A story in Wired documents why Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath should not have been a surprise to those in charge of emergency management.
Virtually everything that has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck was predicted by experts and in computer models, so emergency management specialists wonder why authorities were so unprepared.
"The scenario of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was well anticipated, predicted and drilled around," said Clare Rubin, an emergency management consultant who also teaches at the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University.
Computer models developed at Louisiana State University and other institutions made detailed projections of what would happen if water flowed over the levees protecting the city or if they failed.
In July 2004, more than 40 federal, state, local and volunteer organizations practiced this very scenario in a five-day simulation code-named "Hurricane Pam," where they had to deal with an imaginary storm that destroyed over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forced the evacuation of a million residents.
At the end of the exercise Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared: "We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts.
"Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies," he said.
In light of that, said disaster expert Bill Waugh of Georgia State University, "It's inexplicable how unprepared for the flooding they were." He said a slow decline over several years in funding for emergency management was partly to blame.
In comments on Thursday, President Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
But LSU engineer Joseph Suhayda and others have warned for years that defenses could fail. In 2002, the New Orleans Times Picayune published a five-part series on "The Big One," examining what might happen if they did.