Wednesday, August 31, 2005

5 comments:
WORSE CASE SCENARIO

Katrina 14


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. 

The news media seemed to gloat the first night, saying that New Orleans had “dodged a bullet” when now we are realizing that instead it was hit by a Mac truck. While we can say that it “could have been worse” the only “worse” I can imagine is that if New Orleans had the flooding AND the catastrophic damage of Gulfport and Biloxi. Category 5 or not, this hurricane will have produced a scale of human suffering and damage so widespread that will eclipse anything we have seen in our lifetime in this country. While this is actually microscopic in comparison to the Tsunami, as the mayor of Biloxi put it, “This is our tsunami.”

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.

THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA
This is a map from a post on the Eastern US Weather Forums.


New Orleans 6
To back up the statement that this has become the worse case scenario, are the following facts I have gleaned from a variety of sources that I have done my best to verify their accuracy. This may be different from what you have heard or seen on the national news because there is just so much going on to report. I will also be including some graphics I have collected around the internet to aid in understanding the geography.

A CROSS SECTION OF NEW ORLEANS TOPOPGRAPHY
From an article on wikipedia.org, recommended by a website reader.


New Orleans 7


- 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.

Monday, August 29, 2005

14 comments:
BULLSEYE

Katrina 13
Although Katrina did not make the direct hit on New Orleans proper as many feared, this will be recorded as the most costly natural disaster and have the most long term effects of any storm in modern times. The extent of human suffering and logistical coordination may eclipse anything we have seen in our lifetime.

CATASTROPHIC

Katrina 12
This is a small collection of pictures from Katrina damage on Monday, August 29. As more news reports come in and a full day of daylight permits fly-overs, it will become more clear that the scope of damage from New Orleans to Biloxi to Gulfport and other areas is going to far exceed initial estimates we've heard on the news.

OVERWHELMED

Katrina 11
This picture of the Red Cross truck says it all. You know, I'm overwhelmed, and I'm not even in the storm. There is so much damage, so many situations, destruction and continued danger to so many people that I think I've gone numb from media saturation. I have been reading many news reports, message boards, blogs and other sites today to sift through the clutter and try to present a straight-forward summary of what is going on. I will post that Tuesday morning.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

10 comments:
A BEAUTIFUL CITY.
A NATIONAL TRAGEDY ?



9:30 PM Sunday 8/28/2005: This link shows changes in the cloud top temperatures within the central dense overcast and surrounding the eyewall. The colder the temperatures are (-60 C or lower) indicate the storm is maintaining strength. If the tops begin to cool to less than -80 C, this is a clear signal the storm is about to undergo some strengthening, and will be revealed by a white colorization on this particular satellite loop. 

As of this writing, the winds were 160 mph, with gusts to 190 mph. A strengthening cycle, similar to what happened with Camille, could push winds back toward 175 mph or higher. This will be evidenced by a tightening in the diameter of the eye, and if you are staying up tonight you'll be able to observe this.

7:00 PM Sunday: updates at end of this post. Please also view the "Latest satellite loop" link below the next two pictures.

1:00 PM Sunday: By now you know Katrina is a Category 5 monster, and there is no need to belabor the imminent horror that awaits this beautiful city and it's residents. In the time I was out this morning, the storm went from 160 mph to 175 mph. At this point, it does not matter how strong the winds will be, above 150 mph the damage will be unprecedented and catastrophic, what city planners and engineers have been fearing for years. Now that the storm has easily breached the Cat 5 barrier, rivaling Camille's 190 mph winds is not impossible, once it completes it's current and final eyewall replacement cycle. In remembering Camille, let's also not ignore all the other hundred of communities in the storm's path, those in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and elsewhere who face equally an horrible next 24-48 hours.


On this Sunday and every day for the next long while, I recommend you pray for all those in the path of this storm, and hope that by some miracle of grace, the city is spared what now seems to be a near certain doom. For the latest details on the ground, visit the Times-Picayune newspaper website. Early this afternoon I will conduct a roundup of the impacts and final meteorological analysis, as well as update the links for more ready access to the situation. If you have not already considered making a donation to an organization like the Red Cross, or by giving blood, your efforts will help save a life even while the storm is raging. Whatever was front page yesterday will seem trivial when the true nature of this society-altering event is brought to bear.


The following is text from a statement issued by the New Orleans National Weather Service. It is difficult to believe something of this magnitude is upon us, or that someone wrote this and posted it on a government website, so I offer the link in case you don't believe me. For those who think I am hype-mongering or doomsday forecasting, all I can say is that I am glad you are not in the path of this storm. If this thing misses, it will be the most collossal sigh of relief in a century. If it does not, we face a tragedy of unparalleled porportions in the history of the country.

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...
.HURRICANE KATRINA...A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969. MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. 
AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE. HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. 
ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK. POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. 
WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS. THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING...BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED. AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR HURRICANE FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE...ARE CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS. ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTURE OUTSIDE!

Again: if don't believe me, or think I wrote this, think again, it's from the National Weather Service. http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/la/allwarnings.html

Because a mandatory evacuation has been issued, the city initiates a procedure called "Contraflow" as shown here by a map from the Times-Picayune. It's the only way to get 1.3 million people out of a city with few escape routes.



How bad will the flooding be? Unprecedented in modern times, eclipsing the Johnstown Flood. The casualty count may eclipse Galveston, and that is a conservative estimate.

Computer models have already clustered on the nightmare scenario. Let's hope a last minute change occurs, causing the storm to weaken or miss the city. This computer model was posted by another weather blogger, Steve Gregory, on his wunderground.com site. As this is the first week of school for students in many areas, I recommend you read his updates for a good overview of the meteorology behind the storm. I may not have the time I would like in the next 24 hours to post on this storm, but Steve does.



A SUMMARY OF STORM IMPACTS AND EFFECTS

I will provide sources and background for these estimates of the "downstream effects" of Katrina over the next few weeks and months,and will be adding to this list as I convert my notes from earlier today to this site. Please note that I am extremely concerned for the safety of all in the path of this storm, and in no way are these comments meant to project the image that I am "whining" about what the storm will do to me personally.

1. GAS PRICES: I have seen several reputable sources online and in the media state that this storm has the potential to temporarily add 20 to 30 cents per gallon nationwide. That means a national average of $3.00 in most communities. Home heating oil and natural gas will see further spikes of 40% to 50% between now and the start of winter delivery times this fall.

2. HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE: I would be surprised if there is not a filter down effect of increase premiums nationwide to absorb what could be a $100 billion catastrophe.

3. COASTAL CITY RE-EVALUATION: In light of what is happening with the Superdome, many cities will be taking a closer look at their emergency evacuation procedures, especially for those less mobile and less able to quickly evacuate, such as the elderly, hospitals, special needs institutions, women's shelters, orphanages and nursing homes.
I have a long list of "analyses" regarding this storm, but with school starting tomorrow, just don't have time to write it all now. 

Please use the comments feature if you have a particular thought or angle on this storm that you can add to this discussion.