Compare With Katrina

Ken AshfordDisastersLeave a Comment

This is how a President is supposed to deal with a potential flooding disaster:

Well before the waters of the Red River were expected to reach their most threatening levels here, Dennis Walaker, the mayor, received a telephone call from President Obama.

The president said Fargo would get whatever help it needed, the mayor recounted, gushing over how it felt for “just a big kid from a small North Dakota town” to get such a high-placed pledge.

The telephone call last week was but a hint of the degree to which the Obama administration, faced with what threatened to become the first major disaster of its short tenure, turned federal resources to the fast-rising rivers in North Dakota and Minnesota.

By all indications, the reaction — possibly, some here suggest, the overreaction — was a signal of lessons learned from the Bush administration’s widely criticized response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We had federal people on the ground to the point where they were getting in the way,” said Pat Zavoral, the Fargo city administrator. “And we had National Guard people on the ground to the point where they were getting in the way.”

Grateful for the resources nonetheless, Mr. Zavoral added, “But that’s the way we want it.”