Nattering Nabobs of ... What?
It turns out the truth is much simpler. They were reading the Washington Post. Here's the City Paper's Erik Wemple and Jason Cherkis (via Romenesko):
In its Tuesday, Aug. 30, edition, the paper produced a shallow Day 1 account of the storm, reaching the conclusion that New Orleans had averted disaster: “But the city managed to avoid the worst of the worst. The Mississippi River did not breach New Orleans’s famed levees to any serious degree, at least in part because Katrina veered 15 miles eastward of its predicted track just before landfall,” read the lead story.By contrast, here's what the New York Times had that morning:
And to judge from the Post, there was no crisis brewing on the evacuation front, either. “Those who remained behind were mostly visitors and tourists trapped because the airport had closed,” according to the same story.
New Orleans, most of the levees held, but one was damaged. Floodwaters rose to rooftops in one neighborhood, and in many areas emergency workers pulled residents from roofs. The hurricane's howling winds stripped 15-foot sections off the roof of the Superdome, where as many as 10,000 evacuees took shelter....
"I can't say that we've escaped the worst," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said. "I think there is still damage that can be inflicted on the city. We don't even know what the worst is."