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New Orleans Faces Possible Destruction
by sadf
Sunday Aug 28th, 2005 10:15 PM
One of the most powerful hurricanes ever to menace the United States is expected to slam into the nation's most storm-vulnerable city Monday, sending panicked residents fleeing soon-to-be submerged homes Sunday - only to hit snarled traffic and face crammed, precarious shelters.

Nowhere else in the country would the sense of fear be more justified than in a city that's 8 feet below sea level and facing 20 feet of levee-breaking flood waters from Hurricane Katrina.

"This has the potential to be as disastrous as the Asian tsunami. Tens of thousands of people could lose their lives. We could witness the total destruction of New Orleans as we know it," Ivor van Heerden, director of the Lousiana State University Hurricane Center, said as he ticked off the threats New Orleans faces from the ground, ocean and sky.

More than 1 million people could be left stranded away from home as emergency authorities attempt to pump out the water, a task that may take as long as three weeks. The newly homeless would be left with little food, no electricity and no transportation as cars are replaced by boats. Emergency officials fear that nearly 287 years of history could be destroyed in just hours and that half of the old Victorian homes could be lost along with the old brick buildings of the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter.

Some 25 feet of standing water is expected in many parts of the city -- almost twice the height of the average home -- and computer models suggest that more than 80 percent of buildings would be badly damaged or destroyed, he said. (Watch a report on the worst-case scenario)

Floodwaters from the east will carry toxic waste from the "Industrial Canal" area, nicknamed after the chemical plants there. From the west, floodwaters would flow through the Norco Destrehan Industrial Complex, which includes refineries and chemical plants, said van Heerden, who has studied computer models about the impact of a strong hurricane for four years.

"These chemical plants are going to start flying apart, just as the other buildings do," he predicted. "So, we have the potential for release of benzene, hydrochloric acid, chlorine and so on."

That could result in severe air and water pollution, he said.

The monster storm, which could become only the fourth Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in U.S. history, was threatening a huge area from southern Louisiana east to the Florida panhandle with sustained 160-mph winds, 190-mph gusts, torrential rains and tornadoes.

As it bore down on the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts taking dead-aim at low-lying New Orleans, Katrina already was the fourth-strongest storm on record, according to weather officials. Officials predicted it would come ashore as a Category 5 or very strong Category 4 storm.

Gulf of Mexico and onshore oil and natural gas facilities were closing ahead of the storm, and the fears of lost production - perhaps for months - sent crude-oil futures soaring above a record $70 per barrel in after-hours trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, according to media reports. It was trading at $70.11 a barrel at 1 a.m. EDT.

Freeways out of New Orleans were converted to one direction - out of town - and were deadlocked for miles. Tens of thousands of other residents, with no way out of town, flocked to shelters, including the Superdome, where they faced hours and perhaps days without food and water.

"The city of New Orleans has never seen a hurricane of this magnitude hit it directly," Mayor Ray Nagin said of the storm, according to the Associated Press.

by wsws (reposted)
Monday Aug 29th, 2005 7:18 AM
Residents of New Orleans, Louisiana braced Sunday night for a potentially catastrophic hurricane headed for the southern US city. On Friday August 26, seven people in southern Florida were killed, four struck by uprooted trees, by the category three Hurricane Katrina as it scraped the coast and moved west. Once into the pocket of the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane gained strength and bore directly toward the antiquated and impoverished city of New Orleans.

Early Sunday, August 28, the hurricane was upgraded by the National Weather Service to category five, the strongest possible storm. Category five storms are capable of winds in excess of 200 miles per hour and a storm surge of 35 feet, as with Hurricane Camille in 1969.

As has happened so often in the past, the most vulnerable layers of the city will be most at risk as the hurricane approaches. It is expected to hit New Orleans sometime Monday morning. On Sunday afternoon, the city’s mayor, Ray Nagin, ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city, an unprecedented step. Many thousands remain behind, unable to leave for lack of transportation, because they are too sick or for other reasons. Lines stretched out of the Louisiana Superdome, which is being used as a temporary shelter, but an unknown number of residents remain in their homes.

More than 100,000 of the nearly half a million residents lack vehicles, and were without means to heed the calls to evacuate. Traffic was at a standstill with out-going traffic filling all four lanes of the west- and northbound Interstates.

The National Hurricane Center issued a statement on Sunday saying the hurricane had reached “potentially catastrophic” strength. In addition to New Orleans, other regions along the Gulf Coast, including parts of Alabama and northern Florida, are on guard. If Katerina hits ground as a category five storm, it will be only the fourth storm of this strength to hit the United States since records have been kept.

“We are facing a storm that most of us have long feared,” said Nagin on Sunday. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.” However, very little has been done by city officials to prepare for what has been seen as inevitable.

The city of New Orleans was settled on soft, silty, low-lying land that sinks at an average rate of three feet per century. In 2005, the city stands at eight feet below sea level, although some neighborhoods are twenty feet below sea level. Flanked by the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River and the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans is extremely vulnerable to inundation during hurricane season.

Water that pours into the city during a hurricane’s surge must be pumped out at great effort and cost over the very levees built to hold back the water. Near misses in the last few years prompted engineers and meteorologists to issue warnings and recommendations to rebuild crumbling barrier islands and develop emergency shelters before the inevitable next strike.

Computer simulations of a category four hurricane striking New Orleans projected more than twenty feet of standing water made into a cesspool by chemical spills, the flotsam of destroyed homes, and even caskets washed out from the city’s enormous historic cemeteries.

In 1965, Hurricane Betsy, a category three storm, submerged almost half of New Orleans, leaving 60,000 residents homeless. The death toll for the Gulf region reached 74, prompting calls for better preparedness plans and flood barriers.

Of the residents remaining, a feeling of profound, almost surreal anxiety prevailed. The World Socialist Web Site received updates from New Orleans residents as the situation developed Sunday.

Judith, who suffers from chronic back pain, wanted to leave her Warehouse District apartment but had nowhere to go, and no one to help her leave. Her apartment is on the third floor of a concrete building built in 1911, three blocks from the east bank of the Mississippi River. “It survived Betsy and Camille,” she said. She is hopeful that if the river floods, the massive Morial Convention Center between her home and the river will shield her neighborhood from the brunt of the surge.

“Myself and a few neighbors are here for the duration. I just couldn’t see being trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic with no set destination for who knows how many hours. The gas stations along the evacuation route are sooner or later going to run out of gas and then we’re screwed on the road.”

She described the dysfunctional and dream-like town as she saw it Sunday morning: “All but two gas stations along Magazine Street were closed; all the businesses are closed with boarded up windows. There were people riding their bicycles and a man selling the Sunday paper on Saint Charles Avenue like it was a regular Sunday. What I did notice is that most of the businesses with hanging store-front signs left them out to flap around and turn into missiles.”

Judith has considered the alternatives to staying in her apartment. She told the WSWS, “Supposedly, the National Guard is set up in the Superdome along with emergency supplies. I’m a ten-minute walk from the French Quarter full of fancy hotels with alleged back-up generators. I’m hoping that if and when the power goes, I can make my way over to one of them just to sit tight once the storm passes.”

She is highly critical of the conduct of city officials and considers them partly to blame for the potential human catastrophe tomorrow. “The city, parish, and state should have started the contra-flow on the highways early Saturday. That probably would have gotten me to leave town... But then again, I don’t have $100 plus a night for a room.”

The teenage son of a doctor who had badly wanted to leave town declared, “We didn’t evacuate. I’m in Memorial Hospital right now and I’m hoping that’s enough. We couldn’t leave because my dad was on call. I hope I don’t die. Seriously.”

Like many residents left in New Orleans, he was skeptical of the integrity of the city’s scant emergency precautions in the face of a record hurricane. “This is like the biggest storm that’s ever been in the Atlantic. I don’t know. They’re saying the storm surge might be around 25-50 feet, and the levees only support 7 feet.”

He told the WSWS, “There are a good number of people [camped in the hospital], but they’re mostly calm and watching TV. Most people have left, because this is obviously going to be a huge storm, but the TV still shows a few people, and one of my friends is still in town. It’s just scary.”

Kas, a long-time resident of New Orleans, related her immense uncertainty Sunday afternoon. “By this time in the AM, we’ll be in the storm and by this time tomorrow, we may not be here at all. It is hard to fathom words like Catastrophic Damage—the sun is shining and the wind is currently mild. It’s 92 degrees. It’s a perfect summer day.”

When Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, Florida in 1992, Kas was terrified that New Orleans was next. “I am reminding myself that anything is still possible. I am preparing as much as possible though the only real thing you can do in this situation is either stay and pray or run and pray for those who didn’t. So I’m praying... that this thing weakens, that it turns a little more, that I still have a roof come tomorrow afternoon, that the speed it is picking up will hold so at least if it does hit, it will move through quickly. We’ve always been told here to fear the water not the wind, but these winds are moving at 175 miles per hour—a far cry from the 75-90 that we know not to be too worried about.”

Then she became almost despondent, reflecting on whether or not she would be alive tomorrow. “I live in a flood zone. This area was under water with Betsy and Camille. I am afraid and okay at the same time.”
by Americans are assholes
Monday Aug 29th, 2005 10:27 AM
thats just too fucking bad . . .
by sad but true
Monday Aug 29th, 2005 1:29 PM
The quote from the article proves it

"This has the potential to be as disastrous as the Asian tsunami. Tens of thousands of people could lose their lives. We could witness the total destruction of New Orleans as we know it"

- Ivor van Heerden
Director of the Lousiana State University Hurricane Center

The destruction of a few tens of square miles along with tens of thousands of lives would be equivalent to the Asian tsunami, which devastated coastal cities throughout the Bay of Bengal and killed MILLIONS?

Yup, that's yer basic "only we matter" American bigot mentality, plain as day
by wsws (reposted)
Tuesday Aug 30th, 2005 7:53 AM
Just after six in the morning on Monday, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern US state of Louisiana with 145 mile an hour winds and waves of up to 20 feet. There have been reports of massive flooding in some areas, while winds and rain have toppled buildings and houses. The Hurricane also caused serious damage in parts of Alabama and Mississippi. Casualty figures are not yet known, however reports late on Monday indicated at least 55 deaths, with 50 of these in Harrison County, Mississippi. This figure will likely rise much higher as the death toll in Louisiana is counted.

Downgraded during the night from category five to four, the storm still inflicted serious damage and flooded an estimated 40,000 homes in Saint Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans. Meteorologists had been predicting a direct hit on New Orleans, with the chance for complete submersion of the city in water, before the hurricane shifted slightly eastward prior to landfall.

Extensive damage was nevertheless wrought on the entire metropolitan area, home to 1.4 million people. The hurricane hit hardest in the poorer sections of New Orleans, which has a poverty level of nearly 30 percent. Flanking the city on the north, Lake Pontchartrain flooded over the city’s levees into low-income neighborhoods, submerging the one-story homes and trailers common in the area and trapping many families on their roofs. An unknown number of these houses were destroyed.

Some 100,000 residents of New Orleans were without the means or stable-enough health to heed the panicked and last-minute orders to evacuate Sunday. Terry Ebbert, chief of homeland security for New Orleans, callously sought to pin the blame for any deaths on these residents themselves, suggesting that all those who chose to stay willfully disregarded calls to evacuate. “Some of them, it was their last night on Earth,” he declared. “That’s a hard way to learn a lesson.”

Monday morning, 9,000 residents and 550 National Guard troops occupied the Superdome sports arena, which lost power and large sections of its roof as Katrina passed over the city. It was considered the sturdiest of the designated shelters, although many also huddled in the lower levels of hospitals, hotels, and apartment buildings to avoid shattering windows.

Scattered reports of at least twenty separate building collapses and hundreds of stranded survivors out of the reach of rescue personnel trickled in to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco’s office throughout the day. At least 370,000 residences in Louisiana and another 116,000 in Alabama were without electricity after the brunt of the storm had passed through.

According to a report in the New Orleans paper, the Times-Picayune, “An unknown number of residents were trapped Monday afternoon in trees, attics and roofs in New Orleans’ hardest-hit areas, and officials are positive that the devastating flooding from Hurricane Katrina is claiming lives. Police/Emergency scanner traffic was busy Monday afternoon with reports of trapped residents, some calling and pleading for help as heavy storm conditions still limited efforts to rescue them...Officers reported some people slipping into the water.”

In addition to damage in New Orleans, flooding of more than 20 feet has been reported in parts of neighboring Mississippi and in Alabama. The Associated Press quoted Gulfport Mississippi Fire Chief Pat Sullivan describing the effects of the hurricane as “complete devastation. This is a devastating hit,” he said. “We’ve got boats that have gone into buildings.”

It has long been known that if a category four or five hurricane were to strike New Orleans directly, the consequences would be catastrophic. There has been talk of “the big one” for decades. However nothing has been done to improve the levee system, which is widely acknowledged to be insufficient for dealing with a major storm. It appears that New Orleans has narrowly averted this direct hit from Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans is a city built on silt and drained marshland, positioned at the mouth of the Mississippi river. Some areas of the city are twenty feet below sea level, and the city as a whole is sinking over time. Even the historic French Quarter district, which managed to avoid serious damage due to its position on a higher rim of ground, is still an average of eight feet below sea level.

The city is protected from inundation from the water that surrounds it on three sides by a network of levees and pumps along the Mississippi river, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain. However, if water pours into the city over the levees, the geography of the terrain, and the levees themselves, hold it in. The water that has flooded parts of the city may take days or weeks to be pumped back out.

Rendered vulnerable by its position in a region frequently hit by hurricanes, New Orleans has a long history of natural disasters. In 1915, a category four hurricane caused Lake Pontchartrain to overflow, killing 275 in the same area hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina.

In 1965, the category three Hurricane Betsy submerged half of New Orleans under water up to 20 feet in some areas, and left 60,000 residents homeless. Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf not far from New Orleans in 1969, again causing devastating flooding and displacement. Camille was a category five and the strongest storm to hit the mainland ever recorded, with winds in excess of 200 miles an hour and tidal waves as high as 35 feet. It killed 143 people.

The city was spared destruction from the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which inundated 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) of land from Illinois down to the Gulf of Mexico. In that disaster, broken levees upriver relieved some of the pressure at the mouth of the Mississippi, lessening the severity of flooding in New Orleans. Much of the existing levee system now in place was set up at that time.

Scientists from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Louisiana State University have issued a number of studies in the past several years indicating that these levees no longer provide protection to the sinking city, and that another direct hit by a strong hurricane would contribute to catastrophe. A computer simulation of a direct hit by a category four hurricane projected that New Orleans would be submerged in flood water turned toxic by chemicals, fuel, debris, and corpses. In this worst case scenario, tens of thousands of residents trapped in the “bowl” of the city could die and many thousands more would be stranded in the cesspool.

Even after numerous warnings—including one issued before last year’s close call with Hurricane Ivan—local, state, and federal policy makers shrugged off the necessity for re-enforcing barrier islands, restoring the shock-absorbing wetlands, and constructing proper emergency facilities.

The cost of undertaking disaster prevention was declared by a panel of federal agency and business community representatives to be prohibitively expensive—$14 billion. Instead, the city opted to commission the Army Corp of Engineers to reinforce the levee system to withstand a category three hurricane for $740 million. Preliminary damage estimates for Hurricane Katrina run to $30 billion, not including environmental destruction or the effect on the fuel market as a result of damage to major Gulf oil drilling stations.

The latest hurricane is not an isolated disaster. It is part of a global trend. So far this summer, thousands of people around the world have drowned in massive and abrupt floods. India, known for its torrential monsoons, has taken hundreds if not thousands of casualties in a series of storms that have left houses submerged and survivors vulnerable to hunger and disease. On July 26, Bombay alone saw the deaths of nearly 450 and the displacement of 200,000 residents after a record 94 centimeters (37 inches) of rain fell in a span of 24 hours.

Last week in Eastern Europe, at least 70 people died in unprecedented rains. The severe weather, particularly the anomalously harsh weather in Europe, has been attributed by meteorologists to an unusual “kink” in the jet stream, the strong atmospheric band of current responsible for regular and reasonably predictable weather patterns. Scientists have predicted that such shifts in the jet stream, accompanied by a sharp increase in the number of hurricanes and other serious weather events, will be one of the consequences of global warming.

While meteorology is a science complicated by chaotic weather patterns, statistics on the tumultuous developments illustrate a definite trend in the past decades. US government meteorological agencies, however, have been muted in acknowledging the role played by global warming in the trend. This is in no small part due to the Bush administration’s refusal to accept any limits on carbon dioxide emissions, which cause warming.

Figures from the US National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding tropical storm activity indicate that since 1995, all of the Atlantic hurricane seasons have been above normal, with the exception of the 1997 and 2002 El Niño years, with six of the past ten years classified as hyperactive. This means that on NOAA’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy index, which analyzes the collective intensity and duration of each year’s hurricane season, cumulative storm activity is at least 175 percent above the median activity, representing an average year. NOAA forecasts the ACE index for 2005 somewhere between 180 and 270 percent of the median, making it the seventh “extremely active year” of the last ten.

According to a National Weather Service report, “Hurricane seasons during 1995-2004 have averaged 13.6 tropical storms, 7.8 hurricanes, 3.8 major hurricanes, and with an average ACE index of 159 percent of the median... In contrast, during the preceding 1970-1994 period, hurricane seasons averaged 9 tropical storms, 5 hurricanes, and 1.5 major hurricanes, with an average ACE index of only 75 percent of the median.”

Until the official hurricane season ends in November, the National Weather Service predicts as many as fourteen more tropical storms in the Atlantic, with as many as nine of them becoming hurricanes.
by stfu
Sunday Sep 4th, 2005 11:02 AM
you people are cold-hearted douchebags.

and it wasn't a million in the asian tsunami you moron, it was a couple hundred thousand.

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