- THE MAGAZINE
As the Category 4 the storm surged ashore just east of New Orleans on Monday, FEMA had medical teams, rescue squads and groups prepared to supply food and water poised in a semicircle around the city, said agency Director Michael Brown.
Brown, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, said the evacuation of the city and the general emergency response were working as planned in an exercise a year ago. "I was impressed with the evacuation, once it was ordered it was very smooth," he said. And with the storm moving north, Brown said he expects to see flooding in Tennessee and the Ohio Valley. While federal, state and local agencies were poised to help, recovery could be a slow process.
The American Red Cross said it had about 200,000 volunteers mobilized for the hurricane, the "largest single mobilization that we've done for any single natural disaster," said spokesman Bradley Hague. The organization set up operational headquarters in Baton Rouge.
With its partners - local churches and community organizations - the Red Cross said it expected to serve about 500,000 meals a day to those displaced by the hurricane.
Former Army Corps of Engineers commander Robert B. Flowers said a major hurricane striking near New Orleans is a worst case scenario.
"I couldn't even begin to estimate the billions of dollars in damage that are going to result. You could have water several feet deep in the city for days before the pumps can discharge it," said Flowers, now CEO of HNTB Federal Services in Arlington, Va.
In other storm-related moves:
"Once that rapid assessment is done, then we go into full force," Coleman told AP. "We don't want to put everybody too close to the storm until we figure out exactly what to do."
"We have the equipment standing by, an aspect plane for surveillance that can see petrochemical spills from the air, but it's not cleared to fly in high winds or dangerous weather," he said.
More than 40 Coast Guard aircraft from units along the entire Eastern Seaboard, along with more than 30 small boats, patrol boats and cutters, were positioned around the area to be ready to conduct post-hurricane search and rescue operations and to do waterway damage checks and begin any needed repairs.
Also, the Forest Service, which is part of the department, has an incident command team that will coordinate with FEMA and the Red Cross.