Hurricane Katrina expert who warned levees would break is fired

What better way to commemorate then fourth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster than sack the expert who warned that the levees protecting New Orleans would break?

Greg Palast reports that Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, Dr Ivor van Heerden, has now been “dumped along with the chief of the Hurricane Center who led the academics who supported van Heerden’s research”.

Dr Van Heerden also blew the whistle that the Bush government knew ahead of anyone else that they’d cracked the night Hurricane Katrina hit the region, resulting in the deaths of 1,500 people.

“By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breeched. Nobody.”

Palast continues:

Van Heerden was told by University officials that his complaints jeopardized funding from the Bush Administration. … It didn’t matter to Bush, to the State, to the University, that van Heerden was right- devastatingly right. Exactly as van Heerden predicted, the levees could not stand up to the storm surge. … the Bush White House did nothing about the levees, despite warning after warning.

The only plan in place called for the evacuation of New Orleans by car. Survivors who were forced to flee on foot were turned back on a bridge out of the city by armed police in one notorious incident. Those who made it to the Superdome had to exist for a week without any state aid.

Since the disaster on 29th August 2005, speculators and cronies have grown even richer while the poor black residents have seen their homes destroyed and stolen, some physically evicted from the homes they rebuilt at their own cost by marshals.

… it is also the fourth year of exile for more than half of the low-income Black residents who once lived in the Crescent City. In the Lower Ninth Ward, 81% have yet to return.

This never happened to the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke. But I guess it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

More Greg Palast here

Great piece by Rebecca Solnit in the Guardian, reminding us that the marauding thieves and murderers were police and white suburbanites and not the poor black victims who were their quarry.

The majority in Katrina took care of each other, went to great lengths to rescue each other – including the “cajun navy” of white guys with boats who entered the flooded city the day after the levees broke – and were generally humane and resourceful. A minority that included the most powerful believed they were preventing barbarism while they embodied it.

UPDATE: Van Heerden was sacked in April but this is a timely reminder that heroes are trashed while villains are rewarded. Two videos on the Katrina debacle here and here (thanks to Mrs M)

Madam Miaow says … visit Anna Chen’s website here:


Anna’s food blog here:

5 thoughts on “Hurricane Katrina expert who warned levees would break is fired”

  1. Soldiers used as fodder at every level, both in the field abroad and saving politicians arses at home — no surprise there. It would indeed be a wonderful world if armies were put to use helping civilians in situations like Katrina or in natural disasters.

  2. the last minute of his rant is particularly eloquent and absolutely warranted. it's obviously spontaneous but gets right to the point.
    i have to say though i emailed wolf blitzer when all this was going on to express how pissed i was that he was blaming the military for their lack of action. blame shifting! to honestly think that the military would not have rather been helping those katrina victims than kicking sand around in Iraq and Afghanistan is complete bullshit. It's not like a couple of privates can just commandeer a plane for Christ's sake. even if they could drive it they would be court marshalled and thrown in jail before they'd even reach state lines.

  3. Disgusting but sadly not surprising at all.
    I will never forget the amazing Anderson Cooper ripping Mary Landrieu a new one on live television for being utterly useless. This, among other things, is why I love him. If you havent seen it, you really should.
    Anderson also traveled with the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade (my husband's unit) during his previous deployment to Afghanistan in 2006. At that time no one else was covering the Afghan war (and most didnt even know we were still there), so he will always have a special place in my heart for that.

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