Sun, Aug
28
2005

Pray For New Orleans

Sun, Aug 28, 2005

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Have you been watching Hurricane Katrina lately?

This storm, which appeared suddenly in the Bahamas (uncommonly close to the United States), has crossed Florida and has strengthened significantly in the Gulf. How significantly? Well, it’s now a category five.

The nightmare scenario has to be a direct hit on New Orleans, which looks disturbingly possible at the moment. The hurricane may miss, or it may hit at low tide, or it may weaken. I hope all of these things happen. But even if Katrina weakens, it’s still packing a lot of punch to do serious harm to the venerable city below sea level.

I have friends in New Orleans and I’ve long wanted to see this gem on the Gulf Coast. I hope I will get an opportunity to. I also hope that my friends are high-tailing it out of there and are taking up (I hope) temporary residence someplace safe. My prayers go to everybody in harm’s way.

It looks as though the remnants of Katrina may sideswipe southern Ontario this Thursday. I admit that I enjoy experiencing such weather, but I loathe the damage these storms do in getting here.


Updates

(10:26) Live on CNN, the mayor of New Orleans has issued a mandatory evacuation of the city. The storm will “likely topple the levy system”. Prudent. Good move.

Question: when was the last time the United States evacuated an entire city?


(11:00) With Katrina now boasting sustained winds of 175 mph (280 kph), the best description of this storm comes from the CNN weatherman: “we’re looking at a humungus F3 tornado.”

The oil rigs of the Gulf of Mexico are mostly shut down, now, which will contribute to the increase in the price of oil over the next month or so. Expect high gas prices to continue for some time to come.

CNN is freaked, as usual. As a storm-porn addict, I am glued to the television set. Mea culpa. But I am reminded of an essay by E.B. White wherein he wondered if the news services were pro or anti-storm…


(11:24) Angry in the Great White North has posted a primer of the geography of New Orleans. He manages to convey how serious this situation is. With my fascination for storms, I’ve known for some time that all it would take is a direct hit from a category three storm to wipe New Orleans off the map. Katrina is much stronger than that.

New Orleans has long been a city living on borrowed time. Confronted by the threat of rising sea levels, various U.S. Departments put forward sea level plans, describing the measures they would take to protect American properties. When it came to what to do for New Orleans, the response could basically be summed up as shrugging and saying “stupid place to put a city, guys!”

New Orleans is a big city, on soft footings, with a lot of water around. It can’t be saved from rising sea levels (at least not without billions being spent). If and when the sea levels do rise, the most effective solution may be to abandon the city. Anyway, this statement covers what could be done with a slow but steady sea level rise. Confronted by an approaching hurricane, the government officials are doing the right thing by telling everybody to get the hell out of its way.

When Ivan looked like it might strike last year, the response from some New Orleans resident was to hole-up in the taller buildings and party. Most of these individuals had no means to evacuate. This is a reason why I have such high regard for New Orleans. When faced with an oncoming hurricane and with no means of escape, you might as well party.


(11:54) Dave at Blogography is very concerned, and posts some personal reminiscenses of the Big Easy.


(16:41) Gridlock on some of the evacuation routes. Tropical storm-force winds expected within the next three hours. Yikes.

All flights cancelled. All rental cars rented.

The Superdome is being used as a “refuge of last resort”. When the power goes out (and it will), you will have a sea of humanity in there, in the heat and humidity of New Orleans. CNN reports that a number of guns as well as drugs and alcohol were confiscated. File that under the category of “trouble brewing”…


(19:42) The hurricane parties have started in the last few bars and restaurants still open in the French Quarter. That might sound insane, but these are locals and tourists who are basically stranded. And if you’re stranded in New Orleans, why not go out and enjoy what will be the last few cold drinks and the last few hot meals you’ll be seeing for the next few days.

What I can’t understand are the people on television standing out on the storm breakers, as the waves start to pick up. What are these guys thinking?!


(22:45) Still haven’t heard from my friends. I’m hoping this means that they are on the road getting the heck out of there.

It may not seem a lot, but there’s not a lot we can do right now but wait. In the meantime, somebody has already set up a forum where you can express your support to the good people of New Orleans here. This and sites like it may be worth watching in the coming days, as people sort through the aftermath of the disaster and assess what aid is needed.

The cone of error is narrowing, and New Orleans is still in Katrina’s path. The roads out of the city are still clogged with cars. Pray for New Orleans.


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