Timeline of the Tragedy

8/26/05: Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco Declared A State Of Emergency. According to the States News Service, “Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today issued Proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005, declaring a state of emergency for the state Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent threat, carrying severe storms, high winds, and torrential rain that may cause flooding and damage to private property and public facilities, and threaten the safety and security of the citizens of the state of Louisiana The state of emergency extends from Friday, August 26, 2005, through Sunday, September 25, 2005, unless terminated sooner.” [States News Service, 8/26/05]

8/27/05: Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco Requested Emergency Declaration From President Bush. According to the Times-Picayune, “Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco forwarded a letter to President Bush requesting that he declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina.” According to the letter, “Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina.” [Blanco Letter, Times-Picayune, 8/27/05]

8/26/05: Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco Declared A State Of Emergency. According to the States News Service, “Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today issued Proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005, declaring a state of emergency for the state Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent threat, carrying severe storms, high winds, and torrential rain that may cause flooding and damage to private property and public facilities, and threaten the safety and security of the citizens of the state of Louisiana The state of emergency extends from Friday, August 26, 2005, through Sunday, September 25, 2005, unless terminated sooner.” [States News Service, 8/26/05]

8/27/05: Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco Requested Emergency Declaration From President Bush. According to the Times-Picayune, “Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco forwarded a letter to President Bush requesting that he declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina.” According to the letter, “Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina.” [Blanco Letter, Times-Picayune, 8/27/05]

Blanco Letter To Bush: “This Incident Is Of Such Severity And Magnitude That Effective Response Is Beyond The Capabilities Of The State And Affected Local Governments.” According to a letter from Louisina Gov. Kathleen Blanco to President Bush, “I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal.” [Blanco Letter, Times-Picayune, 8/27/05]

8/27/05: From His Ranch, President Bush Declared Federal Emergency, Giving FEMA Authority To Coordinate Response Efforts. According to the Associated Press, “President Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on Saturday because of the approach of Hurricane Katrina and his spokesman urged residents along the coast to heed authorities’ advice to evacuate. Bush, vacationing at his ranch, was being regularly updated about the storm, which is expected to hit land early Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to coordinate with state authorities in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, and have prepositioned supplies in areas expected to be affected, he said. The president’s emergency declaration authorizes the FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and to provide appropriate assistance in a number of Louisiana parishes, or counties.” [Associated Press, 8/28/05]

8/28/05: National Weather Service Issued Urgent Message Warning That “Hurricane With Unprecedented Strength” Could Cause “Human Suffering Incredible By Modern Standards.” According to a message from the National Weather Service, “Hurricane Katrina…a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength…rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks…perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail…leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage…including some wall and roof failure. […] Power outages will last for weeks…as most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.” [National Weather Service, 8/28/05]

8/28/05: New Orleans Mayor Ordered City Evacuated, Stranded Tourists And Residents Sent To Superdome And Other Rescue Centers. According to the Associated Press, “Mayor Ray Nagin ordered an immediate mandatory evacuation Sunday for all of New Orleans, a city sitting below sea level with 485,000 inhabitants, as Hurricane Katrina bore down with wind revved up to nearly 175 mph and a threat of a massive storm surge. Acknowledging that large numbers of people, many of them stranded tourists, would be unable to leave before the eye of the storm strikes land sometime Monday morning, the city set up 10 places of last resort including the Superdome arena. […] Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Interstate 10, which was converted Saturday so that all lanes headed one-way out of town, was gridlocked. […] The Superdome was already taking in people with special problems Sunday morning. People on walkers, some with oxygen tanks, began checking in when it opened about 8 a.m.” [Associated Press, 8/28/05]

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Line to get into the Superdome shelter in New Orleans (August 28, 2005)
Marty Bahamonde/FEMA

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Line to get into the Superdome shelter in New Orleans (August 28, 2005)
Marty Bahamonde/FEMA

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FEMA’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team at the New Orleans Superdome (August 31, 2005)
Marty Bahamonde/FEMA

8/29/05: Katrina Made Landfall In The Early Morning. According to the New York Times, “Katrina turned slightly to the east before slamming ashore early Monday with 145-mph (233-kph) winds, providing some hope that the worst of the storm’s wrath might not be directed at this vulnerable, below-sea-level city. But National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield warned that New Orleans would be pounded throughout the day Monday and that Katrina’s potential 20-foot ( 6-meter) storm surge was still more than capable of swamping the city. Katrina, which a day before had grown to a 175-mph (282-kph), Category 5 behemoth, made landfall about 6:10 a.m. CDT (1110 GMT) east of Grand Isle in the bayou town of Buras.” [New York Times, 8/29/05]

8/29/05: Superdome Power Failed At 5 AM. According to the New York Times, “Katrina’s fury also was felt at the Louisiana Superdome, normally home of professional football’s Saints, which became the shelter of last resort for about 9,000 of the area’s poor, homeless and frail. Electrical power at the Superdome failed at 5:02 a.m., triggering groans from the crowd. Emergency generators kicked in, but the backup power runs only reduced lighting and cannot run the air conditioning.” [New York Times, 8/29/05]

8/29/05: Parts Of Superdome Roof Blown Away. According to Bloomberg, “Hurricane Katrina blew two parts off the roof of the New Orleans Superdome where about 10,000 people are seeking shelter, and rain was falling on the field and lower parts of the stadium’s stands, a manager for the state’s Social Services Department said.” [Bloomberg, 8/29/05]

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The New Orleans Superdome’s damaged roof (September 8, 2005)
Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

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The New Orleans Superdome’s damaged roof (September 4, 2005)
Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

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Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Beaty in a rescue helicopter (August 20, 2005)
DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, U.S. Coast Guard. (Released)

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Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott D. Rady rescuing a woman in New Orleans (August 30, 2005)
U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

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Navy Search and Rescue Swimmer Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Chun with an evacuee in a Seahawk helicopter (September 5, 2005) DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jay C. Pugh, U.S. Navy (Released)

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Soldiers from the 832nd Medical Company rescue a Katrina victim (September 1, 2010)
Wisconsin National Guard file photo

8/29/05: Levees Were Breached, New Orleans Began To Flood. According to the Associted Press, “Even with Katrina swirling away to the north, two different levee breaches in New Orleans sent a churning sea of water coursing through city streets. Col. Rich Wagenaar of the Army Corps of Engineers, said a breach in the eastern part of the city was causing flooding and ‘significant evacuations’ in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. He did not know how many people were affected by the flooding. Authorities also were gathering information on a levee breach in the western part of New Orleans. Jason Binet, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said that breach began Monday afternoon and may have grown overnight. Residents who had ridden out the brunt of Katrina now faced a second more insidious threat as flood waters continued their ascent well into the night.” [Associated Press, 8/29/05]

8/30/05: Louisiana Governor Ordered Evacuation Of Entire City, Including Superdome, As Conditions Deteriorated. According to Fox News, “Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has ordered everyone in New Orleans — many of whom have been huddled in the Superdome and other rescue centers — to leave. As many as 25,000 people were going to be bused from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome in Texas. There will be a ‘total evacuation of the city. We have to. The city will not be functional for two or three months,’ [New Orleans Mayor Ray] Nagin said. Nagin estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people remained in New Orleans, a city of nearly half a million people. He said 14,000 to 15,000 a day could be evacuated. […] The air conditioning inside the Superdome was out, the toilets were broken, and tempers were rising in the sweltering heat. Sewage could be seen seeping out of manholes in downtown New Orleans.” [Fox News, 8/31/05]

8/31/05: Bush Flew Over New Orleans On The Way From His Texas Ranch To Washington. According to the Associated Press, “Bush cut short his working vacation in Texas by two days to fly over the devastated region. His plane flew over New Orleans at about 2,500, and it descended even further, to about 1,700 feet, over Mississippi. Bush surveyed the damage from a couch near the left front of the plane. The plane flew over New Orleans, then traveled along the coast to Mobile, Miss., before turning north toward Washington. ‘It’s totally wiped out,’ Bush remarked as the modified Boeing 747 moved east past Slidell, a Louisiana community reduced to a pile of rubble and sticks. ‘It’s devastating, it’s got to be doubly devastating on the ground,’ Bush said, according to his spokesman Scott McClellan.” [Associated Press, 8/31/05]

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President Bush looks at New Orleans from Air Force One as he flies from Texas to Washington, D.C. (August 31, 2005)
White House photo by Paul Morse

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A photo of flooding in New Orleans taken from Air Force One (August 31, 2005)
White House photo by Paul Morse

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Flooding in the streets of New Orleans (August 31, 2005)
U.S. Navy photo by Airman Jeremy L. Grisham.

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Evacuees wait on a roof in New Orleans (August 30, 2005)
Photo by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA [FEMA.gov, 8/30/05]

8/31/05: Public Health Emergency Declared. According to the Associated Press, “As a public health catastrophe unfolded Wednesday in New Orleans, hospitals in the Crescent City sank further into disaster, airlifting babies without their parents to other states and struggling with more sick people appearing at their doors. Dangerous, unsanitary conditions spread across the city, much of which now sits in a murky stew of germs. The federal government declared a public health emergency for the Gulf Coast region, promising 40 medical centers with up to 10,000 beds and thousands of doctors and nurses for the hurricane-ravaged area.” [Associated Press, 8/31/05]

9/1/05: Violence And Lawlessness Spread Through City. According to CNN, “Violence disrupted relief efforts Thursday in New Orleans as authorities rescued desperate residents still trapped in the flooded city and tried to evacuate thousands of others living among corpses and human waste. Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said his agency was attempting to work ‘under conditions of urban warfare.’ Police snipers were stationed on the roof of their precinct, trying to protect it from armed miscreants roaming seemingly at will.” [CNN, 9/1/05]

9/1/05: Refugees Stranded Without Food Or Water. According to NPR, “Days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall east of New Orleans, thousands remain stranded in the city, many without food or fresh water. The city’s mayor has issued what he called an ‘Urgent SOS’ for help.” [NPR, 9/1/05]

9/1/05: Superdome Evacuation Suspended Due To Violence. According to the Associated Press, “The evacuation of the Superdome was suspended Thursday because of growing lawlessness outside the arena, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured into New Orleans to help restore order across the increasingly desperate city. […] The first of 500 busloads of people who were evacuated from the hot and stinking Louisiana Superdome arrived early Thursday at their new temporary home – another sports arena, the Houston Astrodome, 350 miles (560 kilometers) away. But the evacuation was abruptly suspended by the air ambulance service in charge of taking the sick and injured from the Superdome and by the military, which was overseeing the removal of the able-bodied. Richard Zeuschlag, chief of Acadian Ambulance, said shots were fired at a military helicopter, making it clear that it had become too dangerous for his pilots. And National Guard Lt. Col. Pete Schneider said the military suspended the ground evacuation because fires set outside the arena were preventing buses from getting close enough to pick people up.” [Associated Press, 9/1/05]

9/2/05: Bush Traveled To The Gulf Coast. According to the Washington Post, “Amid a surge of denunciations from political leaders in both parties, President Bush agreed yesterday that the results of his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina have been ‘not acceptable’ and flew to the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast for a day-long tour of the devastation. […] ‘It’s as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine,’ Bush said at another point. As he left New Orleans, Bush said: ‘I’m going to fly out of here in a minute, but I want you to know that I’m not going to forget what I’ve seen. I understand the devastation requires more than one day’s attention.’” [Washington Post, 9/3/05]

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President Bush in Marine One flying over the New Orleans Superdome (September 2, 2005)
White House photo by Eric Draper

9/3/05: Evacuation Efforts Began At New Orleans Convention Center. According to the Washington Post, “Evacuation efforts for 25,000 desperate refugees began at the New Orleans convention center today, and the Bush administration dispatched thousands more troops to the hurricane-devastated area while defending itself against criticism they were slow to react to the disaster, calling it an ‘ultra-catastrophe’ that nobody could have predicted.” [Washington Post, 9/3/05]

9/3/05: Superdome Evacuation Completed. According to the Associated Press, “The last 300 refugees in the Superdome climbed aboard buses Saturday bound for new temporary shelter, leaving behind a darkened and stinking arena strewn with trash.” [Associated Press, 9/3/05]

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Katrina evacuees from New Orleans in the Houston Astrodome (September 1, 2005)
FEMA phot/Andrea Booher

9/4/05: “There Remained An Overwhelming Display Of Human Misery On The Streets.” According to the Washington Post, “But there remained an overwhelming display of human misery on the streets of New Orleans, where the last 1,500 people were being evacuated from the Convention Center amid an overpowering odor of human waste and rotting garbage. The evacuees, most of them black and poor, spoke of violence, anarchy and family members who died for lack of food, water and medical care. About 42,000 people had been evacuated from the city by Saturday afternoon, with roughly the same number remaining, city officials said. Search-and-rescue efforts continued in flooded areas of the city, where an unknown number of people wait in their homes, on rooftops or in makeshift shelters. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the flooding — 250,000 have been absorbed by Texas alone, and local radio reported that Baton Rouge will have doubled in population by Monday. Federal officials said they have begun to collect corpses but could not guess the total toll.” [Washington Post, 9/4/05]