Urbin Report

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The truth behind the bus story...

Bill Hobbs points out the truth behind the far left spin.

One of the facts of the case:

FACT — NEW ORLEANS HAD LESS THAN 300 WORKING SCHOOL BUSES: "The [Orleans Parish school] district owns 324 buses but 70 are broken down." [New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/5/05]

Hmmm....Mr. Hobbs does the math:
Nagin did leave hundreds of buses behind, unused. In fact, according to the numbers cited in that Times Picayune article, and referenced by ThinkProgress, he had 254 usable school buses.

and then points out:
he question, then, is - did he use them? The now-famous AP photo suggests that he did not. It shows a large number of school buses parked in neat formation in a flooded parking lot. That parking lot, it turns out, is about a mile from the Superdome.

Were all of them working buses before the flood? Unknown. But - again, according to the newspaper article numbers referenced by ThinkProgress - no more than 70 of them were broken down. Which means that, at a minimum, there were around 185 working buses that were left to drown in the flood instead of being used to evacuate some of the city's poorest residents.

Overall, we know - thanks to the newspaper article referenced by Think Progress - that New Orleans had 254 school buses that it could have used to evacuate people.

The photo I've included clearly doesn't show 254 or 255 buses, so why, then, do I keep repeating those numbers? The answer is that a satellite photo of flooded New Orleans shows the entire bus lot, while the AP aerial photo above shows only part of it. The blogger who found the satellite photo counted approximately 255 buses in it.
He counted 255 buses, the Times Picayune said that city had 254 working buses - the coincidence suggests the buses shown in the flooded parking lot in the AP aerial photo and the satellite photo are the city's working school buses.

254 buses, carrying 60 people per bus, could have evacuated 15,240 people per trip. How many trips to Baton Rouge - 75 miles away - might they have made if mobilized two days before Katrina hit? Two? That's 30,480 poor residents evacuated. Three? That's 45,720 people evacuated. The Superdome didn't need to be a shelter of "last resort" for tens of thousands of poor people to ride out Hurricane Katrina. It needed to be a central boarding station for a mass evacuation by bus before Katrina struck.

But the 254 working city school buses made zero trips.

That is undeniable fact.

Then he's back with more actual facts:
The fact is, the official evacuation plan for New Orleans stated that the city was to mobilize its school and transit buses to evacuate people from the city in advance of a major hurricane. The city failed to do so. The fact is, the official evacuation plan for southeastern Louisiana stated that transit and school buses were to be used to evacuate people in advance of a major hurricane. The state failed to do so. Santorum is absolutely correct.

As for the Globe report that FEMA only sent 100 buses when the Louisiana National Guard requested 700, consider it closely. When did the LNG ask FEMA for the buses? "On Sunday, the day before the storm..."

It is not all that surprising that FEMA could not move 750 buses to New Orleans on such short notice. It is rather remarkable they were able to get 100 buses there that quickly.

Why did the Louisiana National Guard wait until, essentially, the last minute to request FEMA to send buses?

Perhaps they were waiting for New Orleans and the state to implement its own evacuation plan, which stipulated that city transit and school buses would be used to evacuate the city's poorest residents.

Or perhaps they were waiting for an order from Gov. Blanco. She, after all, is the commander of the Louisiana National Guard.

Blanco and Nagin knew Katrina had a high probability of being a monster storm and of hitting New Orleans three or four days before it arrived. Yet Nagin failed to implement the official plan to use his city's transit and school buses to evacuate his poorest residents, and Blanco's National Guard waited until too late to request FEMA to send enough buses to accomplish the task.

If - as it seems clear - Nagin and Blanco weren't intending to implement the official evacuation plan to use city transit and school buses, the next logical question then is why did Blanco wait until the last minute to ask FEMA to send buses?