It means that because it was a natural disaster rather than a terrorist attack, the federal government could not simply take control of the response. Instead, there was an intricate dance of competing political pressures, interpretations, and interests at all levels of government. Depending on one’s political leanings, it is easy now to lame blame on particular people over others. What I think should be understood by all is that communication between the local, state, and federal governments fell apart at the very moment it was most needed.
I bring this up because Allen was interviewed on Juliette Kayyem’s latest podcast. It is an interesting conversation on his recollections about the response to that catastrophe.
You can listen to it here: http://wgbhnews.org/post/thad-allen-hurricane-katrina-10-years-later