During a report on how Hurricane Sandy continues to impact New York City residents, including those struggling without power or gasoline, Fox News' Megyn Kelly stated, "It's not like New Orleans where they can go to the Superdome. There's no Superdome here in New York."
But in contrasting the current situation in New York with what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Kelly ignored key distinctions -- namely that the Superdome was rendered largely uninhabitable shortly after thousands took refuge there. In fact, some residents refuse to set foot in the Dome today after surviving the chaos there.
In the days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2005, up to 20,000 people streamed into the Superdome for refuge against the storm, and the horror that ensued over the next five days was widely reported at the time.
Here's how the devastation was described in a September 2005 Los Angeles Times article:
By Wednesday, it had degenerated into horror. A few hundred people were evacuated from the arena Wednesday, and buses will take away the vast majority of refugees today.
"We pee on the floor. We are like animals," said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.
At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.
The hurricane left most of southern Louisiana without power, and the arena, which is in the central business district of New Orleans, was not spared. The air conditioning failed immediately and a swampy heat filled the dome.
An emergency generator kept some lights on, but quickly failed. Engineers have worked feverishly to keep a backup generator running, at one point swimming under the floodwater to knock a hole in the wall to install a new diesel fuel line. But the backup generator is now faltering and almost entirely submerged.
There is no sanitation. The stench is overwhelming. The city's water supply, which had held up since Sunday, gave out early Wednesday, and toilets in the Superdome became inoperable and began to overflow.
The article went on to report that the "Superdome is patrolled by more than 500 Louisiana National Guard troops, many of whom carry machine guns as sweaty, smelly people press against metal barricades that keep them from leaving," adding, "Most refugees are given two 9-ounce bottles of water a day and two boxed meals: spaghetti, Thai chicken or jambalaya."
A September 3, 2005, Associated Press article about the Superdome's completed evacuation further described the intolerable conditions, including how the "arena's second-story concourse looked like a dump, with more than a foot of trash."
This report by Oakland, California, TV station KTVU shows exactly how bad it got:
Fox News has repeatedly sought to politicize the hurricane by attacking the federal government's response to the disaster. The network has also played up comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, as Kelly did on Monday.
But despite her suggestion that solutions have not been sought for the thousands of displaced residents in the tri-state area, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state governments have made housing their top priority: $95 million in rental assistance to 32,000 storm victims has reportedly already been disbursed. About another 34,000 have been approved for lodging in hotels and motels -- which have also lowered rates to displaced residents.
Moreover, as the New York Times' Paul Krugman wrote, the Obama administration's response to Sandy cannot be compared with the Bush administration's response to Katrina:
For the response to Sandy, like the success of the auto bailout, is a demonstration that Mr. Obama's philosophy of government -- which holds that the government can and should provide crucial aid in times of crisis -- works. And conversely, the contrast between Sandy and Katrina demonstrates that leaders who hold government in contempt cannot provide that aid when it is needed.
So, about that response: Much of the greater New York area (including my house) is still without power; gasoline is scarce; and some outlying areas are feeling neglected. Right-wing news media are portraying these continuing difficulties as a disaster comparable to, nay greater than, the aftermath of Katrina. But there's really no comparison
I could do a point-by-point -- and it's definitely worth it, if you're curious, to revisit the 2005 Katrina timeline to get a sense of just how bad the response really was. But for me the difference is summed up in two images. One is the nightmare at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded for days amid inconceivable squalor, an outrage that all of America watched live on TV, but to which top officials seemed oblivious. The other is the scene in flooded Hoboken, with the National Guard moving in the day after the storm struck to deliver food and water and rescue stranded residents.
The point is that after Katrina the government seemed to have no idea what it was doing; this time it did.