What New Orleans Could Have Done Better

September 2nd, 2005 10:11 AM

Hurricane Katrina gave New Orleans a head fake on Monday, then slammed a right hook into Mississippi instead.  But just as the Garden City thought it had gotten through the worst, the storm-created floods began -- 24 hours later.  That day-long gap accounts for most of the bitter griping about inadequate preparation and aid.  And the floods hurt worse than the storm, far worse.

So what could have been done better?  Only one thing occurs to me:  As early as last Friday and Saturday, the situation looked like it was going to be dire in New Orleans.  It called for a complete evacuation -- complete.  It is now evident this was not accomplished.

The Governor and the Mayor should have dragooned every possible vehicle into the evacuation effort.  The Guard should have been involved.  Last week's reports said that the New Orleans police, which number only 1,500, were knocking on doors and having refuseniks sign waivers.  Not good enough.  People had to be moved by force.

Because those who were left behind were not only the stubborn.  Those left were, besides the weak and the sick (unconscionable), the  intractably antisocial.  True, it would have taken a near-Soviet level of social control.

But it also required either a plan, quick wits, or both.  State and local officials displayed neither.