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August 31, 2005

Gulf Coast status report
Posted by Teresa at 11:44 AM * 52 comments

New Orleans is being abandoned for the time being, by decree of the governor. The whole city’s flooded, and in places the water is twenty feet deep. Survivors in the city’s shelters are going to have to be relocated. Hell, survivors everywhere in the city are going to have to be relocated.

The city has no power, no clean water, no transport system, and can barely keep track of what’s happening. Everything’s been breaking down.

Example: Charity Hospital, backbone of New Orleans’ medical care since the mid-19th C., and the city’s only level-one trauma center, had already moved their ER to the second floor as of Monday afternoon, when the mayor declared them effectively inoperative because they didn’t even have the resources to treat a gunshot wound. They were shut down totally on Tuesday, by which time the complex had no land-based access.

Many people have been trapped by rising water. Available rescuers aren’t sufficient to the need. Remember the tsunami in the Indian Ocean? The storm surge in Biloxi and Gulfport was higher, in places going six miles inland.

Unofficial reports keep turning up that suggest a death toll that’s one or two orders of magnitude beyond what’s being reported in the news.

I’m not seeing nearly enough news reports out of smaller settlements and semi-rural areas.

Go here for links to sites with relevant information.

Whoops, nearly forgot: George Bush, busy taking the longest vacation in the history of the office, cut it short by two whole days in order to go back to Washington and make solemn statements on TV about the Gulf Coast catastrophe. Sorry if I sound cynical about that; I’m a New Yorker. Watch for George to turn up in NOLA for photo shoots once they’ve got the situation on the ground sufficiently stabilized for him to make an appearance there in the style to which he’s accustomed.

Comments on Gulf Coast status report:
#1 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 12:51 PM:

I think this is proof that the only difference between a third world country and a first world country is that a first world country is less democratic about who dies in a disaster. And we're always one disaster away from becoming a third world country in spots.

#2 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 12:52 PM:

Do you want further bad news?

From nola.com:

[Louisiana State University Hurricane Center researcher Ivor] Van Heerden said the rising floodwaters also would cause major pollution problems in coming days, as they float dozens of fuel and chemical storage tanks off their fittings, severing pipelines and allowing the material to seep into the floodwaters.
"In our surveys of the parish, a lot of the storage tanks we looked at weren't bolted down with big bolts," he said. "They rely on gravity to hold them down. If an industrial property is 5 feet below sea level and the water gets to 5 feet above sea level, that's 10 feet of water, and I'm certain many we looked at will float free.
And MyDD points out "The Port of Southern Louisiana is the fifth-largest port in the world in terms of tonnage, and the largest port in the United States." and it's a key port for grain exports and our oil imports.

#3 ::: Abigail ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:07 PM:

In all fairness, what is it that Bush is supposed to do? FEMA handles the work on the ground, the national guard is mobilized by the governor. Beyond declaring a state of emergency, which he's already done, what can he do apart from make sombre statements and visit to survey the damage (a visit which would be best made when the people on the ground have time to deal with the hassle of a presidential visit)?

#5 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:16 PM:

Lis, the likelihood of chemical contamination from ruptured and damaged storage and facilities has gotten very little attention.

In disaster -fiction-, I've only seen it as a major factor once, in Walter Jon Williams' THE RIFT. His book used a new New Madrid earthquake as the disaster, but in it, the widespread chemical and industrial pollution that results is the major factor in trying to evacuate the entire Missisippi region.

#6 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:23 PM:

There's a state of emergency and there's a state of emergency.

There's big chunks of federal land in the region -- military bases, etc. Bush could be saying to a combination of the Army and Army Corps of Engineers "Get me sound housing for half a million people; I want the plan by tonight and the first hundred thousand in it in two weeks."

He would than need to get that funded, and appoint someone to oversee the actual work, but kicking it off and kicking it forward when stuck is certainly well within the power of the President.

He could note that, dear bright Gods of the Dog, the US just lost its single largest port, and some significant fraction of its ability to ship agricultural products from the entire Mississippi basin and some significant fraction of its ability to import oil (and land oil from the Gulf rigs, and repair and maintain the Gulf rigs), so there's a need for a plan to deal with this -- you, you, and you, research this, find out what's affected, get me real numbers, and present a plan. (At least one of those "you's" he should be pointing at is from the Department of the Treasury; there's another one from the Department of Transportation.)

He could be noting, that, hurm, there's toadsquat actual information coming out of the region and tell the NRO's successor organization -- the guys with the satellites -- to get him the best pictures they can, ASAP, and to publically release those to the press and the planners, tell the Air Force that it's to fly reconnaissance flights and feed the info to the disaster relief folks, find out where the nearest amphibious assault ships are and get them -- loaded with small craft, helicopters, and people to run them -- added to the rescue effort.

Someone really needs to get the environmental cleanup started, too.

Oh, and as I remarked in another thread -- where does the new city go? Some port at the mouth of the Mississippi is absolutely required, and (by present reports) every scrap of infrastructure has been rendered unusable.

The President can order those things done, and make it public that they've been ordered, and answer questions about what's next to be done, and who is in charge of which thing, and generally convince people that their government is going to do its outright best to succor them in this disaster.

Pity a President isn't what's to hand.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Lis, you might as well. There's a shortage of compiled big picture.

Jim, I found that CNN story unexpectedly amusing, from its head and subhead --

Bush expected to visit hurricane sites
The president flies over disaster area en route to Washington
--to its astute second paragraph:
WACO, Texas (AP) -- President Bush held a video conference about Hurricane Katrina with his top advisers from his Texas ranch Wednesday and then flew over the disaster area en route back to the White House to oversee federal relief efforts.

Bush, who may visit the area later in the week, cut short his working vacation in Texas by two days--even though aides have long contended that his duties are uninterrupted when he spends time at his ranch in nearby Crawford, which has White House-level communications capability.

Graydon, I've been waiting for the pros to say something about NOLA's function as transit port from the Mississippi/Ohio/Missouri basin to the rest of the world. It's not a hard-to-find fact.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:40 PM:

This just in:

French Quarter buildings to be relocated to "NewOrleansLand" resort in Henderson, NV; renamed "Freedom Quarter."

#9 ::: NYer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:42 PM:

It's time to out this baby where it belongs: in Bush's lap. While thousands of people are marooned in an uninhabitable, destroyed city, our leader is on vacation.
Funds that should have gone to reinforce the levees in New Orleans went to our misadventure in Iraq.
The National Guard, while making valiant attempts to rescue people and protect property, is weakened by its deployment in Iraq.
Oil production is paralyzed on the Gulf Coast; we have no alternate energy policy.
Sorry to politicize a tragedy, but these chickens just came home to roost.

#10 ::: NYer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Oh...
Osama couldn't destroy my city, but GWB's negligence cost the country one of its crown jewels.
Nice job, George.

#11 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:50 PM:

Seeing all these poor folks with nothing but the clothes on their backs keeps reminding me that I have yet to assemble a "go bag".

As angry as I am at the government's lack of preparedness, I myself am woefully unprepared for an emergency.

Jim's suggested list for a go bag.

#12 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:54 PM:

Thank you, Graydon.

Moreover, unless things have changed from when Heinlein wrote about it (essay at the end of Expanded Universe, I think - my copies have been sequentially stolen), all navigable streams are under the pres' jurisdiction. That pretty much says he OWNS NOLA, right now.

And you're right about the new city, too...

I wonder if anyone's putting urgent calls in, to the Netherlands. The problem is one they have faced repeatedly (it takes a Dutchman to look at a blustering wave and say "we'll put the pasture *there*"). If any such advice has been sought, it seems to be absent from the pages of the Dutch press.

#13 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 01:59 PM:

Just a note to Graydon. The NRO is still around and still doing satellites. They're a tad more open about it these days what with the gift shop and the School Outreach program, but they're still the NRO. I have, uh, reason to know.

MKK

#14 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:01 PM:

The people at Stratfor sent out a pretty good high-level advisory that went through the question of what it means for that port to be destroyed. I've seen it on many an e-mail list, so I bet you could find it pretty quickly. (I'd rather not post it--it's copyrighted, after all--bit a search on "port of southern Louisiana" should bring it up fairly quickly.)

#15 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:13 PM:

Shunra --

It's materially possible to build really big levees and pump the place out and decontaminate it, but that's really not the smart thing to do. You might decide that rescuing the French Quarter like that makes sense, but you might not, too; the decontamination problem is going to be a complete bear, and there are going to be more hurricanes like that. (Katrina is, by some of the global warming models, an average hurricane. Plan for that.)

It makes more sense to figure out where the Mississippi is trying to go, where to put the overflow channels (so the river can flood and build the coastal wetlands back up), and where you have some relatively high hard rock to put the port on, and if this is a place that the port can be provided with adequate (as in, three layers) of breakwaters scaled to category five hurricanes.

Mary Kay --

Thanks! I remembered hearing that the NRO had undergone organizational transmogrification, and I'd half-remembered that there was a name change involved, so I waffled.

#16 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:14 PM:
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?

#17 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Graydon, you make many excellent points, but when I saw "where you have some relatively high hard rock to put the port on" you threw me for a loop. There is no rock, high, hard, or otherwise in that part of the world that is not imported. It is all alluvial materials for many, many meters. That's why the area has such subsidience issues. I hate to carp over such otherwise sensible, cogent, and well-intentioned remarks, but! There. Is. No. Rock.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:24 PM:

Crisis management is not "wait until the crisis happens, then try to manage it".

Disaster planning is not "wait until the disaster is happening, then try to plan for it".

And, while it isn't possible to have a full-scale rehearsal of any evacuation of that size, they should have some clue how to do it by now.

#19 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:32 PM:

Fidelio --

I'm not what you'd call intimately familiar with the geology of the region; I know there's a subsidence zone in the Gulf, much loved by sedimentary geologists (there are sympathetic people with big core drills already there) but that's about it.

If there's no exposed rock, you have to figure out what you can anchor things to; you might, Bright Gods help you, wind up with a city on a succession of giant ferroconcrete pontoons, floating away on the soft dirt. But somewhere under all that dirt there should be some stable crust; the really heavy parts of the port facilities, and the breakwaters, will need a stable anchor. (One that has been designed to cope with the New Madrid fault glitching, too.)

So, anyway, in this case, 'relatively high hard rock' might mean 'where it's only twenty feet down'.

#20 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:33 PM:

Graydon, there are two issues here: where to put the port, and what to do with the national grief.

My bet would be a double-barrelled rescue mission, where New Orleans is dried and rescued and turned into a theme-park of sorts, and Newer Orleans is located more reasonably.

The French Quarter and support infrastructure will have to be rescued because humans are humans, and Americans won't let some ol' storm tell us where to put our cities. There are (obviously) good and bad things about this attitude.

I *hope* enough cold, hard reason prevails for the construction of a new port, industrial area, etc.!

#21 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Also, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is aiming their efforts at smaller communities and rural areas:
http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/05/katrinaresp.cfm

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Saving NO (or what may be left of it): I'm voting for bringing in about 40 feet of fill and rebuilding on top of it. Then it can subside with a little room/time to spare, while we figure out a better way to protect it (like moving it about a hundred miles upriver).

#23 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 03:28 PM:

There is essentially no possiblity that NO will be moved or abandoned. For all it may be reasonable, it just isn't what happens. Once human beings are in a place, no matter how bad the devestation gets, we become essentially impossible to dislodge. That isn't always a good thing, but it is a thing. We don't leave San Francisco after the great earthquake, and I can't think of any more examples, but they're there.

And since they're staying (or coming back, or whatever) they'll salvage every peice of the old place they can, and graft the new place onto the old one. No matter how little there is to build on, they'll call it rebuilding, and pretend the new place is the same place that the old one was, and sooner or later it'll be true.

#24 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 03:31 PM:

Hmm...being a New Yorker...will "I lived in New Orleans" have the ring of "I worked in the World Trade Center" soon?

And yes, I think it's fair to add the deaths from Katrina to Bush's 1800+ counts of Murder in the Second Degree (Depraved Indifference).

#25 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 04:15 PM:

Kevin Drum (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_08/007014.php) quotes Danny Franklin on "George Bush's... patronage-minded approach to staffing critical positions:" "The difficulties of coordination seem to indicate we've returned to the bad old days where the FEMA administrator position is given away on the basis of political favor, rather than hard experience. The whole story of FEMA's response to Katrina has yet to be written, but it has always troubled me that Bush has appointed, in succession, his 2000 campaign manager and an Oklahoma lawyer whose only emergency management experience prior to joining FEMA was as an assistant city manager..."

#26 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 04:25 PM:

Fidelio:

I worked for the UMC, lo these many moons agone. I was on a temp job; at six months they offered me a position per their hire or out policy, and I left, but it was a very pleasant six months, and I gained a real respect for that church, working for the woman then in charge of their efforts to improve conditions in Appalachia.

That said, I am neither surprised nor displeased to hear what you say. The UMC is well suited to aiding smaller communities, and they will ensure that things that need doing get done, while everyone else's attention is fixed on New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile.

#27 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 05:09 PM:

Bruce: One reason the UMC is a good group to help out the smaller commmunities is that it's one of the commoner churches in the southern US; they'll have both local connections to work through, and many congregations near to hand, to lend aid and support.

Graydon: around New Orleans, compacted clay, silt, and sand is about 80+ feet below the surface. Something that you and I would recognize as real rock is well below that; I have heard estimates of over 90 meters. Coming from the Ozarks, where "bedrock" can mean "the stuff sticking up out of the ground", I found that hard to grasp when I first went down there, but it's a long way down to real rock.

On the subject of southern ports: Mobile is also a sizable port, and the Tenn-Tom Waterway may at last justify its construction, if the Port of New Orleans is out of business for very long. While Mobile is damaged, it's a lot more fixable just now.

#28 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 05:10 PM:

Watch for George to turn up in NOLA for photo shoots once they’ve got the situation on the ground sufficiently stabilized for him to make an appearance there in the style to which he’s accustomed.

If there were a god in heaven, the earth would open up under Bush the moment he set foot in NOLA.

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Now, now Josh.

With all the toxics-spewing refineries in the area, I think that poor city's soil would be in bad enough shape as it is.

#30 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 05:43 PM:

There is, as people have noticed, kind of a lack of completely safe living real estate in the US. I mean, the Yellowstone supervolcano is due any millennia now...

Seriously, a lot of cities end up, one way or another, in harm's way. Venice sits on silts in the middle of subsiding mud pool, and has done for two millenia. Florence is almost all in the flood path of its river. So is a lot of the Po Delta, including my house (which sits just under and below a levee: there's an artificial canal that's never flooded in recorded history on the other side, but you never know, with what happened in Austria. All in all though, I live in one of the safest spots on the planet - one of the few good things you can say about this damn muggy boring foggy mosquito-infested backwater that is Padova). London is at flood risk. San Francisco, 'nuff said.

It is risky and sometimes stupid, but people value that ineffable quality that is their own city special character, sometime above their lives.

Of course, doing something about global warming would be kinda smart, but I've heard remarkably little about the possible role that's been playing in the recent increase of hurricane intensity.

#31 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 05:51 PM:

James Angove: The chief counterexample to your theory is Galveston. Yes, there's still a small resort town there, but the big port is now Houston, just that little bit further inland and more hurricane proof. Yes, this might have happened anyway, but then again, it didn't happen in, eg, New Orleans.

#32 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 06:38 PM:

Anna: Earlier I made a post on San Francisco (although because it contained a number of links, I think somebody from on high needs to clear it first). I was thinking about the 1906 Earthquake, and the subsequent fires which nearly destroyed the city. And yet, people buckled down, shifted together, and rebuilt the city. Occasionally, I'll hear idiots say that they wouldn't move to SF, nor should anybody else, and it's one giant disaster zone waiting to happen. (I like to think that's not totally true, what with all the retrofitting that goes on. Right now the city is battling to get the new span for the Bay Bridge, since the old one would be considered unsafe for a major earthquake.)

Utah, where I grew up, has earthquakes. When I was really little, there was one flood that hit Provo, and I remember helping my parents sandbag the temple and parts of BYU. And of course, every two or three years, they get nasty fires which swoop down from our mountains and threaten neighbourhoods. So that's another state you can chalk off the Safe-For-Other-People-To-Live list.

I've lived in North Carolina recently. Well, you already know what hurricanes will do, but would you believe that an inch of snow will cause a couple hundred accidents and tie up commuter traffic for almost fifteen hours? Imagine what a foot or two would accomplish. Oh, it's NOT LIKELY, but it's plausible.

As you said, there's nowhere that's SAFE TO LIVE.

I really hope New Orleans gets re-built. It was beautiful. It had history. A lot of places can't say as much.

#33 ::: Carl Coryell-Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 06:39 PM:

Early Landsat Sat Imagery:

Before: http://landsat.usgs.gov/gallery/images/Landsat_Gallery_412_4_full.jpg

After: http://landsat.usgs.gov/gallery/images/Landsat_Gallery_412_5_full.jpg

The after appears to be have been taken on Aug 30th. The water is continuing to rise.

#34 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 06:54 PM:

Imagine what a foot or two [of snow in North Carolina] would accomplish. Oh, it's NOT LIKELY, but it's plausible.

We don't have to imagine. I think it was 1999 or 2000 when the Triangle had some 19 inches of snow. It shut the whole place down for a good week. By unhappy coincidence, our heater had died a day or two before the snow started, and cheap brick ranch houses in North Carolina aren't well insulated. Luckily, we had a bunch of firewood from Hurricane Fran, and we burned most of a cord before the roads got plowed and repairmen could get his truck to our house and get a new heater installed.

Ice storms have done the same thing several times in the last few years, with the added bonus of large power outages.

I don't think there's anywhere safe, really.

#35 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 07:53 PM:

Allison, James --

The even better example is Ephesus.

This leaves aside Hengistbury, rust belt ghost towns, and all the shrunken places that the railway has abandoned or bypassed.

The Port of South Louisiana requires constant maintenance; it's going to get at least half a year without it, because the ability to support the dredging, etc. isn't there if the population is displaced.

Throw in that if the New Orleans levees were undermaintained, the rest of the river can't be in good shape, plus the utter reluctance of the Bush junta to spend money they can't loot, the fact that we're not out of hurricane season nor likely to see the channel opened before the next spring floods, and the river might make the question moot.

There is no safety in all the earth, only variances of risk.

#36 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 08:49 PM:

Joe Haldeman has a short short on NO here.

#37 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Lis Riba ::: wrote on) ::: August 31, 2005, 12:52 PM:

Do you want further bad news?

From nola.com:

[Louisiana State University Hurricane Center researcher Ivor] Van Heerden said the rising floodwaters also would cause major pollution problems in coming days, as they float dozens of fuel and chemical storage tanks off their fittings, severing pipelines and allowing the material to seep into the floodwaters.
"In our surveys of the parish, a lot of the storage tanks we looked at weren't bolted down with big bolts," he said. "They rely on gravity to hold them down. If an industrial property is 5 feet below sea level and the water gets to 5 feet above sea level, that's 10 feet of water, and I'm certain many we looked at will float free.
And MyDD points out "The Port of Southern Louisiana is the fifth-largest port in the world in terms of tonnage, and the largest port in the United States." and it's a key port for grain exports and our oil imports.

Sarcasm alert

All that grain? Turn it into fuel.... cars converted to run off cooking oil, or alcohol, or...

#38 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 09:41 PM:

PiscusFiche: San Francisco isn't a bad place to ride out an earthquake actually. Very earthquake positive building codes for a very long time. We had a 7.1 quake in 1989 and the final death toll was, I think, 68. Most of those were on the freeway that pancaked. Which isn't going to happen again. We're talking a metro area with a population approaching 7 million, a major quake and fewer than 100 deaths. Best place to be really.

MKK

#39 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 09:53 PM:

Devastation.

Gulf Coast imagery, Aug 30-31, 2005.

Warning. Slow site, large downloads, heartbreaking imagery. 50 dead? More like 5,000. Sample image. Scale: those odd shaped dark squares are swimming pools.

No images from New Orleans -- these seem to be just Mississippi. I don't know why they haven't overflown lower Louisana, or maybe I do, or maybe I'm glad.

#40 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 11:06 PM:

The grain export problem got a very passing mention on one of the web pages deaking with the oil issue. I thought about it a bit, and then slipped it into the Wikipedia reporting and posted to uk.business.agriculture

Gulfport is apparently a major port too, and one estimate was that it would take a year to reopen. The shipping lines using the port would have redirected traffic: would they come back?

#41 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 11:36 PM:

For an idea of the level of damage, I took one of the photos from Bay St Louis, matched it to a Google Maps satellite image, and made a rollover to show a before/after. The hotel-looking thing in this photo is, unless I am badly mistaken, the "Village at Henderson Beach" which appears to be a very large condominium resort complex. It has a website at http://www.villageonthebeach.com .

So here is a terrible javascript rollover before/after of the complex:

http://home.comcast.net/~dtbilek/

Sorry for my sucky 1996-ish javascript. I have no skills anymore. Firefox runs it pretty slowly, probably because it chokes on how awful the script is.

#42 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2005, 11:37 PM:

Oh, if anybody has actual web skills and can make a better script, it's pretty easy to do the photo matching once you know the locations. I could make a page with a bunch of them.

#43 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 12:43 AM:

MKK: I'm not uber worried. I know they retrofit EVERYTHING here. And as I was telling my friend in Louisiana, who happens to be earthquake-skittish, mostly you stand in a door and wait for the shaking to stop. Then you log onto the USGS website and log your quake report. That, and all the little tiny earthquakes tend to let up some of the pressure.

SF definitely learned from 1906 and 1989 though.

#44 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 01:51 AM:

PiscusFiche -

I've heard that you have two options vis-a-vis earthquakes these days. If you're in an older building, and the doorway is not near any windows, a doorway is a pretty decent place to stand.

If you are not in an older building, you should crawl under a good strong piece of furniture (again not near a window).

I've done both - for the Nisqually quake I stood in a doorway (1910 house) but for a prior quake (about a 2 or so) I told the person on the phone, "Just a sec here, I have to get under my desk - we're having an earthquake."

Do not do what a boss of mine did. He was from the midwest and the whole earthquake thing gave him the crawls. So when we had a small quake one day at lunch, he herded his department outside to the parking lot - and under the power lines! I couldn't figure out what he was doing, until I realized he thought there was going to be another one...


Margaret Organ-Kean

#45 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 07:23 AM:

And that cutting short was three days after the disaster struck.

James: It may not be abandoned, but the poorer parts of town may not be repopulated by the people who used to live there.

I don't know what will happen, since the jobs they did still need doing, and they will need someplace to live, but rebuilding those houses won't be cheap, and the incentive to rent to poor folks isn't really there.

I'm tired (it's quarter after four, and I've had only a few hours of sleep), so maybe I'm not thinking well, but New Orleans isn't going to be the same.

TK

#46 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 09:07 AM:

A link to an N.O. police scanner internet feed has been floating around in some circles. There was a fire in the Superdome and the firemen trying to get to it came under fire. They received an escort and came under even more fire and a soldier was hit in the leg. Things are bad and everyone is asking for reinforcements.

The police are taking lots of fire from looters and have been requesting permission to use force to repel people at barriers. Some of the helicopters being used for relief efforts have been taking fire. It's not good.

#47 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 10:02 AM:

James Angrove: I've been on any number of archaeological sites which are nowadays in countryside, or wilderness, where once humans lived lives just as complex as ours. I once went back to a dig at lunchtime when there was nobody else there and I had a very strange flash picking up things we had left there for two hours, meaning to come back, which were lying scattered among things left there two thousand years ago, by people who also meant to come back.

And just in case of American Exceptionalism, I believe you have things called "Ghost Towns"?

#48 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 10:05 AM:

I live in the New Orleans area, on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. We evacuated on Sunday and drove 9 hours to get to Monroe, LA (a drive which usually takes 3 hours.) The next day we started driving back, skirting west and south to avoid the storm as it drove north. We made it back to the Abita Springs area after dark. The only business with lights was the Lowes. It took an hour to drive down the highway to my house because of all the trees that had been downed. I can't even describe how nerve-jangling it was to creep through an obstacle course that had been cleared just enough to let emergency vehicles through. We got to our house and discovered that we had been insanely lucky--all we lost was the chimney on our house. There was no power, no phone service, but we had running water. The next day it was nearly a hundred degrees, and we decided to head up to Atlanta to stay with a friend to give my 16-month old some relief. We started up I 59, and ended up having to turn back because it was impassable. We made it to Atlanta after 17 hours in the car. I'm heading back tomorrow with a Uhaul full of supplies graciously donated by friends here.

One of the aftermaths of the disaster that people haven't addressed here is that most of the people who live in the areas surrounding New Orleans--the areas that were physically spared--had jobs in New Orleans. Approximately 80% of the people are jobless now. Not only is New Orleans destroyed, but the surrounding areas are going to empty soon as the people have no way to earn a living.

My husband and I keep looking at each other and syaing things like, "No more 'Port of Call' hamburgers. No more Pat O'Brians." It's little things, but it's staggering when you realize all of the loved places that are no longer there and most likely never will be again.

#49 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 10:35 AM:

David, that can be done with CSS instead of JavaScript... that might make the browsers happier. Emailing you an example.

#50 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 10:36 AM:

unpleasantry warning

I wonder if next month's jobless rates are going to show the effects of Katrina and the loss of employment on the Gulf Coast, from the demise or closure or suspension of business operations of all those businesses and branches of businesses. (The parent Office Max corporation isn't going out of business, but the looted Office Max store I suspect isn't likely to be keeping all, if any, of the people who worked at that store on the payroll, particularly not the "at-will" employees.

There are a million displaced people, most of them with their livelihoods wiped out and their incomes terminated, who need food, shelter, clothing, income/paying work, and some way of keeping up their self-esteem despite dislocation, loss of possessions, loss of income, etc.

#51 ::: Tomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2005, 03:27 PM:

Let's think down the road here.

Are we going to rebuild NO the same as before... in a lower than sea level area? As we saw in Florida last year, one state can get pounded by hurricanes over and over. Are we going to rebuild NO every few years?

Big picture. We have global warming going on folks. Glaciers melting, Arctic ocean ice thinning, and predictions of higher sea levels and increased numbers of hurricanes as the climate changes.

What is NO's fate if global sea levels go up a foot, two foot? more over the next 50 years???

How much money and resources do we rationally think we can afford to shore up a city that, if left to the natural course of events, will become a lake.

I say, let it go. We are not the Netherlands where most of the country is reclaimed from the ocean. Let it go and move the city to higher ground.

My point is that we as a country need to think about how hard we want to struggle against nature. New Orleans has been sinking for over a hundred years. It is built on delta silt that our strict control of the Mississpi has not allowed to replenish.

It is our first reaction to protect and preserve the lives and the wealth of the city. I understand that. But the ongoing prognosis for the area is to be a lake. We can keep pumping it out over and over again after each disaster either natural or man-made ( could a terrorist bomb a levee?).

Or we could write it off. Open up the levees, let the water come in. As a country, we are prepared to spend billions ( I have heard as much as $25 billion in insured assets alone) to return things to the way it was. Reactions like that may have their place in other locations. But in lower than sea-level New Orleans, I feel it is not money well spent.

Why should an insurance company pay to have a home rebuilt in an area where it is very likely that the home will be destroyed again and again by flooding? Doesn't it make sense to rebuild somewhere else above the flood plain?

This is where the government can step in to help. Instead of expending billions to rebuild a doomed city, invest in helping folks relocate to new areas by buying their property so that they can afford to move.

As for all those poor folks that are discussed in the notes above, they already have nothing. Frankly, they can have just as much nothing in an apartment built on higher ground than a soaking wet one in New Orleans. Affordable housing for these people would also be a government job in my view.

I hate to seem like a New Orleans basher. I really am not. I love the place and have had great times there over the years. If we bow to the inevitable and let nature take it's course, I will miss the place very much. I feel, though, that some things are really beyond us. And winning long term against Mutha Nature is one of them.

Even if it was left unsaid, I did pick up on the comparison of rebuilding San Francisco after the earthquake and rebuilding New Orleans after the flood.

Earthquakes will continue to knock down buildings and we will keep rebuilding them. California is going to have more quakes. Scientists know that "THE BIG ONE" is going to happen , they just don't know when. But I have seen arial photographs of housing developments built astride obvious faultlines. When we rebuild them to higher standards and codes that will minimize the impact of the next average quake, they will still fall down when the BIG ONE arrives.

In that same vein, I am sure that people will also want to rebuild New Orleans with better technology. Better dikes and levees from Denmark. Back up generators for the water pumps. Perhaps at the ludicrous extreme even require all homes in affected areas to be built up on stilts (starting a new building fashion trend called Nuevo Orleans). Whatever. The engineering reasoning still reflect the 80/20 rule. It is cost effective to build to handle the average disaster (80%) because the huge distasters don't happen that often (20%).

#52 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2005, 12:17 PM:

We heard from Jo Peshek - she was out west when Katrina hit:

From my check-in blog:

Pamela Dean, Re: Jo Peshek.

She asked me to post this message for her as she doesn’t have your email on her current machine.
> Hi Burt,
>
> I was in Gallup NM on the morning that Katrina was grinding up the Gulf Coast. Zane and I had just finished selling SF at Bubonicon in Albuquerque and we headed up toward Seattle for NASFIC this past weekend. We are traveling back south now. Should be there to see my house by next Saturday, then Zane will head off to Fort Worth to work…because his office is right next to where a levy broke in New Orleans, no power there anyhow. His house in Kentwood LA withstood the winds, he wasn’t in danger of flooding. My house took on about 3
feet of water (oil, sludge, the odd leech, crawfish, or maybe a catfish or two). Anyhow, my feet are dry, Zane’s feet are dry, Lonnie’s feet were dry as he and our 4 cats weathered the storm at Zane’s house. Don’t know where I’ll be staying unitl the house gets fixed or replaced. My 1989 240sx was kept from floating away by it’s new woody hood ornament. I’m thinking GEICO is going to total it and give us 35 cents. foo

> Anyhow, I’m getting a nice look at America. A little restaurant in Ellensburg WA where we ate last evening next to the cash register had a white box with a hole in the top and the words “HELP! KATRINA” scrawled on the front. It was almost full of bills. Made me smile.
America is taking this storm to heart.
Gotta go,

Jo

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