6:25 AM 8/31/2005: If you would like to comment on this story and offer your thoughts, please post in the comments feature.
The reason why we're seeing the "Worse Case" coming true is based on observations now on the news as compared to what was discussed in the scientific community prior to the storm. This disaster appears to be unfolding slowly over a period of days, not all in one day as the dire predictions were. This is why I said in an earlier post that it would not really matter whether the storm was a 3, 4 or 5. In the final analysis, it was the path of the storm which mattered. It did not hit N.O. directly, but it didn’t have to in order to produce the unimaginable disaster and suffering we are seeing.
I have been reading online news reports for most of the past two days when I can, during lunch, after school. I have also been reviewing many of the national news media reports. My aim has been to try and sift through the mountain of information and misinformation coming from the devastated areas. I am trying to get a sense of what is really going on, what the media is not reporting on, and what are the major short and long term impacts. I can tell you that there is a lot more going on that is a lot worse than you are seeing on the national news, and some of the reports are very, very disturbing.
This is a disaster of an apocalyptic nature, and will become the new benchmark for measuring all future hurricane landfalls. Ivan in Pensacola was very devastating, and still is today for many. While I do not minimize the suffering they have endured, this storm affected an area so much larger than the Florida panhandle that it is difficult to describe in accurate terms how large the area really is. Please note that I am not ignoring Mississippi and Alabama out of lack of concern, the destruction there is also horrific. From a meteorological perspective, I am focusing on New Orleans for now because of the studies and posts done on this website in the past year explaining and warning of what could happen.
This is a map from a post on the Eastern US Weather Forums.
A CROSS SECTION OF NEW ORLEANS TOPOPGRAPHY
From an article on wikipedia.org, recommended by a website reader.
- Remember that New Orleans is one of the top 5 largest ports in the world. A massive amount of goods and energy travel to and from this port, serving the eastern two-thirds of the nation.
- CNBC reports that 10% of the gas refinery capacity for the U.S. has been damaged and shut down for an indetermined amount of time. September wholesale gasoline prices have risen 40% since Monday.
- At least one oil rig has broken loose and crashed into a major bridge in Alabama.
- The I-10 twin span bridge connecting the East New Orleans area across to Slidell has been almost completely destroyed, the amount of sections lost on this bridge far, far exceeds that of the I-10 washout in Pensacola last year.
- CNN reports as of 9:45 PM that efforts to repair the levee breach at the 17th street canal have failed, and a report from the Army Corps of Engineers said that in all likelihood, the best option for salvaging the city is to allow the water level in Lake Ponchartrain and to equalize in the city. Once that happens, the Engineer said that other levees would be intentionally breached to allow the water a path to flow out. If the water level in throughout New Orleans can be lowered to approximately “2+ feet” then the pumps in different parishes would be accessible and able to be serviced and restarted. Only then could the remaining water be effectively pumped out. That would also be when recovery personnel could get access to homes and buildings and assess the damage from home to home.
- Now if you think about that summary… and the amount of time it will take, and how many thousands of homes there are, this process will take months. A similar report I read stated that once this process gets underway, New Orleans will effectively become a “non-functioning city” for at least several months while the government and recovery operations conduct their work.
- At present, in New Orleans, there is no drinking water, the daytime temperatures are in the 90’s, no electricity in the city, some or many of the pumps are not functioning, there is no food delivery of any kind, many cell phone towers are inoperable, some police radios do not work, both airports are closed, underwater, have no power or fuel for aircraft, there are virtually no medical services except for extreme emergencies, but even places like the Tulane University hospital itself had to be evacuated due to rising water. Two or more levees are breached, the water won't stop rising, there are tens of thousands of homes flooded with an untold number of people trapped in those homes. In that water is leaking gas, antifreeze, heavy chemicals (even from kitchen cleaning supplies!), sewage, decomposing animals, bodies, snakes, alligators, oil, debris, electrical lines...the list is endless. Compounding the problem is that so many roads are flooded and bridges destroyed that supplies will have to be flown in by helicopter, however many helicopters are currently involved in search and rescue of people from their roofs. According to a local TV reporter commenting on CNN, one army helicopter was supposed to deliver sand bags to help fill a levee breach, and was apparently diverted away for rescue. The sand bags never arrived and the water continues to leak.
In what national disaster have you see people become walking refugees in their own city?
COMMENTARY ON “DOWNSTREAM IMPACTS” OF KATRINA
If you think about the magnitude of this tragedy and what happened in South Florida, I think you’ll agree this is on a scale that far exceeds that disaster. The first Bush government was criticized for a slow response, and it may have been one of the factors which cost him the election. As the public begins to the the scope of this disaster, they will begin asking the question, “What is our government doing to help.” I know that the FEMA Director Mike Brown, an accomplished and hard-working man, would step right in and give you a list of what is being done. But I contend that it is no where near enough, and it may require an unprecedented nation-wide response that at this time we may not know how to coordinate because the needs are so great.
Sam Champion, an ABC meteorologists best stated the recovery operations this evening on CNN by saying … “We need to be as creative as we can and bring in as many resources as we can marshal to this disaster.” This was after a caller to Larry King’s show had suggested bringing in cruise ships to get people out.
I couldn’t agree more. My feeling about the whole situation, in reading the reports and channel surfing between the news channels, is that this disaster is so large it may exceed the capacity of our normal governmental system to handle. While I am not critical in anyway of anyone on the ground helping, it feels to me that this is more than FEMA by itself can coordinate. If New Orleans alone (not counting the unspeakable damage in Miss., and Alabama) is closed, that means 1,000,000 or more people will be homeless for several weeks to a month or several months. Is FEMA prepared to set up shelter for a million people? Where will that be? How will people get there? How long will it take to set this up?
I have seen the reports that the entire city of New Orleans is going to be evacuated (again), including the Superdome. However, for that to happen, the government will have to go house by house, apartment by apartment, round up the people and somehow, in some way, get them out. With rising waters and people trapped or huddled inside an untold number of hotels and apartment downtown, how will anyone get to them? If a rescue team was able to reach people, then you have to ask….”Now where they do go, how they get there? This is not to say the officials on the ground are not working on the problem, I’m sure they are. My observation is simply that I think that Mother Nature has dealt us humans a problem that is larger than our current line of thinking about how to handle these problems can handle.
It is going to take months, not weeks to drain and assess the damage. The devastated areas of Mississippi and Alabama face an equally huge task of removing debris and starting over. This will be a tragedy to affect all of us for a very long time to come.