By Jeanne Meserve
Isaac may be a big and dangerous storm, but it will not be another Katrina. No way.
Katrina chewed up large chunks of the Gulf and spawned the flooding of New Orleans, but the failure to properly prepare and respond compounded the tragedy. No politician in America…whether at the local, state, or federal level…will let that happen again. They are well aware of the blot Katrina put on the legacies of President George W. Bush, Governor Kathleen Blanco, and Mayor Ray Nagin. You can be sure that is at the front of their minds as they prepare for Isaac.
The Select Bipartisan Committee that investigated Katrina called it “a litany of mistakes, misjudgments, lapses and absurdities all cascading together, blinding us to what was coming and hobbling any collective effort to respond.”
They had it right. But many of the lessons have been taken to heart.
This time there will not be people abandoned in nursing homes and hospitals to die. Evacuations will be called early, with accommodations for people without transportation.
Officials have already declared that the low-lying Superdome will not be used as a shelter. Those that are established will be sensibly located and properly equipped.
FEMA will have more than one person in New Orleans. The federal government won’t ignore early reports of flooding and breaches. It will actively gather information to understand early the full scope of the damage.
If troops are called in, there won’t be a gap between the National Guard and active duty troops. There will be unity of command.
Will there be problems? Of course.
We won’t know, until there is a real life test, whether all the planning and exercising done since Katrina has covered every eventuality.
We won’t know, until after a storm, what the revamped levee system and communications infrastructure can bear.
We won’t know if citizens have taken the lessons of Katrina to heart. Have they prepared? Will they evacuate if asked to?
There will be mistakes made. There always are. But they are likely to be different mistakes, not the egregious ones that were made before, during, and after, Katrina. And they are not likely to be as tragic in their consequences.
Jeanne Meserve, a former CNN correspondent, is President of Shore Road Multimedia and a Senior Fellow at The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute.