LAW AND REGULATIONS 5
Lawand Regulations: Hurricane Katrina
Lawand Regulations: Hurricane Katrina
HurricaneKatrina that hit Louisiana on the 29thof August, 2005 is the worst hurricane to have ever hit the statesince the 19thcentury. The hurricane broke New Orleans’ levees and flooded morethan eighty percent of the area. The flooding water trapped manypeople who were left with no access to basic necessities such asfood, clean water, electricity and proper shelter. There wereuncoordinated efforts to rescue the survivors which provedinefficient. Power struggles between the state and the federalgovernment over the control of rescue operations led to a delay inavailing aid to those who needed it the most. Some officers abandonedrescue and law enforcement operations, a factor that resulted inheightened lawlessness, further complicating the situation inLouisiana. Governor Kathleen Blanco`s ignorance on the law and/or herdisregard of it led to the deaths of thousands of New Orleansresidents.
GovernorBlanco in her call for the president`s intervention, failed tospecify the precise action that she expected from the president. ThePosse Comitatus Act in the law limits the president`s actions when itcomes to dealing with state-specific matters (Tkacz, 2006). PresidentBush was not in a position to direct the use of state resources, themilitary, in this case, to prop up rescue operations without thedirect request from Governor Blanco specifying the kind of help.Sending in the military to assist in the rescue efforts could havebeen interpreted in different ways. Some of the interpretations couldhave resulted in undesirable legal and political outcomes. Blanco’sfailure to specify the actions that she expected from the presidentpoints to either her ignorance of the law or a complete disregard ofit in the hope of scoring political points. If the former is thecase, then she would have saved the situation if the president had onhis part sought on the nature of the request, to avoid the stalematethat saw many innocent lives lost. In the case of the latter, itpoints to poor leadership that puts self-interest ahead of service tothe people.
Evidenceof the events leading up to the catastrophe occasioned by HurricaneKatrina point to an intention on part of Blanco to disregard thepresident’s input on matters affecting her state (Anada, 2007).President Bush, following briefs from Joe Hagin, who was the DeputyChief of Staff at the time, had three days to the occurrence of amajor landfall resulting from the hurricane made a call to Blancowarning on the impending disaster. He had impressed upon her to takeswift action. The governor did not take the president’s actionpositively. In her subjective reasoning, she saw it as an attempt topaint her office as incapable of handling the emergency. Blanco’sfocus on her image blinded her judgment making her ineffective in herleadership role. She failed to prepare for the emergency leaving thestate exposed to the full impact of the hurricane. Blanco refused tocoordinate the rescue efforts of her state with those of the federalgovernment as was required under the law in matters beyond thestate’s control.
GovernorBlanco capitalized on the loopholes existing in the law concerningthe incorporation of federal assistance to block the president’sinitiative to help on the matter. It was within her to sign theexecutive order KBB-2005-23 as required under the law that wouldallow for the military’s help. She appeared focused on the legalityof federal assistance. Blanco and her office saw the move by thepresident as one that would mean the federal government was takingover control over Louisiana from her, a case that would mean an abuseof power (Anada, 2007). Her failure to act promptly led to worseningof the situation as the federal assistance agencies had the power tointervene and help save lives without the governor`s consent. It tookthe president`s declaration of a state of emergency for FEMA andother federal organs to take control of the situation and help savethe situation from deteriorating further. Governor Blanco only gaveinto pressure after she saw that there was nothing much she could doabout the situation agreed to sign executive order KBB-2005-23contained in the state’s law allowing for military assistance fromthe federal government (Krane, 2007).
Clearly,in relation to the management of Hurricane Katrina, Governor Blancoeither lacked knowledge on the course of the law or outrightlyignored it. While expressing her interest in the federal government’shelp, she failed to specify the nature of help as required by the lawto avoid undesirable legal and political implications. She tookadvantage of loopholes in the law to hamper the efforts of thefederal government in offering the required assistance. Her obsessionwith the interpretation of the law made her indecisive as the floodscontinued raking havoc. Were it not for not for the mounting pressureon her to act, she would not have accepted the federal government’shelp. There is a need for the review and amendment of 10 U.S.C §331ofthe federal law to help restructure the power of the presidentenabling him to act without waiting for a request from a state`slegislature or governor to send military assistance in the event of adisaster. Such a review will help to avoid a repeat of the stalematethat hit Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.
Anada,T. (2007). The perfect storm, an imperfect response, and a sovereignshield: Can Hurricane Katrina victims bring negligence claimsagainst the government. Pepp.L. Rev.,35, 279.
Krane,D. (2007). The unavoidable politics of disaster recovery. PublicManager,36(3),31.
Tkacz,S. R. (2006). In Katrina`s wake: Rethinking the military`s role indomestic emergencies. Wm.& Mary Bill Rts. J.,15, 301.