At 9:53 a.m., an e-mail to Brown contained this bulletin from WWL TV, "A LEVEE BREACHED OCCURRED ALONG THE INDUSTRIAL CANAL AT TENNESSE STREET. 3 TO 8 FEET OF WATER EXPECTED DUE TO THE BREACH ... LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO ARABI AND 9TH WARD OF NEW ORLEANS."
The news got worse at 11:51 a.m. with information in an e-mail attributed to FEMA's own public affairs employee, Marty Bahamonde, that said, "New Orleans FD is reporting 20 foot wide breech on the lake ponchatrain side levy [sic]."
At 12:09 p.m., Brown downplayed the situation, however, and replied, "I'm being told here water over not a breach."
On Tuesday evening, Brown was still beset with basic communications problems. "Did you get through to [Mississippi Gov.] Haley [Barbour]" one message asked. Brown replied, "Not yet. I can't get out on my cell."
Brown received an e-mail, apparently from a friend who was having trouble locating his elderly mother, saying her last known location was a Ramada Inn in Gulfport, Miss. Brown forwarded the request to FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William Carwile, with the heading, "Subject: Mom's Hotel info."
"Bill, do you have any intel on the Ramada Inn he's referring to?" Brown asked.
Carwile responded that he lost his ability to survey the damage by air because the aircraft went to a "higher priority medical mission in Louisiana."
Brown used the exchange to look for a targeted way to counter some of the criticism FEMA was beginning to receive for its slow response. Brown wrote back, "Expect a call from HQ regarding Bay St. Louis. CNN asking where's FEMA. Would like to air drop or do something there."
Carwile replied, "I am afraid we have built expectations over the years that might not be achievable for this catastrophic event." Meanwhile, Brown's friend wrote back to inform him that he, "now has contact with mom so no worries."
By Friday Brown was receiving a stream of hate e-mail. One from New York had the subject line "A little less 'I' and a little more help." It read, "Stop being such a shameless self-promoter and get those poor people the help they need. If they were white people in central business district like NY during 9/11, would it be taking this long. All we hear is you talking about yourself and what you've done. It's not enough. Your are going down."
Brown forwarded the e-mail to his deputy Patrick Rhode adding, "This is my world now. ..."
Rhode replied, "I've got 100 telling me to get off my ass and do something."
Another from a nuclear engineer at Ohio State University warned, "In the coming days, expect to receive great criticism for your remarks tonight: You go on television blaming victims, while it is becoming clear that in our 'homeland security' posture in 2005, Americans can literally be left out to die for lack of an automobile."
"What have you guys been doing all this time since the inception of homeland security? Twiddling your thumbs? Collecting a paycheck and congratulating yourselves on bamboozling the American people into paying for nothing? If someone attacks us without warning, we are screwed. Thanks for nothing," another e-mail said.
One e-mail sent to Brown on Monday, Sept. 5, simply had the subject line: "Subject: Resign!"