Katrina Timeline

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005

Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center warns New Orleans officials that Katrina is the storm they’ve always feared; FEMA Director Michael Brown tells White House he is very worried.

Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005

Mayfield warns Bush and others of Katrina’s power; Superdome opened as refuge of last resort for 20,000 people.

Monday, Aug. 29, 2005

Katrina makes landfall at Buras. National Weather Service and other agencies either issue public alerts or begin reporting to the Department of Homeland Security Operations Center that levees are breaching. A FEMA official tells Texas White House “8 to 10 feet of water in St. Bernard Parish” and the need for “serious search and rescue” in the Lower 9th Ward. Yet Gov. Kathleen Blanco tells a White House staffer she does not think any levee has been breached, and later, a situation report from Homeland Security Operations Center says “preliminary reports indicate the levees in New Orleans have not been breached.” FEMA public affairs officer Marty Bahamonde makes two helicopter tours over the area and sees the breaches. He emails FEMA a graphic report. Blanco asks Brown for buses to the Superdome. He assures her that 500 will arrive within hours.

Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005

White House alerted to multiple breaches and massive flooding. Bush is advised to end his vacation. Pentagon forms Joint Task Force Katrina, headed by Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré. But,FEMA is not asking Pentagon for assistance. Blanco visits squalid Superdome; her National Guard adjutant reaches out to Pentagon’s National Guard Bureau, which reaches out to state-level Guard units. State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries begins running rescue boats around city. Mayor Ray Nagin opens convention center as a shelter.

Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005

Air Force One circles the city en route from Texas to Washington. Blanco staff learns White House believes that Blanco is asking for federalization. Blanco asks Bush for 40,000 troops but rejects federalization. Bush addresses the nation from the Rose Garden, promising a Cabinet-level task force to speed aid. Blanco asks Honoré to coordinate evacuation.

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005

A Homeland Security situation report makes first mention of people at the convention center. Later in day, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff dismisses reporter’s query about crowds massing there. National Guard begins Superdome evacuation.

Friday, Sept. 2, 2005

Pentagon devises “dual hat” command: Honoré will command federal and National Guard troops, but will report to Bush on use of federal troops, and to Blanco on use of National Guard troops. Bush, in Mobile, Ala., says: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” In Biloxi, Miss., Bush says: “I am satisfied with the response; I am not satisfied with the results.” He also claims incorrectly that levees broke on Tuesday. National Guard begins evacuating convention center. Bush, Blanco and Nagin meet on Air Force One. Nagin demands simplified military command. Bush, privately, urges Blanco to let him federalize. She stalls.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005

Blanco rejects “dual hat” structure. Bush sends 7,200 Army and Marines to be commanded by Honoré. 30,000 National Guard troops from other states have arrived to serve under Blanco’s command. They wrap up evacuations at convention center.

Sources: Report of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs; “The Great Deluge,” by Douglas Brinkley; and interview with Kathleen Blanco