Laziness or Something Else?

As I noted yesterday, I got my chance to visit Old New Orleans just after it narrowly escaped Hurricane Ivan. Which is why, when I heard that President Bush told Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees” this morning, I was floored.

I quickly found an AP story reprinted on the Cincinnati Enquirer site that thoroughly disproves that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

New Orleans may get 20-foot flood waters

By Brett Martel
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – The worst-case scenario here – a direct strike by a full-strength Hurricane Ivan – could submerge much of this historic city treetop-deep in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants, and the inundation could last for weeks, experts say.

If the storm were strong enough, Ivan could drive water over the tops of the levees that protect the city from the Mississippi River and vast Lake Pontchartrain. And with the city sitting in a saucer-shaped depression that dips as much as 9 feet below sea level, there would be nowhere for all that water to drain.

I suppose someone who’s really dense would claim that driving water over the levee isn’t the same thing as breaching the levee, but then I suspect that person would never have heard of a levee breaking during a storm.

I was interested, however in what I found while looking for other sources of the AP story. I searched for the phrase “could submerge much of this historic city treetop-deep in a stew of sewage” in the second paragraph, and the first link on Google that showed up was from, presumably a site that’s White House-approved.

The composite image above contains three windows (full captures of which are linked). At the top is a portion of the Google results window. At the lower right is what you get when you click on the link. And at the lower left is Google’s cached version of the page.

Google’s link says it points to a report about Hurricane Ivan (which shows up in the excerpted text on the search results page). But the page it links to now has a date of August 29, 2005. The cached article has a date of September 15, 2004.

Several paragraphs of the 2004 article are missing from the 2005 version, but the remainder is virtually identical except for the deletion of a reference to Hurricane Ivan in the first paragraph and a couple of minor wording changes to disguise the removal of a named source. 2004: “If the eye came ashore east of the city, van Heerden said, New Orleans….” 2005: “Experts say that if the eye were to come ashore east of the city, New Orleans….”

It could be simple laziness. Perhaps someone in a hurry to get hurricane-related stories up (this is dated as a pre-flooding article) made a mistake and recycled a URL in the database (is that possible on FOXnews’ content management system?) But considering the source and the fact that the official line is now that nobody could possibly have predicted the levee break, it seems like a hell of a coincidence.