Skip to main content

Gen. Honoré: Sandy recovery is stumbling

By Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, Special to CNN
November 15, 2012 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
David McCue stands near the roof of his beach house, which was completely demolished by Superstorm Sandy, in Ortley Beach, New Jersey, on Sunday, November 25. <strong><a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/30/us/gallery/sandy-damage/index.html' target='_blank'>See photos of the immediate aftermath of Sandy.</a></strong> David McCue stands near the roof of his beach house, which was completely demolished by Superstorm Sandy, in Ortley Beach, New Jersey, on Sunday, November 25. See photos of the immediate aftermath of Sandy.
HIDE CAPTION
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
Long, slow recovery from Superstorm Sandy
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré asks why New York has ignored all the lessons learned from Katrina
  • Honoré: Sandy recovery has no command center, nobody in charge and no troop presence
  • After Katrina, National Guard was out in force and hospital ship was available, he says
  • FEMA workers complain they have difficulty reaching Sandy storm victims, he says

Editor's note: Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré led Task Force Katrina in the aftermath of the hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. Gen. Honoré is a senior scientist with The Gallup Organization and the author of "Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters," and the new "Leadership in the New Normal."

(CNN) -- Superstorm Sandy inflicted havoc and heartache throughout the Northeast, hitting the Big Apple and its surrounding coastal towns hard. We have seen this kind of destruction before: I had an up-close-and personal view when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

On August 31, 2005, I was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for damaged areas across the Gulf Coast. My arrival in New Orleans came after what was widely believed to be a poor performance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its director Michael D. Brown. We learned a lot about what really works in our Katrina recovery efforts -- but New York and New Jersey seem to be ignoring those lessons.

First, I would like to praise the search and rescue operations in New York and New Jersey. But they could be doing much better now that they've entered the difficult part, the recovery operation.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré
Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré

Where is the command center? Who is in charge? Where is the National Guard?

During the aftermath of Katrina, National Guard troops were positioned on every block to establish a sense of safety and source of help for the people in need. They did not leave communities till people were safe and sound. This has not happened in New York or New Jersey.

Opinion: Rebuilding after Sandy is too big a risk

The National Guard has served America as both a wartime force and the first military responders in times of domestic crisis. Hundreds of times each year, the nation's governors call upon their Guard troops to respond to fires, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Why did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo only call in half the New York Guard, especially when relief is still not reaching the severely affected communities?

Sandy victims still waiting in the dark
Outrage at LIPA for Sandy response
The Red Cross on delayed Sandy response
Hospital helps victims but pays a cost

The numbers speak for themselves.

During the Hurricane Katrina disaster, about 20,000 federal troops were mobilized; 20 ships, including a hospital ship, about 50,000 National Guard members and 200 helicopters assisted in the relief efforts. So far, in Sandy relief efforts, about 11,000 National Guard troops were deployed, and only two ships have assisted -- this as people still suffer.

Map: See images of destruction, recovery across the East Coast

Instead of Doctors Without Borders providing health care to about 300 people in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Hoboken, New Jersey, why wasn't the hospital ship USNS Comfort deployed like it was in Katrina, when it cared for needy people all along the Gulf Coast?

Opinion: What's next after the superstorm?

People need food and medical attention. People are still without power, people are still homeless and hungry. Following a logistics model to help those hardest hit is a necessity.

New York and New Jersey need to establish what is called an "enabler" model for recovery, which we developed during Katrina.

In this approach, you go in with Guard troops and you distribute food, water and medicine, but you also pick up trash, clean out sewer pipes, clean up hospitals, hook up generators, all in order to enable people to live in their communities. Troops should stay in communities until residents get everything they need to live in their homes, or till they can be evacuated.

New York City went in with food and rescue teams -- but in many cases, community volunteers were left to take up the slack.

News: FEMA's answers for NY storm victims -- put them back in their homes

Some FEMA officials complain that they must drive hours every day to get to the storm victims because New York has not provided them with any living accommodations. What's needed urgently are more disaster recovery offices in every community, where FEMA representatives can stay. People can easily apply for assistance, food stamps, grants for rebuilding or get food and water. This is especially urgent in New York, as poorer communities are at their most vulnerable now, with cold weather coming on and infrastructure still damaged.

Hurricane Sandy was one of the most vicious storm systems to hit the New York City area in nearly two centuries. The city seems to be treating the storm more like an inconvenience than a disaster. Katrina offered great lessons for successful recovery operations -- why didn't New York City pay attention?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT