Disasters in the US follow a pretty predictable pattern: there's a warning, an evacuation, pictures of devastation... and four people died. I'm sorry, that's not a disaster. I don't doubt that there's plenty of human misery going on, and it's certainly too bad for those four people, but on an absolute scale, that's a triumph up and down the line, from building codes to early warning systems to emergency responders. A hundred years ago, it would have been called a miracle, and that we call it a disaster now just shows how far we've come and how high the bar has been raised.
So, to be honest, when I heard that Katrina was going to hit New Orleans, that's what I expected. Given that it was an extra-large hurricane and a highly vulnerable city, the death toll might get up to 20 or 30. In hindsight, that was probably a bit optimistic, but we probably could have held it to two or three hundred. We have the capacity and the ability. We could have had trucks full of supplies standing by to roll into the affected areas. We could have had buses standing by to bring emergency workers in and refugees out. We could have.
By way of example, Japan got pasted with a huge typhoon just a couple days after Katrina hit NO. Besides the high winds, in some areas it dumped 51 inches of rain in 24 hours. And the one and only time I saw any mention of it — it didn't get much play in US media — ...four people had died.