Sunday, August 28, 2005

Will New Orleans Die Tonight? Hurricane Katrina Takes Aim

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Note: Best bets for on-line updates, The Irish Trojan's Blog and the Times-Picayune Online. Also, Michelle Malkin has links to a number of other valuable sites.

As Hurricane Katrina, now a category 5 storm (sustained winds of 160+mph), aims straight at the heart of New Orleans, a series of near-apocalyptic scenarios are being seriously discussed.

The blogosphere is centering on two matters:

1. The levees protecting New Orleans along Lake Pontchartrain are 18 feet high. The hurricane, however, is predicted to produce a storm surge of as high as 20 feet. If such a surge takes place, it would be very likely that the levee would give way, plunging the Big Easy (which sits 15 feet below sea level) under 30 feet of water. Associated Press and others are predicting that, if such a disaster should occur, as many as 10,000 or more people could perish in the flood and the city, as we have known it, could well disappear forever. Fetid, polluted water could potentially take as long as 10 months to drain, leaving a layer of toxic waste across the entire historic center of New Orleans.

2. The second issue concerns the New Orleans Super Dome, which has become the shelter of choice for, perhaps, 30,000 of the area's homeless and those who had no way to flee the city. Concern is being expressed as to whether the facility will be able to withstand the sustained winds and rain of Katrina. If the roof does not hold, where will the 30,000+ people go? Also, if the city does indeed flood, the two lower floors of the Dome will be under water. Electricity will be essentially cut off and so will tens of thousands of people, stranded on what will be an artificial island will only three day's food supply and no apparent way to be evacuated.

Katrina has been described as perhaps one of the three most powerful hurricanes in American history. A recent satellite photo shows it virtually filling the Gulf of Mexico from Yucatan to Florida to Louisiana.

From those blogging from the New Orleans area I am getting a sense of genuine fear and doom. One has placed the likelihood of a worst case scenario as high as 70%.

I, for one, will be praying mightily for the people of New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf coast. The many bayous and general low-lying areas are particularly susceptible to the dangers of this kind of storm. It is almost certain than many historic communities will be completely swept away by tomorrow afternoon. Any people foolish enough (or not given sufficient warning) will also be swept away.

Even if the worst does not happen, and the levees hold, the damage will be horrific. The old infrastructure of the New Orleans metropolitan area, especially the sewer system, will not be able to weather the storm. Avoiding a flood does not necessarily assure that the city will remain inhabitable after the storm passes.

I will be up tonight, reading the on-site blogs and watching what information can be gleaned from television sources. I do not expect, however, that we will really know the facts until the sun comes up tomorrow morning.....or whenever the storm passes far enough along to allow it to "shed some light" on the situation.

May God have mercy on New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and all who dwell therein during the next 24 hours.