There was no sign of Brownie, that is, Michael Brown, the ill-fated director of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina.
But three other past FEMA directors joined Gov. John Bel Edwards in New Orleans Tuesday to announce that the National Governors Association will begin hosting an annual event there with the premier international group that organizes conferences on resilience and disaster management.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” Nikki Guilford, the interim executive director of the governors association to partner with ResCon International to meet annually at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Louisiana, of course, has long a history of natural disasters, although anyone who lived in New Orleans when Katrina hit 14 years ago this month will tell you that it would have been a non-event if the federal levees hadn’t failed.
The most recent big storm, of course, was Hurricane Barry, which posed a scare in July because it came while the Mississippi River was unexpectedly still at flood stage. But Barry ended up causing minimal damage.
“There’s probably not a state out there that’s more practiced in natural disasters than Louisiana,” Edwards said in an interview. “I believe we have a lot to offer” to the governors association and ResCon International. “This is going to hugely impactful and helpful to Louisiana as we learn from others and how we become more resilient here.”
James Lee Witt, who served as FEMA’s director under President Bill Clinton, said he believes that governors are appointing more emergency operations managers with professional experience.
“They know that they need experience there and have a good team,” Witt said. “That failure might lose them an election.”
He and Edwards both said communities are seeing more frequent and intense storms.
Edwards was asked if he believes that humans are responsible for climate change.
“The climate is changing, the degree to which human behavior is influencing that, I don’t know,” he said. “As governor, that is not the critical point. The critical point to me is that we have to do more to prepare for these critical storms.”
Asked if he disagreed with the scientific consensus on global warming, he said, “If 95 percent of the scientists are on one of the issue, there really aren’t two equally weighted sides of the story. I happen to believe that we make a tremendous mistake if we dismiss the scientific consensus around the fact that there is climate change and that human behavior is contributing to that.”