As the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina continue to unfold, blogs the Web over are turning to the discussion of what exactly went wrong in those crucial early hours. The 2004 AAN-sponsored FEMA disaster story appears often. Most notably, Eschaton and Washington Monthly have linked to the story and the Sept. 7 follow-up published on altweeklies.com, both written by Jon Elliston of the Independent Weekly. In addition, a Louisiana-specific report written by Gambit Weekly staffer Eileen Loh-Harrist shows up on Talking Points Memo.
As FEMA stumbles in response to Hurricane Katrina, it's instructive to re-read a couple of articles published in AAN papers eleven months ago. In the first -- a story sponsored by AAN and published in over 20 of its members' papers -- Jon Elliston and the Independent Weekly reported the Bush Administration was shifting FEMA resources from protection from hurricanes and other natural hazards to homeland security. Disaster in the Making was published as FEMA was preparing for Hurricane Frances, only three weeks after their bang-up performance on Hurricane Charley. "They're doing a good job," one former FEMA executive told Elliston. "And the reason ... is because it's so close to the election, and they can't fuck it up, otherwise they lose Florida -- and if they lose Florida, they might lose the election."
In Homeland Insecurity (which was reported and published in conjunction with Disaster in the Making), Eileen Loh Harrist and Gambit Weekly reported that FEMA snubbed Louisiana and violated its own funding standards when it failed to provide the state with badly-needed Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) funds to protect it from flooding. According to Loh Harrist, "the nearly $60 million pot of federal PDM money went to 31 other states and Puerto Rico. Texas received the biggest share, more than $8.8 million, followed by California ($6.1 million) and Florida ($5.3 million)."