Could 2016 presidential candidates handle a Katrina?
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Louisiana coastline, the Bush administration's response to the disaster is still widely criticized.
Though presidents must delegate the bulk of the work done during a natural disaster, mishandling one can have a very negative effect on public perception.
"Managing natural disasters and other forms of crisis are severe tests of leadership ability," Eric Stern, a scholar at the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center, told CBS News. Stern's research and work training people in crisis leadership and disaster management skills has led him to develop a list of four things a leader must be able to do in and after a crisis: Make sense of uncertain and ambiguous but highly dangerous situations; make crucial decisions, coordinate and empower others; deliver a clear and inspiring message to the public and other government partners; explain their actions to others, and eventually review the response for ways to improve performance and preparedness.
Four of the Republicans running for president in 2016 have dealt with major storms as the chief executive of their own states: Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas. Here is a look at how they fared:
Florida was hit by a total of nine hurricanes during Bush's two terms as governor, and eight of those hurricanes fell during a 14-month period in 2004 and 2005. The first year was particularly vicious, with Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all making landfall within just 44 days in 2004.
By nearly all accounts, Bush emerged from the wild hurricane season looking like a strong and capable leader.
"He was a good disaster manager," Naim Kapucu, a professor of public poicy and administration at the University of Central Florida told CBS News. In particular, he said Bush did an "outstanding" job at picking and delegating to capable officials, as well as briefing the public every half hour or hour to keep them updated - in English and Spanish.
"When it comes to disasters, communicating and giving a unified message to people is extremely critical, and I think Governor Bush did an excellent job in communicating with people, letting them know how serious it is and they need to take the government warning very seriously and listen to local officials," Kapucu said.
In 1999, Hurricane Floyd just missed Florida but still forced a messy evacuation. In response, Bush added to the list of sites that could be used as shelters and poured $14 million into improving the existing shelter system. After Hurricane Irene hit later that year, he moved on $200 million in flood-control projects in the southern part of the state.The 250,000 emails he released from his time as governor show Bush's constant communication with meteorologists and state officials as the hurricanes approached, and that he won plaudits from the Floridians he was governing.
"I have to be perfectly honest and tell you upfront that I have never been a great fan of yours, but your leadership during this hurricane season has been EXACTLY what Floridians need," Barbara Czipri wrote on Sept. 24, 2004 in a note with the subject line, "hug from a democrat." "Every day when I see you at the 9 a.m. conference on TV, I wish that I could reach through the screen to give you a BIG hug. I'm sure you could use a lot of them about now."
The Washington Post quoted Dan Gelber, a former Florida House Democratic leader who had his share of disagreements with Bush, as saying. "I have a lot of unflattering things to say about Jeb, but I have not criticized him for that."
"He did a good job. He was present, he delivered the resources you would hope for, asked for the help that was needed and didn't politicize it," Gelber said.
Tellingly, when President Obama took office, he appointed Craig Fugate, who had been Bush's emergency management chief in Florida, to run the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
Jindal was still a member of the U.S. House of Representatives when Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, but he was in charge during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 as well as during the BP oil spill in 2010 that threatened the Louisiana coastline.
As someone who took the helm of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at just 24 years old, Jindal was known for his management skills and faced high expectations when he stepped into the governor's office. And when Gustav hit in August 2008, just eight months after Jindal took office, he was ready.
"He was on the scene, he was a great presence, he was constantly leaning forward," John Kiefer, who directs the Masters of Public Administration Program at the University of New Orleans, told CBS News. "I think he certainly has a better understanding of the national emergency management system than did his predecessor, [former Louisiana Gov.] Kathleen Blanco."
His administration successfully evacuated 1.9 million people from the coastal parishes of the state, which then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said spared the state from having to make dramatic rescues.
Kiefer praised Jindal for surrounding himself with competent people in the offices of homeland security and emergency management, and also said that he has created a more robust infrastructure for the state by updating levy systems and pumping stations.
Where he may have been less successful, Kiefer said, is in budgeting enough money for social services after a disaster. He explained that Louisiana's budget structure and Jindal's focus on balancing the budget has led to deep cuts in education and health care.
"We really have a shortfall in social resilience and particularly with regard to social services post-disaster," he said.
Jindal also seemed in control during the oil spill, and appeared to take the crisis more seriously than former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, his neighboring governor who urged people not to cancel their Gulf Coast beach vacations. Jindal took an active role, giving news conferences, touring damage, and fighting with the federal government over the cleanup.
In particular, Jindal clashed with the federal government and even scientists in his own state over his desire to build a series of sand berms to capture the oil coming ashore. The National Oil Spill Commission would ultimately conclude the 36 miles of berms were "underwhelmingly effective" and the $220 million price tag "overwhelmingly expensive" (Jindal responded that the report was a "partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense").
Still, Kiefer said that the state was in a tough spot because it had to depend on BP and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for so much of the clean up.
"You have to admire Jindal for at least fighting the food fight and taking a good chance," he said.
Although Katrina did not hit Texas directly, its location directly next to Louisiana meant it was the first place to go for many fleeing the storm. Perry pledged to help in any way he could, and the state ultimately took in more than 200,000 evacuees in the days following the storm and opened up its schools to Louisiana children.
Three weeks later, while Texas was still coping with the influx of refugees, Hurricane Rita made landfall. But given the disastrous response to Katrina, the federal government amped up its efforts in advance of Rita, sending FEMA teams, food, water and ice to the state in advance.
Perry, for his part, requested extra fuel to aid in evacuations, activated Texas National Guard troops and recalled those who had been serving in Louisiana. He urged residents to evacuate and ordered all lanes of one of the interstates leaving Houston to open to northbound traffic to assist with the evacuation (the scale of the evacuation was ultimately unnecessary as the storm changed course, and it proved to be somewhat of a disaster, with many drivers fleeing Galveston and Houston stranded in traffic for hours on end).
The government did learn from its mistakes for Hurricane Dolly in 2008, when Perry ordered buses to aid with evacuation efforts. But during Hurricane Ike later that year, an estimated 140,000 ignored mandatory evacuation orders and forced the government to carry out more active evacuations. The storm killed 74 people directly and indirectly, and it caused more than $50 billion in damage, much of it to Galveston, Texas.
Perry's response seemed to falter in the aftermath when he feuded with the federal government over the billions in aid it was supposed to send to help rebuild after the storm. His office blamed the long delays on the federal government, while officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development said the state had failed to enact proper procedures for allowing governments to apply for the funds. News organizations reported five years later that the pace of recovery had been alarmingly slow, often held up by bureaucracy.
In the lead up to Superstorm Sandy, which hit just a week before the 2012 election, Christie was vocal, and oftentimes gruff, in his warnings to residents to heed evacuation orders.
"Don't be stupid. Get out," he told residents on the New Jersey coastline, invoking his 2011 order that people should "get the hell off the beach" as Hurricane Irene approached.
New Jersey residents apparently liked the job he did. In a November poll, 77 percent of residents praised his handling of the storm (his approval rating had been just 56 percent pre-Sandy). The main complaints came from Republicans, who disapproved of Christie's embrace of Mr. Obama when the president came to view storm damage.
The storm caused 34 deaths in New Jersey and $36.8 billion in damage, Christie said. Six months after the storm he secured $1.83 billion in federal money to help the state rebuild. An estimated 365,000 homes and apartment units were destroyed.
During Sandy, Christie was "quite successful in working very closely with the president," Kapucu said.
He was also aggressive about recovery efforts, launching a "Stronger than the Storm" campaign to lure tourism back to the Jersey shore. It wasn't all smooth sailing, though: Christie faced public criticism for not distributing the aid fast enough, but like some of his fellow governors, he blamed federal red tape.