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  • Powerful Katrina

       August 27, 2005

    Katrina is coming to scour the Gulf Coast, and I'm pretty unhappy about that since I live below sea level here in New Orleans. I'm not sorry that Florida and Alabama are getting a break, but New Orleans is uniquely ill-suited to deal with hurricanes. As it turns out, Paul from Wizbang is in N.O. also (who knew!?) and he has reposted an excellent article, "Pray II" explaining why it's so bad here.

    For those who don't know, New Orleans is a bowl and, for all practical purposes, an island. We have Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi river to the south. The east and west are water too.

    Most of the city is below sea level. Over the last century we have surrounded the city by 10-12 foot earthen levees and installed some of the most massive pumps in the world. We can, unlike most cities, laugh at 24 inches of rain in 24 hours. -- As long as it comes at the rate of an inch per hour. We simply pump the water out and go on with our lives.

    We've been talking for years about the "big one" - a Camille or a Betsy that comes in at a particular angle and can kill thousands. As Paul quotes in his article,
    emergency officials' worst-case scenario: hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water pouring over the levees into an area averaging 5 feet below sea level with no natural means of drainage.

    That would turn the city and the east bank of Jefferson Parish into a lake as much as 30 feet deep, fouled with chemicals and waste from ruined septic systems, businesses and homes. Such a flood could trap hundreds of thousands of people in buildings and in vehicles. At the same time, high winds and tornadoes would tear at everything left standing. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die, said John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross.

    My family knew people who, during Hurricane Betsy, climbed to their attics to escape rising water and drowned there. If the path doesn't change by tomorrow morning, we're heading to Dallas.

    Click here for more on Hurricane Katrina

    Posted by Laura Curtis at August 27, 2005 01:28 PM

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    #  August 27th, 2005 7:02 PM      kilabe
    Ya'll can drive up 55 to Jackson and stay with us if you need to.  
    #  August 27th, 2005 7:40 PM      Laura
    I wish I'd known that before making arrangements to go to Dallas. The offer is much appreciated though.  
    #  August 27th, 2005 8:42 PM      Laura
    Jeez, they just announced that on the predicted trajectory and strength we're looking at a 14-18 foot rise in the level of Lake Pontchartrain. And my husband (he's the calm one!) just came back in after talking to the neighbor and said, "You know, if the storm hits like they're talking about, we're going to lose the house and everything in it."

    On the bright side, if that happens we don't have to finish remodeling; we can basically rebuild from scratch the way we want. :-/  
    #  August 27th, 2005 9:53 PM      KVBigSis
    Laura, as someone who has never been anywhere near a hurricane, it makes me very nervous to see continuing posts from you. Get out of there, and good luck!  
    #  August 27th, 2005 10:00 PM      Laura
    We're bugging out first thing in the morning. Right now I have nothing to do except finish the laundry and pack. Everything is boarded up, and I need to keep the computer out so I can keep an eye on the weather - I hate to just rely on the news, I have several sites I like to monitor so I see most of the same source data they do.

    As much of a pain in the neck all this is, I'll still take it any day over tornados - you saw those pics Kris posted the other day?! Yergh. Terrifying to think that can just descend on you with no warning. I couldn't deal with that.  
    #  August 27th, 2005 10:24 PM      Laura
    They just gave bouy readings from out in the middle of the Gulf - 32 foot swells. And all that water is being pushed toward the coast; he says that when that translates into a wave that hits the coast it will be very bad. Mayor Nagin says "we're looking at something like we have never seen in our history... get out of the city."

    #  August 27th, 2005 10:44 PM      kris

    I still hope it all misses you, but get out of there and make sure you are all safe.  
    #  August 28th, 2005 8:00 AM      kris
    What makes me a little nervous is I'm reading things about how they're considering using the Superdome as a shelter and they're thinking about ordering a mandatory evacuation. Shouldn't they stop thinking and start doing some of this stuff? Yikes.

    Being from the Midwest, it is strange how long hurricanes last and how long it seems like it takes to get there.  
    #  August 28th, 2005 4:52 PM      james
    my first impression is that the superdome sounds like a terrible place to use as a shelter. yes, it holds a lot of people, but isn't it just a huge target?  
    #  August 28th, 2005 6:39 PM      kris
    Althouse had a good point about how we'll never think of the band Katrina & The Waves the same way again.  
    #  August 28th, 2005 9:04 PM      kilabe
    If you think about Katrina and the waves, then you have bigger problems than confusing them with a hurricane.

    #  August 29th, 2005 8:36 AM      BrianH
    I heard the SuperDome just had some parts of it's roof come off. 10K -15K people inside. I hope they worst they get is wet.

    Has anyone heard from Laura? I know she posted that she was heading to Texas, just hoping she made it OK.
    #  August 29th, 2005 3:22 PM      Laura
    We're in Texas. We got in very late last night.  
    #  August 29th, 2005 4:05 PM      Laura
    >it holds a lot of people, but isn't it
    >just a huge target?

    With a storm that size, the whole city is the target. The main thing to consider is the lack of glass windows, the ability to climb up to escape flood waters, and the steel beam construction and amount of "anchor" the building has. There's no way it's going to blow away.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 9:08 AM      BrianH

    Glad to see you made it out safely. Anything left behind can be replaced, you can't. 8*)

    "The main thing to consider is the lack of glass windows, the ability to climb up to escape flood waters, and the steel beam construction and amount of "anchor" the building has."

    The SuperDome also has facilities to support large numbers of people. When you have 10,000 people in one spot, you need a lot of rest rooms.

    #  August 30th, 2005 1:19 PM      Laura
    Those rest rooms are basically useless - reports are that they are filthy (well, they're like that after a football game, after all, much less several days) and you can't flush. I'm sure that someone is bringing in clean drinking water, because there's no potable water in the city at this point.  
    #  August 30th, 2005 1:21 PM      kris
    I just read something about how two people have died in the Superdome and one guy allegedly jumped to his death from the upper decks.

    It sounds horrible: overflowing toilets and garbage and no fresh air.

    They need to just get people out of there and figure out a way to get them somewhere else or they are going to have some violence on their hands. Even without weapons, 10,000 people can do a lot.  



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