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Pray II

[Note: This is a repost from 11 months ago. As it stands things look far worse this time. Some of the links are old, but I don't have time to deal with it now. This storm is stronger, it will probably hit closer and we had far less warning. In simple terms, it doesn't look good.]

There was a study done for the hurricane preparedness folks in the New Orleans area this summer. I don't remember who did the study or any of the specifics but I do remember that it was so grim it dominated talk radio for 3 days locally.

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.

Within these earthen walls live about a million people. In the city itself especially, many of the residents are poor and lack adequate transportation to evacuate. We have always known there was a fatal flaw in our hurricane defense. If the fabled "Big One" ever hit New Orleans we were in big trouble.

The scenario goes like this:

The tidal surge will top the levees and the bowl will fill from river to lake. The studies say that if we took a direct hit from a category 4 or 5 storm, a city of one million people could be under as much as 30 feet of water. According to the experts there could be over 50,000 dead. What's more, since we would have to pump the water out the bowl, they say the city could be underwater for as long as 10 months. You'll understand if I don't dig up that link right now.

The numbers were so wildly astronomical when the survey was released just a few short weeks ago that I guffawed when I first heard them. That would never happen here. Things like that only happen in third world countries. Over the next few days, listening to a progressive number of experts explain the how's and why's, I was less and less skeptical of the report. As someone who prides himself on having a sensitive B.S. detector, I was faced with the reality that I had no way of dismissing these predictions out of hand. It could happen here.

But it won't. We all knew that.

After a few days of people being somewhat freaked out, we put the survey in the back of our minds and went on with our lives. We grew up living in a hurricane zone, and besides... what are the odds... it would take a direct hit from one of the biggest storms to ever hit the United States mainland for that to happen. Sure it could happen here... but it won't.

That was easier to believe 72 hours ago. As it stands, a category 5 storm is inching ever closer with every passing advisory to the exact angle the experts say would bring the devastation. (For those of you who are not familiar with the city, it is directly under where the 30N and 90W lines cross.) What was once a bizarre hypothetical is now an all too real threat.

With a storm producing hurricane force winds in a swath over 200 miles wide, it seems inconceivable now that we will not get 110+MPH winds over the city. A wobble on the storm's path at this point could bring the apocalypse.

Do I think it will happen? No. How do I know? Because I'm praying.

To be clear it would take a direct hit at the right angle. But that talk was more comforting last week.

I know, being a man of science, that empirically, even with Ivan at our doorstep the experts are always wrong. The experts knew the sun rotated around the earth and the experts knew the earth was flat. They get paid to predict bad news and by golly then managed. But I'm praying.

Today about a quarter of a million people will be heading north, hoping to ride out the storm in a hotel room and return in a few days glad the storm spared us. Knowing human nature, my family and I will pack a few possessions and papers along with our family photos and head north around 3AM on Wednesday, when the traffic will be the lightest.

Right before I sat down to write this, I was on the phone with my brother in law. We both said we had accepted as a fact that our homes may not be when we return. That's not just macho talk of the brave. That is acceptance of a grim reality.

Saturday afternoon, I'll sit at this same desk and make a post telling everyone that we were spared the experts' worst predictions. But in the mean time- would you do me a favor? Pray.


I was forced by both curiosity and habit to provide a link the study. [or a media report on it]

My memory was being kind to me. I had originally written 20 feet of water 40,000 dead. I had to edit the post. Now you know why I didn't want to find this link.

I figured I'd put a cut here in the extended entry. This link is to the local paper. If the worst happens and they are hosted locally, there is a good chance the link will be dead.

... a [1998] Category 2 storm that only grazed New Orleans, had pushed waves to within a foot of the top of the levees. A stronger storm on a slightly different course -- such as the path Georges was on just 16 hours before landfall -- could have realized 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.

Pray


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Comments (27)

Paul,We're thinkin... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Paul,

We're thinking about you guys. My wife is a native and her mother currently lives in Metarie so we have a bit of a vested interest.

Our thoughts and prayers ar... (Below threshold)
Len:

Our thoughts and prayers are with you guys. For right now, though, the best advice we can give is "get outta the way!"

I've been watching it since... (Below threshold)
Lew Clark:

I've been watching it since it was east of the southern tip of Florida. The computer model has always had it turning north. It defies them and continues west. Hurricanes, especially a big one like this, are like that 800 lb. gorilla, they go where they want to. So they have to keep adjusting it's target west. Florida panhandle, central gulf coast, now New Orleans. If it keeps defying them it may well strike the Texas Coast not New Orleans. Not good news for Texas, but, the Texas coast can handle it better than New Orleans. As long as there is not a direct hit on Galveston.

That said, my prayers are still with you.

I hope and pray that you wi... (Below threshold)

I hope and pray that you will be all right. My sister lives in Florida, and has miraclously emerged unscathed from all the hurricanes over the past two years.

Paul, I didn't realize you ... (Below threshold)

Paul, I didn't realize you were down here. I live in Metairie, just down the street from East Jefferson Hospital. (An area expected to be under 8 feet of water if we were to get smacked by a Cat-3.) I work at another hospital in the area, so I can't evacuate until I get the say-so from my boss. Being on the recovery team, I've got to return to the city as soon as the storm passes, even if the evac order isn't lifted yet. My ID badge is supposed to get me past any roadblacks. E-mail me if you need anything checked on post-storm.

Gah! Roadblocks! Bei... (Below threshold)

Gah! Roadblocks! Being up this late after working graveyard shift is bad, mmmkay?

Paul, I'm with Cybrludite, ... (Below threshold)

Paul, I'm with Cybrludite, I also didn't realize you were down here. It's a small world, I'm also in Metairie. Excellent post, I couldn't possibly do better so I'm going to link to yours from Dummocrats. If you haven't been using Weather Underground, check it out - they have one map with 5 models on it, very helpful. Good luck, y'all.

Also helpful - the <a href=... (Below threshold)

Also helpful - the contraflow plan is online.

>I live in Metairie, just d... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I live in Metairie, just down the street from East Jefferson Hospital

heh- Then I passed your house a few nights ago at about 3AM.... Long story. Not pretty.

But an IV and some drugs later and I could walk again.

Heh. I'd have been at work ... (Below threshold)

Heh. I'd have been at work at the time. Glad to hear you're feeling better. After this is over, we should set up a NOLA Wizbang meeting. How does O'Flarety's sound? (Assuming it's still standing afterwards... :-( ) Well, time for me to sleep so I can haul ass tonight.

Laura, my offer to check on things if I'm in before the evacuation order is lifted goes for you as well.

Cybr, if you want to drop b... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Cybr, if you want to drop by the Jefferson Healthcare nursing home on Jefferson Highway and build a second (or third) floor on to it, it would make my wife feel a lot better.

Otherwise, our friends and relatives down there have pulled up stakes and are currently stuck in traffic.

Good luck to all of you.

O'Flaherty's sounds good, n... (Below threshold)

O'Flaherty's sounds good, name the date! Hey, if you're at MMC, let me know if you have access to the Star Navigator manual from when they implemented that a few years ago. I wrote the first two drafts of that and I'm awfully curious to see how much of it stayed after I left the project to start my own company.

Paul, despite all of our di... (Below threshold)
andy:

Paul, despite all of our differences, best of luck to you and yours, as well as everyone on the Gulf Coast facing this storm. Stay safe.

Go west young storm. I fea... (Below threshold)
Toby928:

Go west young storm. I fear a buttonhock turn to the northeast right at the end which would bring it ... straight at me! I'll be happy if it just misses Pensacola this time, three hurricanes in 18 months is just too much.

Tob

Prayers will be going up fo... (Below threshold)

Prayers will be going up for you in central Florida.

Dang, man, comin' right atc... (Below threshold)
Justthisguy:

Dang, man, comin' right atcha! (According to NOAA at 2300 EDT) Gittoutathere!

The Army Corps Of Engineers... (Below threshold)
Brandon in Baton Rouge:

The Army Corps Of Engineers has known of New Orleans' vulnerability to a direct hit since before the Georges near-hit in 1998.

(I was in college with the kids of a Corps Of Engineers bigwig at the time of Georges and he was telling those of us with family and friends in New Orleans to move stuff to the highest point in the house then evacuate.)

Luckily for the Big Easy, though, George and several other major hurricanes since 1998 have all veered away from New Orleans or suffered a major drop in storm power right at landfall.

I think the city's luck may be over, though, so do everything you can to get your possessions to high ground then head out on the interstate, preferably I-59 north into Mississippi, since going west to Baton Rouge still leaves you in the storm's path and, besides that, there are no rooms thanks to the upcoming LSU-North Texas game.

Going east to Biloxi, Mobile, or Pensacola is probably worse since the storm, if it turns, is likely to make a turn to the east and hit all these cities.


Good luck and God bless.

Dunno if this is relavant, ... (Below threshold)
Darby:

Dunno if this is relavant, but I just heard on Fox Radio News... Katrina is Cat 4 storm, and is gaining strength, it's entirely possible by Monday morning she'll be Cat 5.

All those people have my thoughts and prayers.

Stay safe, Paul, and be sur... (Below threshold)
Palmateer:

Stay safe, Paul, and be sure to protect that valuable Apple computer equipment.

Category 5, heading for the... (Below threshold)

Category 5, heading for the city.

This is scary. I'm praying. May God be with you and your city.

The Army Corps Of Engin... (Below threshold)

The Army Corps Of Engineers has known of New Orleans' vulnerability to a direct hit since before the Georges near-hit in 1998.

Indeed, I recall covering a town meeting in Southeast Texas with an emergency preparedness bigwig discussing hurricane preparedness in 1992-93, and this person said the thing *everyone* worried about was a hit on New Orleans. He said it would take 72 hours to evacuate the area, but most hurricanes don't give you 72 hours to predict. So you're seeing with Katrina.

Our prayers are with you folks.

You've been blogged as one ... (Below threshold)

You've been blogged as one of the hurricane bloggers in the path of the hurricane.

http://kokonutpundits.blogspot.com/2005/08/hurricane-bloggers-in-path-of-killer.html

Stay safe!!

Great Blog & you knew the d... (Below threshold)
Susan:

Great Blog & you knew the dangers. I have many cousins that have left LA because of this. They also live in Metarie, I don't know how things are today 8/29 with that area. Do you, as I would love to know when they could return. Did Metarie flood? I am very worried, as we couldn't get anyone as of Saturday. I guess people needed to make a decision to leave on Friday to get out without all the traffic jam. I am very worried about all of them, we had some 12 cousins that had to leave the area. They are close cousins also, my Mom and her 1st Cousin are like Sisters their whole life. We out here in California are very worried about the damage and their safe return. Let me know if you know anything about the Metarie area. [email protected]

I forgot to tell you. I pr... (Below threshold)
Susan:

I forgot to tell you. I prayed to God last night for this storm to please come down in intensity and not be a category 5 when it hits, and within 30 minutes it was downgraded to a 4, so I believe that many people were praying the same thing at the same time and God helped us. We do need to continue to pray for everyone, so everyone that reads this, please keep praying, as we don't know how many are still not accounted for. I can't tell you how much praying can help the situation.
My opinion, prayer can only help.

Ahhh,,devestation, I'm in ... (Below threshold)
Hawk:

Ahhh,,devestation, I'm in NorthWest Florida, and i've been watching the news ever since Katrina hit. I hope Katrina doesn't take too many more lives. I have a friend that lived in Metarie also, but he was able to get out of town before the storm came in. Would like to know what the area is like around the hospital in Metarie?

[rant]OK, I get home from w... (Below threshold)
Hawk:

[rant]OK, I get home from work today too find out that the people that were staying at the dome still have not been able to get water. When the tsunami happened overseas we were there the same day, but yet we can't get water to our own people????? WHAT THE HELL!!!!!!![/rant]

Just wanted Paul to know th... (Below threshold)

Just wanted Paul to know that ..the worst has happened and I hope he got out in time....God Bless we are in Ruston ,Louisiana
and have over 2000 evacuees here and full




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