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September 15, 2004

Risk assessment
Posted by Teresa at 04:16 PM * 105 comments

It may have been written in 2001, but Hurricane Risk for New Orleans, from the American Radioworks site, is an unpleasantly prescient look at New Orleans’ vulnerability to a major hurricane:

Think about the great cities in this country, and one of them will be New Orleans. On a recent evening, a scientist pulls up in the French Quarter. Joe Suhayda takes a plastic rod out of his trunk and he proceeds to show us what could happen the next time a hurricane hits New Orleans.

“OK, this is tool that I have a range rod,” explains Suyhayda. “It will show us how high the water would be if we were hit with a Category Five Hurricane.”

Which would mean what?

“Twenty feet of water above where we are standing now,” says Suyhayda.


A Category Five Hurricane is the most powerful storm on a scientific scale. Suhayda plants the rod on the sidewalk next to a 200-year-old building that’s all wrought iron balconies and faded brick and wooden shutters. Every click marks another foot that the flood would rise up this building.

I can’t believe you’re still going.

“Yeah, still going,” says Suyhayda.

Until a couple months ago, Suhayda ran a prominent research center at Louisiana State University. They’ve developed the most detailed computer models that anybody’s ever used to predict how hurricanes could affect this region. Studies suggest that there’s roughly a one in six chance that a killer hurricane will strike New Orleans over the next 50 years.

Suhayda is still extending his stick as he describes what he is doing, “It’s well above the second floor, just about to the rooftop.”

It’s hard to comprehend.

“Yes,” agrees Suyahada, “it is really, to think that that much water would occur in this city during a catastrophic storm.”

Do you expect this kind of hurricane—this kind of flooding—will hit New Orleans in our lifetime?

“Well I would say the probability is yes,” says Suyahada. “In terms of past experience, we’ve had three storms that were near misses—that could have done at least something close to this.”

Basically, the part of New Orleans that most Americans—most people around the world—think is New Orleans, would disappear.

Suyhayda agrees, “It would, that’s right.”
The piece doesn’t quite draw conclusions, but it works its way around to some interesting questions.

Addenda: There’s another storm revving up behind Ivan: Tropical Storm Jeanne, currently slamming into Puerto Rico, with wind speeds only a few m.p.h. too slow for it to qualify as Hurricane Jeanne.

Here’s the Times-Picayune’s take on things.

Note: It’s midnight-thirty, and I’m not seeing any recent reports from New Orleans. Anyone out there know what’s happening?

Comments on Risk assessment:
#1 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 04:53 PM:

Y'know, the thing I carry with me about our visit to N'awlins last year more than anything else is the odor. The French Quarter reeks. It's vile. Apparently, a sufficient volume of vomit, covering every surface to saturation at one point or another for over a century, will penetrate any available material at least enough to emit an odor which cannot, ever, be washed away.

Once your olfactory nerves have withered in terror and begun to atrophy from the abuse, though, there are good times to be had.

#2 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 05:12 PM:

What I enjoy about New Orleans is that there's decadance available for every level of sophistication, from grade-school dropouts to gatronomes to people with, er, unusual tastes. Nobody is left out.

And it's in the South, which makes it doubly odd. It feels as if the whole place should be illegal. Which is, I supppose, part of the fun.

If the city should, God forbid, be washed off the map, I can only imagine the claims of Divine Reckoning that will be made by the Falwell crowd.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 05:18 PM:

Divine reckoning? 9/11 was demonstrably of human provenance, and they called it the hand of God. Florida's been walloped repeatedly by hurricanes, and Falwell & Co. haven't got a thing to say about it.

#4 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 05:36 PM:

It's a frightening article: my favorite cousin and one of my good e-friends both live there. (But my inner grammar goon would have been more impressed if they'd managed to spell "Pontchartrain" right.)

#5 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 06:01 PM:

New Orleans vs. Las Vegas: Which does sin better? Discuss.

#6 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 06:27 PM:

Lower New Orleans is one of the three really big risk issues when you look at big storms and floods in Louisiana (I was born and raised in Bossier City). The other two may be larger environmental risks, even though the direct threats to urban areas are much less.

One is fairly well known. The 100 miles of Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orelans is one of the highest concentration of chemical plants in the country and has earned itself the name "Cancer Alley". One can just imagine what large scale flooding would do along there.

But one of the biggest is little known outside of civil engineering groupies -- the Old River Control Structure upstream of Baton Rouge. About every thousand years or so the lower Mississippi deposits enough sediment in it's delta to restrict the flow of the river. At that point, the lower river finds a new channel -- which can be a rather sudden event. The Atchafalaya river, west of the current Mississippi channel, enters the Gulf at Morgan City and drains the edcologcaly sensitive Atchafalaya Swamp. This river has been trying to "capture" the lower Mississippi and shift the channel for over a half century. It actually captured the Red River in the 1940's. What prevented it was a prehistoric log jam in the "Old River" channel that already connected the Mississippi to the uppper Atchafalaya. To control this process and keep both the Red and Mississippi rivers in their desired channels, the Corps of Engineers cleared the jam and built a huge weir to control how much water passed into the channel between the two rivers (the more you let in, the more it scours and the more it "wants") and a lock to allow the existing barge traffic to move between the rivers.

If that structure fails, the lower Mississippi would rather quickly, especially with floodwaters to help, divert to a new channel, scouring out the swamp, and destroying any towns along the Atchafalaya, in particular Morgan City. The facilities of the Port of New Orleans would be largely useless. Most of the already damaged natural communities of the southern Lousiana wetlands would be changed beyond recognition.

It would make a good disaster movie.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 06:41 PM:

I've been watching the Atchafalaya cutoff for some time, along with other other continental hydrology problems. Oil's got everyone's attention just now, but water is life.

#8 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 06:44 PM:

Scientific American had an article on this around the same time (October 2001). It's pay-to-read, unfortunately, but here's the teaser.

I was in the French Quarter a couple of years ago, and don't remember it smelling particularly bad. It was January, though.

#9 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 06:57 PM:

"If that structure fails, the lower Mississippi would rather quickly, especially with floodwaters to help, divert to a new channel, scouring out the swamp, and destroying any towns along the Atchafalaya, in particular Morgan City. The facilities of the Port of New Orleans would be largely useless. Most of the already damaged natural communities of the southern Lousiana wetlands would be changed beyond recognition.

It would make a good disaster movie."

Claude, I think Clive Cussler has already done this, with an villainous genius, rather than natural disaster, as the cause of the diversion.

As for New Orleans not fitting into the rest of the South, it was founded by different people--very different people indeed. The first fathers of New Orleans were Frenchmen of the Enlightenment who were convinced that pleasure, in certain amounts, and for certain values of the word, was a good thing, rather than English-speaking Calvinists who feared that dancing or a good dinner and a visit to a play [or, even worse, the opera] were but the first steps on the primrose path to perdition. Needless to say, things have gone beyond what even they imagined.

I remember Camille; bad as it was, the consensus along the Gulf Coast was that either New Orleans or Mobile would have been far worse. Not only does geography make it difficult to evacuate New Orleans, the near-anarchy that prevails in parts of the city proper would make both evacuation and relief efforts even harder. The topography of Mobile Bay would channel the storm to a certain extent, to dire effect; even now, the storm surge predictions for Ivan in Mobile Bay are higher than for a piece of plain coastline.

And then there's the New Madrid fault to think about.

#10 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 07:00 PM:

Tim Walters - I was in the French Quarter a couple of years ago, and don't remember it smelling particularly bad. It was January, though.

I was there in August. Whooee! The main fragrance note was butyric acid, with hints of ammonia, broken by the occasionally by the heady fragrance of sub-tropical flowers.

So, I lit a cigar in self defense.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 07:39 PM:

I've added this to the main post: you all know there's another cyclonic storm revving up behind Ivan, right? This one's Jeanne, currently a tropical storm but expected to become a hurricane.

#12 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 07:44 PM:

I'm glad I've been to New Orleans (4 times between 1988 and 2000) because I've gotta wonder what happens if Ivan keeps wobbling westward.

"The aroma" is definitely more distinctive in August. When I was there at Worldcon in '88, it really reeked. And, there was an incredible rainstorm that gave you bad feelings about how lots of water wasn't always well-handled by the gutters and drainage systems of New Orleans.

But when you go in the fall or winter, it really isn't bad. In fact, I've been to New Orleans twice in December now and liked it best of all at that time of year.

#13 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 08:05 PM:

I remember reading about the Atchafalaya in college when we read a John McFee collection. It just shocked me how the human end of the scale thought they could keep back a river. I thought at the time--that's like trying to keep back God. But of course, I know why they've been trying and I hope they succeed. Hope these storms fade.

#14 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 08:06 PM:

Hmm, Fidelio, a little checking revealed the novel you noted -- thanks. However, an early experience with a Cussler novel resulted in a strong aversive reaction to his books if am within 10-15 feet . . .

And Teresa, after a year or so hanging around here, I would surprised if you did not already know about the Atchafalaya. Now, have you ever heard of Fort Humbug . . .

#15 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 08:47 PM:

Since they've known for a long time that this might happen, I'm shocked to discover how half-assed their disaster response plan is. There is no plan for evacuating the 100,000 New Orleans residents who don't have cars. The city has not, for example, arranged to charter buses. They're just asking the city residents who are too poor to have automobile access to try to find a tall building. They had years to plan for this, and that was the best they could come up with?

My husband tells me he read that the city of New Orleans is negotiating to open certain structures - the Superdome, some schools, et cetera - as places people could go. Not "hurricane shelters," because they won't be stocked with blankets, food, or medical supplies, but at least tall structures that probably won't fall down. But they've been reluctant to publicize this plan, for fear that it will encourage people who could evacuate to stay home. How the others are supposed to find out is a little unclear to me.

#16 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 08:47 PM:

I'm here in Florida doing disaster relief with the Red Cross on hurricane Frances (I'm currently based out of Melbourne). While things are getting back to normal, there is a lot of damage here, slowly getting cleaned up. The neighborhood I've been working in has the power back to almost all the houses, and we did our last street run in that neighborhood today. Since I'm driving one of the Red Cross national emergency vehicles, I'm expecting to get relocated on Friday -- the odds are that I'm going to be heading up to Ivan territory. I'm grabbing the day off I'm owed tomorrow during the lull between storms, and visiting the Kennedy Space Center.
This series of storms is taxing the Red Cross resources -- we have over 1,000 volunteers that responded to the Florida storms -- and its not over yet. My three weeks aren't up until the 28th, so I've got a ways to go, and I'm still recovering from 9 days of Noreascon (set building, truck loading, etc.)
Disaster relief teaches you some strange things: I've learned to accept thanks graciously.
I've been too busy to take many pictures, but I've got a couple, including the church that has its steeple impaled in the sanctuary (their insurance has a completely unaffordable deductable, so they are scrambling to figure out how to hold services).

#17 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 09:07 PM:

FEMA's calling for more volunteer emergency services people to go to Florida for Ivan -- the word came out tonight on the local fire/police/amblance scanner, up here in far northern New Hampshire, for people able to travel within 48 hours.

#18 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 09:09 PM:

After a moment of panic, I checked the weather for San German, Puerto Rico. Stalwart KC in 09 Worldcon bid (yes, we lost our minds again) committee member Jeff Orth was sent there by his place of employment to open a new laboratory. San German is on the southwest corner of Puerto Rico and is only expecting '8 inches of rain' today, and the weather is moving away from them. Not sure I want to live where the Weather Channel online gives a "daily mosquito report," though.

Pray for everyone down there though, I don't think we're even close to the end of the hurricane season yet.

#19 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 09:13 PM:

CNN is reporting Ivan's first 2 US fatalities.

#20 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 10:02 PM:

Some of you know my son Chris Li... he lives in New Orleans, and because of his job will not be evacuating. So if any of you would like to cross your fingers for him tonight, or anything... I've been reading up at the Times-Picayune site about what happens if a storm surge flows over the Pontchartrain levee, and it's, um, worrying.

#21 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 10:54 PM:

Hey, y'all. I've been obsessing all day because my mom lives in a trailer in Gonzales, LA (where I once lived in a life long ago). The effect of my obsessing is that in addition to keeping up with all the Ivan maps, I've also read a lot of the Times-Pic's 5-part series on what would happen if South Louisiana were hit directly by a major hurricane.

Here's the article titled "The Big One". I found this article physically difficult to read. New Orleans (and the entire region surrounding it) wouldn't be merely "decimated" -- it would be devastated. The article talks about it being months before the city would have the water pumped out.

Ninety percent of the structures in the city are likely to be destroyed by the combination of water and wind accompanying a Category 5 storm, said Robert Eichorn, former director of the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness. The LSU Hurricane Center surveyed numerous large public buildings in Jefferson Parish in hopes of identifying those that might withstand such catastrophic winds. They found none.

My memories of the city are college road trips taken down from Baton Rouge, so we could see art house movies and go to decent used book stores and eat and eat and eat. We were broke college students, of course, so my food memories of New Orleans are po'boys and muffalettas and frozen daiquiris, not Commander's Palace and Brennan's. I hope I get to eat at those $$$ places someday.

Looks like the city's safe one more time; and then along comes Jeanne.

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Clearly God is angry at America for not allowing gay marriage. Notice that the storms aren’t coming anywhere near Massachusetts.

#23 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 01:56 AM:

Avram: I've said it before. "Other states get tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.; we got a day of heavy rain. Woo."

Cambridge City Hall: still standing four months later. No lightning strikes, nothing. Either He isn't mad at us, or His aim sucks.

#24 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 03:34 AM:

As of this writing, the Doppler radar at The Weather Channel site is showing the center of the hurricane approaching the Mobile area. Most of the hurricane is quite east of Louisiana, and the eye -- which is breaking up; not as tight a circle as it was before the storm reached shore -- looks like it's hitting mostly on the Alabama side of the Alabama-Florida border.

New Orleans is on the western fringe of the storm in the radar pictures; all the yellow and red stuff is in the area around Mobile and Pensacola, and the green barely goes farther west than Biloxi. Extreme southeastern Louisiana is getting some weather, but mostly the part that's south of the Mississippi panhandle. N.O itself actually seems to be in the clear.

An article posted at 1:35 Eastern Time at says:

At 12:30 am central time, Hurricane Ivan still has 135 mph sustained winds and its eyewall is nearing the Palmetto Beach, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach area of coastal Alabama; just east of Mobile Bay and just west of Pensacola. Landfall is imminent. From southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, Ivan has been lashing the area with torrential, wind-swept rain and destructive winds. Wind gusts above hurricane force have been felt in Pensacola, Florida (83 mph) and Dauphin Island, Alabama (102 mph). Destin and Valparaiso, Florida along with Mobile, Alabama have gusted between 60 and 70 mph. Ivan has spawned tornadoes in southwestern Georgia and near Panama City, Florida. It is here in Panama City, that two deaths associated with a tornado that tore into a restaurant have been confirmed. Waves as high as 50 feet were measured 75 miles south of Dauphin Island. It needs to be mentioned that the worst conditions have yet to be realized as the eyewall is still offshore.

Sorry about the lack of paragraphs. It's all one paragraph in the original, so I didn't feel right about adding any breaks.

#25 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 04:54 AM:

Huge page with tropical weather information. Has a number of satellite and radar images, both of Ivan and Jeanne, as well as predicted tracks for Ivan (man, do they veer off in different directions), and much, much more.

#26 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 07:19 AM:

I remember reading that Times-Picayune piece when it was first published. It's absolutely terrifying. Some pull quotes:

"Filling the bowl" is the worst potential scenario for a natural disaster in the United States, emergency officials say. The Red Cross' projected death toll dwarfs estimates of 14,000 dead from a major earthquake along the New Madrid, Mo., fault, and 4,500 dead from a similar catastrophic earthquake hitting San Francisco, the next two deadliest disasters on the agency's list.

The projected death and destruction eclipse almost any other natural disaster that people paid to think about catastrophes can dream up. And the risks are significant, especially over the long term. In a given year, for example, the corps says the risk of the lakefront levees being topped is less than 1 in 300. But over the life of a 30-year mortgage, statistically that risk approaches 9 percent.
As the floodwaters invade and submerge neighborhoods, the wind will be blowing at speeds of at least 155 mph, accompanied by shorter gusts of as much as 200 mph, meteorologists say, enough to overturn cars, uproot trees and toss people around like dollhouse toys.

The wind will blow out windows and explode many homes, even those built to the existing 110-mph building-code standards. People seeking refuge from the floodwaters in high-rise buildings won't be very safe, recent research indicates, because wind speed in a hurricane gets greater with height. If the winds are 155 mph at ground level, scientists say, they may be 50 mph stronger 100 feet above street level.

Buildings also will have to withstand pummeling by debris picked up by water surging from the lakefront toward downtown, with larger pieces acting like battering rams.
Amid this maelstrom, the estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter in New Orleans for people too sick or infirm to leave the city. Others will end up in last-minute emergency refuges that will offer minimal safety. But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground.

Thousands will drown while trapped in homes or cars by rising water. Others will be washed away or crushed by debris. Survivors will end up trapped on roofs, in buildings or on high ground surrounded by water, with no means of escape and little food or fresh water, perhaps for several days.
Stranded survivors will have a dangerous wait even after the storm passes. Emergency officials worry that energized electrical wires could pose a threat of electrocution and that the floodwater could become contaminated with sewage and with toxic chemicals from industrial plants and backyard sheds. Gasoline, diesel fuel and oil leaking from underground storage tanks at service stations may also become a problem, corps officials say.

A variety of creatures -- rats, mice and nutria, poisonous snakes and alligators, fire ants, mosquitoes and abandoned cats and dogs -- will be searching for the same dry accommodations that people are using.

Contaminated food or water used for bathing, drinking and cooking could cause illnesses including salmonella, botulism, typhoid and hepatitis. Outbreaks of mosquito-borne dengue fever and encephalitis are likely, said Dr. James Diaz, director of the department of public health and preventive medicine at LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans.

#27 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 07:39 AM:

The book to read on the intersection of Louisiana politics and way too much water is Rising Tide by John M. Barry. It tells of the time the Mississippi flooded areas 70 to 80 miles from its banks, why that got both Huey Long and Herbert Hoover elected, and why we know New Orleans now for parties and tourism when its business community once dwarfed both Atlanta and Houston.

Oddly enough, a catastrophic Mississippi flood is not likely to physically damage N.O. as much as a hurricane. (It would take the out Old River control structure and send Mighty Muddy down the Atchafalay, as discussed above.) It would just render the port obsolete.

Too bad for Mobile. I remember how many venerable trees there were before Frederic. Now there will be even fewer.

(Oh yeah, saw a pic on showing staff taking refuge on the USS Alabama. How nifty is that? 135mph winds are peanuts to a battleship...)

#28 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 08:26 AM:

I want to second Doug's recommendation of Rising Tide. In particular, I'd like to mention the conflict between old LeRoy Percy and his son Will over post-flood evacuation, and the section about the cold-blooded destruction of St. Bernard and Plaquemines. Read those sections, and you'll get some insight into why New Orleans' evacuation plans are the way they are.

#29 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 08:56 AM:

Claude, the best thing I can say about Clive Cussler is that he spends money finding interesting shipwrecks so's the rest of us can know more about 'em--he helped fund the search for the Hunley. I can only handle the books if I tell myself they were written tongue in cheek--and who knows if they were or not.

As for Rising Tide--after I read it, I loaned it to a friend, whose only observation was something along the lines of "Too bad the sins of the fathers are not visited upon the children". I knew before I read it that the Lords of the Delta were vicious, greedy bastards whose version of Christian morality was a delight to the Devil, but the manner and detail in which the wrong-doing is spelled out in this book leaves a permanent impression.

#30 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 09:19 AM:

What hit me hardest in that book wasn't the strength of evil, but the weakness of good.

I ended the book utterly disgusted with "poet and war hero" Will Percy, much more than with his father LeRoy. LeRoy was who he was, for better or (mostly) worse--Will never became who he should have been.

Wilfred Owen he weren't.

#31 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 09:54 AM:

The weather up here has been gorgeous for weeks--and New England's weather is notorious for "if you don't like it, wait a minute" changeability. Heavy rains? The area averages something like 40" a year, I think, which means is does get rain, and sometiemes heavy rain (and sometimes heavy snow. Peabody got inundated with water at least twice this year -- that 36" snowstorm, and an extremely heavy spring rainstorm that flooded the place--but not to the degree that hurricanes flood coastal cities).

I'm disappointed that no extremely bad weather has hidied itself to a certain location in Texas which is the primary residence for voting purposes of a certain "dry drunk" who spends long summer vacation in Texas rather than being interesting in governance and threats to the well-being of US citizens....

I wonder if it's all possible that that perhaps-substituted-Relgion-for-booze-former-alcohol-abuser ever met Osama bin Laden back when bin Laden was the recipient of US government support....

#32 ::: Cat D ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Dad, who lives in Lafayette, LA, which is four hours west of New Orleans, is fine and is staying through the storm. (We had a house on high land, and never had to evacuate once, while other people in the city would row down their streets in boats every couple of years.) He said yesterday that the highway leading out of New Orleans was down to a bumper-to-bumper 2 mph crawl. My Aunt Angela and Uncle Gilbert, who live in New Orleans proper, evacuated to go to D.C., where my cousin John and his wife live. Hopefully, the damage will not be too bad, and they will have a house to come back to.

#33 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 11:59 AM:

Paula: Please don't wish that. There are lots of us around here who dislike him as much as you do. It isn't our fault he decided to move his carpetbag to our neighborhood.

#34 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 12:04 PM:

By "a certain location in Texas which is the primary residence" I meant a -very- restricted region/location for damage to occur in, and not those in the region who find him unpalatable.

#35 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 12:24 PM:

Clearly God is angry at America for not allowing gay marriage. Notice that the storms aren’t coming anywhere near Massachusetts.


That made my morning. Thank you.

#36 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 12:47 PM:

Paula, I think what you want is a tornado. They are rather selective, unlike hurricanes. They even look a little like a Giant Thumb...

#37 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 12:54 PM:

Okay, Andy's got it--a tornado at that one particular ranch would be great!

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 01:05 PM:

I've long had a theory that the growth of hellfire fundamentalism in the Midwest has been fed by tornados, which really do have a superficial resemblence to the Avenging Hand of God. They can take out the 2nd, 5th, and 7th houses on a block, crush them to the point that nothing is left that won't fit through a 10-inch ring, and leave the others completely untouched with the table still set for lunch.

When I moved to the East Coast, and Hurricane Gloria was coming through, I was terrified. Somehow I thought it would be like a tornado, but everywhere at once. It turned out to be nothing much in these parts (it hit at low tide), but not before I'd filled every vessel I owned with water, stocked up on basics, and not only taped my windows, I taped them with Norse runes of protection.

Laugh if you want. I certainly do.

#39 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 01:08 PM:

On the other hand, the goddess--as represented by an 86-year-old former Texas Air National Guard secretary--seems to have zapped W. What she said to Dan Rather about W in the Guard is damning; Rather sounded stunned. (This is OT.)

#40 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 01:26 PM:

...I taped them with Norse runes of protection.

On the one hand, I laugh. On the other, that just rocks. Go, Xopher. :)


#41 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 01:59 PM:

Xopher - can those runes of protection be used in a more personal context, perhaps as a tattoo? Is there a good reference you could recommend?

#42 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 02:38 PM:

Try Eldred Thorrson's book on runes. It's pretty much the modern classic.

The nice thing about runes is that if there isn't one that means exactly what you want, you can stick a few runes together to create a composite bindrune as it's called that spells out what you need it to. Bindrunes also can look incredibly cool as tattoos.

#43 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 02:39 PM:

New Orleans native (though now L.A. resident) chiming in here:

Skwid: don't you be talking smack about my city. Of course Bourbon Street smells; that's how you know where the debauchery is. And, as others pointed out, it's much better in the winter. I always tell people if you're going to go, go for Halloween or New Year's.

Fidelio: My mother has an amazing story about hurricane Camille (which is, I believe, the second most powerful hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. on record) that I've made her tell at least 20 times. The short version is, in 1969 my grandfather had a standing policy at the family's summer house (right on the Gulf shore) that there was no TV and no radio allowed - it was family time only.

So the only reason that all 14 or so of them there heard about Camille and got out before the only exit road flooded is because it happened to fall on a Sunday, and they heard about it on the car radio on the way to church.

(When they came back, after, the house was gone. And I don't mean gone as in "wrecked" or "demolished", I mean GONE, as in nothing left but a driveway and a foundation block. Talk about your "yikes" moments...)

And you're right, the evacuation situation is ridiculous. My parents and sister left New Orleans the day before yesterday because of Ivan, and it took them 11 hours to go 60 miles.

Anyway, we've always thought that New Orleans has been far too lucky for far too long on the hurricane front, no pun intended. One of these days it's going to happen. It makes me very sad to think about it. Which is why everyone should visit and enjoy my city while they still can.

#44 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 02:41 PM:

Note: It’s midnight-thirty, and I’m not seeing any recent reports from New Orleans. Anyone out there know what’s happening?
This seems to indicate that Ivan is well north and east of NO as of this morning.

I'll see what I can find about Jeanne.


#45 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 02:46 PM:

Okay. Right now it looks as if Jeanne is going to hit Florida dead on again. However, it's really early days yet.


#46 ::: Castiron ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 02:51 PM:

Xopher -- what Catie said. (We were much more boring when we taped windows in anticipation of Hugo back in 1998; we just taped "GO RICE".)

#47 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 03:14 PM:

I've done Christmas in New Orleans--my sister lived there in the mid-to-late seventies. It's wonderful then, unless your vision of Christmas requires snow--I was in college in Iowa then, and had been well-served in that respect already. The stink was minimal, unless you were on Bourbon Street itself, and the Garden District and residential parts of the French Quarter were full of roses and camellias. New Orleans in August, though--there's a reason everyone who could left town in the summer, back before there was air conditioning.

Leigh, I can well believe all that was left of the house after Camille was the foundation. I recall visitng a great-aunt in Biloxi in the early seventies--our tour of the area included a great deal of "Now, there used to be ____________ over there, before the storm," with a wave at one vacant lot or another. The narrow escape doesn't surprise me, either--we forget, now that we have radar and satellite reports, and twenty-four hour news and weather channels to pass on the word, how hit or miss predictions and warnings were not so long ago. Of course, nowadays ignoring the radio and television wouldn't matter--your grandfather would never have sold everyone on turning their cell phones off and leaving them off for the entire vacation!

#48 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 03:26 PM:

Jeanne's heading for Florida. Maybe God is trying to give someone a message about the upcoming election?

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 03:38 PM:

Catie, Castiron, thanks.

Larry -- what Kevin said. I think that may be the book I used. I'll look it up when I get home.

Everybody - don't wish bad weather on those whom you would destroy. As a purely practical matter, those things have a very strong tendency to rebound.

#50 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 04:46 PM:

Speaking of fundamentalism and Republicans (and yes, people up there were), I had interesting experiences in a couple of restaurants the last week.

TGIF has redecorated. Their demographic has aged, so things are sleeker, more functional, etc., but the decoration is strongly Republican. Big pictures of lonely houses on old roads, cowboy hats, and posters with slogans like "No guts, no glory!" There's stars just about everywhere they could be, and the colors are a subdued red, white, and blue. I mentioned this to the manager when he brought me my check and he said it was just because TGIF is from Texas. I happen to know that Texas has urban areas and liberal people, so I didn't believe him.

Then yesterday, I was at the new Chick-fil-a restaurant (drawn by a free fruit cup when I buy sandwich & drink), and they were playing contemporary religious music on the speakers. The fruit cup was very good, I may go through the drive-through to get one in the future.

#51 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 04:54 PM:

Aww...c'mon, Leigh. You think somebody with a last name like Langlinais could talk smack about N'awlins? can't be smack if it's the simple truth, and even you can't deny the odor of which I wrote. Of course, I was there in June...if we return, we shall endeavour for it to be at a cooler time.

#52 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 05:44 PM:

Leigh - Actually, despite the boiling 95-plus temperature and relative humidity, I had a blast in New Orleans and want to go back. And, as a kid from Brooklyn who had to ride the L train almost every day, I already knew a thing or two about fragrant environments. I hope New Orleans there for a long time to come. I think N.O. and Las Vegas may become the last two places in the US where you can smoke a cigar in a bar, and I prefer NO to LV.

KAM and Xopher - the only Thorsson book my library system has is Runelore. Is this the right one? And if this momentary craze doesn't pass, would someone be willing to check my interpretation before I commit an error to flesh? Then I can get a designer friend of mine to work on the layout...

And all - I've gotta agree, please don't wish bad weather on the solid south, even in jest. I've got some family down there, and they've got enough on their plate without another hurricane blowing through town, with its handmaiden tornadoes. (And, they're mostly Kerry voters in a relatively pro-Bush part of Florida, so think good thoughts their way.)

#53 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 06:18 PM:

An NBC crew hung out with the owner of this house in Pensacola Beach last night.

I want one.

I wouldn't have minded experiencing Ivan in the USS Alabama, either.

#54 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 06:52 PM:

JeanOG: I want one.

By that, I assume you mean the dome house, and not the NBC news crew... ;-)

#55 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 06:52 PM:


Just sent you an email referring you to Diana Paxson for sounder rune advice than I can give you:

#56 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 07:00 PM:

Marilee - that's nothing new. Chick-fil-A is a Christian-owned company. They're closed on Sundays for that very reason.

I'm told they have good breakfast sandwiches. I'll let you know if I ever test that.

Paula - I lived in New England most of my life. New England has NOTHING on the mountains of Western North Carolina in the "Don't like the weather? Wait a moment" department.

The Asheville area is just getting slammed by the first bits of Ivan. We still don't know if he'll dump bucketloads of rain on us and continue on his merry way or stall and dump the rest of his Atlantic accumulations on us. Either way, it doesn't look good. The optimists are saying the French Broad will only overflow its banks by 3 feet.

This after Frances' remnants dumped 6 - 15 inches of rain on us and put Biltmore Village and 2 whole counties underwater.

Fascinating stuff, though, from the top-of-the-hill perspective. Lots and lots of pictures on our local news web site ( But don't expect any decent download speeds. Those of us with internet capability will be scouring the site until the rain stops.

#57 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 07:46 PM:

As of a couple of hours ago, Jeanne now appears to be headed towards the Bahamas and the east coast around the Georgia/South Carolina border. The outer rainbands may brush Florida, but it appears that will be it.

Why, yes. I am at home with a cold, bored and having nothing to do. Well, there is this book I'm reading, but it periodically annoys me enough I have to put it down for a while. The substitution of mendicants for medicaments was bad enough, but salacious instead of sagacious was REALLY unfortunate.


#58 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 08:03 PM:

Skwid: Aww...c'mon, Leigh. You think somebody with a last name like Langlinais could talk smack about N'awlins?

Why, yes, yes I do. can't be smack if it's the simple truth, and even you can't deny the odor of which I wrote.

Nor did I deny it. I could tell you some stories about trash in the Quarter that'd make you gag on your Tex-Mex.

The difference is, I maintain that's all part of The Experience. What kind of self-respecting Den of Sin would smell good, I ask?

Larry Brennan: I hope New Orleans there for a long time to come. I think N.O. and Las Vegas may become the last two places in the US where you can smoke a cigar in a bar, and I prefer NO to LV.

Well, yeah. The cheap and tawdry bits in New Orleans are only one part of what it has to offer. There's a whole lot more to it than the Quarter, after all.

Contrariwise, I have yet to identify anything in Vegas that isn't either cheap, tawdry, or both.

(Not that I'm knocking Vegas. Vegas is great fun. I won $260 last time I was there (go me!). It's just... not New Orleans.)

#59 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2004, 08:51 PM:

Yes, Larry, I meant a house that would allow me to enjoy the experience of being in the middle of a hurricane.

I have quite enough junk of my own. I don't need an extra few people (and all their electronics) cluttering up my house even more. ;)

#60 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 12:04 AM:

Alice: "Marilee - that's nothing new. Chick-fil-A is a Christian-owned company. They're closed on Sundays for that very reason."

Ah, I didn't know that. I've seen them in food courts before, but never eaten there, and they probably don't get to pick the music in the food courts. I suppose I could get out of the car and get a fruit cup from Giant.

#61 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 12:57 AM:

> I wouldn't have minded experiencing Ivan
> in the USS Alabama, either.

And now I'm being earwormed by a chorus of "Roll Alabama roll...."

#62 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 07:49 AM:

My father has a story from the Camille floods, when he was a young reporter for the Post. One woman lost one of her children; when the floods started to rise, she took her kids and ran up a hill. And the water never rose very high there, a foot or two, but one of her kids drowned anyway because the rain was so hard it *beat her down* and she couldn't keep the child's head above water.

#63 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 07:52 AM:

fidelio mentioned: Of course, nowadays ignoring the radio and television wouldn't matter--your grandfather would never have sold everyone on turning their cell phones off and leaving them off for the entire vacation!

*small voice* Well, actually, there are those of us who live simple lifestyles by choice, and who might take a cell phone on vacation for emergencies, but otherwise not use one. I don't consider them a necessary (or even particularly desirable) part of life, and certainly wouldn't consider using one during family time.

#64 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 09:07 AM:

"Well, actually, there are those of us who live simple lifestyles by choice, and who might take a cell phone on vacation for emergencies, but otherwise not use one. I don't consider them a necessary (or even particularly desirable) part of life, and certainly wouldn't consider using one during family time."

Tracina, I understand where you're coming from--I have a cell phone that spends 97% [or more] of the time turned off. It's there for when I really need to use it--like calling AAA late at night when I have car trouble, or calling family long-distance from work in urgent situations. However, it's amazing how many people not only can't practice but can't even grasp this sort of restraint. Whether or not they have anything important to say is beside the point.

#65 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 10:50 AM:

Alice: "Marilee - that's nothing new. Chick-fil-A is a Christian-owned company. They're closed on Sundays for that very reason."

Ah, I didn't know that. I've seen them in food courts before, but never eaten there, and they probably don't get to pick the music in the food courts. I suppose I could get out of the car and get a fruit cup from Giant.


I wouldn't knock Chic-Fil-A just because they're a Christian owned company. My understanding (from an ex-employee who loved working there) is that they actually operate by their principles: closed on Sundays, treat employees decently. As far as I'm concerned, any fast food place that treats their employees well deserves my business.

#66 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 11:50 AM:

I open Time magazine this week, and what do I find?

By contrast, the period between 1970 and 1994 averaged less than two
major hurricanes per year, which raises the central question of this
hurricane season: Why is the Atlantic producing so many big storms
these days? The reason, believes Goldenberg, lies in a broad
10F-to-1.50F rise in sea-surface temperatures that occurred in the
mid-1990s. That slight but significant increase is thought to be due
to a cyclical shift in ocean-circulation patterns. When the Atlantic
last warmed, between 1926 and 1970, a parade of monster storms menaced
the Caribbean and the coastal U.S. Then, between 1970 and 1994,
sea-surface temperatures dropped, and, save for Andrew in 1992, a long
and pleasant hiatus in hurricane activity ensued.

#67 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 11:55 AM:

Mitch Wagner:

"New Orleans vs. Las Vegas: Which does sin better? Discuss."

I don't know either city well; just go there for conventions and arrive early or stay late to enjoy.

My impression is that Las Vegas has monetized sin -- everything has a price; we explicitly want your money, and are willing to make you feel good to get it.

My impression is that New Orleans has ideologized sin; we are all having a good time, and you offend our religious sensibilities if you don't also sin and enjoy. Funeral? Good excuse for a parade and a party. Hurricane? Good excuse for a party. Alligators? They make tasty sausages, although you have to grind in some pork to make them moist enough. Wolrdcon in disarray, with people in the Green Room not being told that their panels have been rescheduled? Who cares, the con hotel is in the French quarter. Good excuse for a party.

To oversimplify, Las Vegas is Republican sin; New Orleans is Democrat sin.

Now, is there divine justice in God damaging states where Sodomy is illegal?

#68 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 01:33 PM:

Aligator is pretty good in sausage (although there are plenty of better options), but it's much better deep fried. Mmmm...I think I'm gonna have to make a Razoo's or Atchafalaya's trip, soon...

Actually, that was the thing about NO that was rather was expensive. I can understand paying a premium for Louisiana specialties, but just run of the mill food was way more expensive than I'm used to. Hooters was by far the most affordable sit-down sort of place we ate at.

#69 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 01:59 PM:

My wife and I had exactly the opposite experience. Everything we ate in New Orleans (guided by Roadfood and whim) was fantastic and cheap.

I think we walked about twelve miles that day, though, so our appetites were fairly healthy. And living in San Francisco has probably given me a warped idea of restaurant prices.

#70 ::: Nevenah ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 02:04 PM:

Well, I evacuated, even though Ivan turned out to have been an insignificant event for New Orleans. I went through something like this for Georges when I first moved down here. I didn't know any better and ended up staying, with tape on my windows but no water, no flashlight, no radio, no candles... My power was out for three days and I ended up sitting out on the porch a lot or walking around in the empty streets. This time I packed up the cats and drove to Baton Rouge.

One of the advantages to being a cab driver, I think, is that you are conditioned to look for alternate routes. As a result, it only took us three hours to get here while the other evacuees were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for over 11 hours. The only stretch of road we were on that was a major route turned out to be backed up primarily due to the traffic lights still being on regular cycles. This delayed traffic an unbelievable amount. By the next day some genius had figured out that if you want to keep a million people moving smoothly, you should make the lights flashing yellow and station troopers to direct traffic at big intersections.

As far as emergency shelters are concerned, the Superdome is always opened during these things as an emergency shelter, but it is woefully inadequate on supplies and amenities. During Georges they did have buses picking people up to take them to shelters. I could go on and on about how badly prepared the city is for things like this, but I'll spare your eyes.

Oh, and I have been informed by a reliable source that the worst of the Bourbon St stench is caused by rotting Coca-cola syrup.

#71 ::: LCWriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 02:12 PM:

My husband and I live on the Gulf Coast of Florida, less than three miles from the beach. We, of course, know there is another hurricane brewing.

Now, you can add Karl to Jeanne. However, the NHC forecasts seem to indicate that Karl will likely become what is locally known as a "fish storm," meaning that it will spin out to sea and eventually die over cool water instead of breaking up after a landfall. (I know we're all hoping for that. We could use a couple of weeks off.)

I've had so many calls from friends and relatives from out of state and country, that I updated my fledgling web site with a rundown of tropical cyclones, including a Florida scorecard. I intend to keep it updated as the season progresses.

Though our area wasn't severely damaged by any of the storms (Frances passed over us as a tropical storm), I can tell you that Floridians in general are storm-weary, frightened and warily eyeing the tropics on a daily basis. My home and many of my neighbors' homes have been boarded up for weeks. My office has also been boarded up since Frances. I haven't gone fishing in two months. We've been evacuated once (Charley) and hunkered down with friends twice (Bonnie and Frances). Ivan's storm surge brought the water in the canal across the street from our home within six inches of the top of the seawall. And Ivan was more than 300 miles out.

It does appear that every hurricane wants to make landfall in Florida. (Four of the five storms that made landfall this season caused damage in Florida.)

A friend in the Pacific Northwest asked me what Florida did to deserve all of this. I replied, "Didn't you follow the 2000 elections?"

If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane. -Jimmy Buffet

#72 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 02:13 PM:

Vomit? Coke? Breaking News on Stench Science:

Research uncovers new facts about odor detection in insects; findings could lead to more effective repellents

[17 Sep 2004]

PASADENA, Calif.--If you think it doesn't do much good to swipe the fly that's going after the potato salad, guess again. You may be discouraging the fly's colleagues from taking up the raid.

New evidence shows that a stressed fly emits an odor that makes other flies avoid the space in which the stressful event occurred. Reporting in an advance on-line publication of the September 15 issue of the journal Nature, California Institute of Technology professors David Anderson and Seymour Benzer, along with Professor Richard Axel of Columbia University, discuss their findings about how flies may communicate information about their internal state to one another.

According to the authors, the act of shaking or shocking flies causes a repellent odor to be emitted that contains carbon dioxide as one of its active components. The research involved the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which has been used for decades in genetics experiments. However, the mechanism could be more widespread.

"We showed that CO2 is itself a potent repellent for Drosophila," says Anderson, a professor of biology at Caltech and also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

The researchers also succeeded in mapping the initial neural circuitry that leads to CO2 avoidance. The team, led by Caltech postdoctoral scholar Greg Suh, found that CO2 activates a single class of sensory neurons in the fruit flies, and that these neurons seem to be dedicated to the sole task of responding to this odor. By inhibiting the synapses of these neurons using fancy genetic trickery, the researchers were able to block the ability of flies to avoid CO2, in behavioral experiments.

"These results show that there is probably a genetically determined, or 'hard-wired' circuit mediating CO2 avoidance behavior in the fly," Anderson says.

But even though the research is primarily aimed at furthering the understanding of the neural circuitry underlying innate behaviors, there might also be practical results. For one, the fact that mosquitoes are attracted to their warm-blooded hosts by CO2 exhalations has been known for years.

Although fruit flies are repelled by CO2, while mosquitoes are attracted to it, "given the evolutionary conservation of olfactory mechanisms in insects, if we learn about the molecular details involved in CO2 sensing in fruit flies, it could potentially lead to repellents that act by interfering with the reception of CO2," Anderson adds.

Such a repellent could be of benefit in third-world countries where mosquitoes are vectors of diseases like malaria--or even in the United States, where the mosquito-borne West Nile virus has been a serious health concern this year.

Contact: Robert Tindol (626) 395-3631

#73 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 02:24 PM:

Oh, and I have been informed by a reliable source that the worst of the Bourbon St stench is caused by rotting Coca-cola syrup.

Somehow, I suspect that this Coca-Cola syrup had been processed before being allowed to rot. Wouldn't Coca-Cola concentrate be too hypertonic to rot on its own?

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 02:51 PM:

Larry, it would when first spilled, but then it would get watered down in the first good rain, and given the poor drainage situation in NO...well, do the math. Caffeinated and sugared-up alligators cannot be far behind.

#75 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 02:56 PM:

Caffeinated and sugared-up alligators cannot be far behind.

Thus improving the alligator-based dishes.

As Emeril would say, "BAM!"

#76 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 03:20 PM:

Leigh: Contrariwise, I have yet to identify anything in Vegas that isn't either cheap, tawdry, or both.

The Cirque du Soleil show at Treasure Island. (I would like to have seen "O", but weekend tickets were impossible to get in 2000 if you weren't staying at the Bellagio(sp?).) And I'd also suggest the Chihuly ceiling of the B's lobby, but some people find Chihuly overdone. The Titanic artifacts weren't bad either, but they may have moved on.

Randolph: that's an interesting quote. Did they say anything about whether storm paths were affected? That "calm period" had two hurricanes hit New England and a couple that went right past
before making landfall; one of the misses was being compared (before it veered off) to the last major hit, which IIRC was before the period. Similarly, I lived in DC 1953-1972 and don't remember any hurricane threats. (Agnes brought heavy rain but not high winds.)

#77 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Caffeinated alligator clearly demands some caffeinated hot sauce!

And, of course, after the meal, you could drink some coffee made with caffeinated water!

#78 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 03:35 PM:

I'm thinking about caffeinated water.
I'm thinking about the rise of ADHD.
I'm thinking about the fluoride conspiracy theorists.

What if it's not fluoride?

#79 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 03:56 PM:

What if it's not fluoride?

Andy, of course it's not the fluoride. It's the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in everything.

Join the HFCS conspiracy theorists! You have nothing to lose but your cavities & love-handles!

#80 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 04:19 PM:

CHip: Okay, I have yet to identify anything I can afford in Vegas that isn't either cheap, tawdry, or both.

(Been wanting to see Cirque du Soleil in Vegas for YEARS, but my in-debt self just cannot justify $120-$150 for one show, no matter how fabulous. Plus I wouldn't be able to get anyone to pay up to go with me, anyway. Being twentysomething just sucks, sometimes.)

Skwid: Dude, you went to New Orleans and ate at HOOTERS? You should be ear-flicked for such blasphemy. Next time you go, talk to me first - some of the best food in New Orleans is also the cheapest. You just gotta know where to go.

Also, Alligator sausage is pretty decent, prepared right; we used it in gumbo at the Wild Fling Cookout my parents and friend used to have every year (we tried to convince everyone that it was actually armadillo and/or nutria sausage, but no one believed us). I always preferred the Bambi Butt Chili, myself.

#81 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 05:24 PM:

I've tried Water Joe, the caffeinated water Skwid links to. My opinion? Expensive and bitter, with little effect. Of course, I've been ... desensitised to caffeine what with an average tea consumption of a tad under a (US) gallon a day, and formerly a roughly similar Coca Cola habit...

#82 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 06:43 PM:

Michelle, I wouldn't mind patronizing Christian businesses as long as they didn't tell me they're Christian. As soon as there's a fish, or Christian music, they're clearly indicating that they want Christians to buy things.

(About 15 minutes ago, a tornado touched down about a mile south, at our airport. Fortunately, all the planes were in the hangers.)

#83 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 07:36 PM:

Leigh - I visited a friend in Baton Rouge one fall weekend a few years ago. She took me to the LSU/Auburn game and requisite pregame/postgame tailgating party. The local gang thought they would have some fun with "The Yankee" (I'm a New Hampshire native).

"Like the jambalaya?" they asked.

"Yes - it's very good. Thank you."

"What about the sausage?"

"It's excellent - what is it? Venison?"

All the faces around the table just fell. I almost felt sorry I had been such a spoilsport. The jambalaya was excellent, though.

#84 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2004, 10:20 PM:

Looking at Roadfood reveals that we ate at the Bon Ton Café. Delicious, and not at all expensive. And of course there's the Central Grocery muffaletta.

#85 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2004, 04:17 AM:

"And I'd also suggest the Chihuly ceiling of the B's lobby, but some people find Chihuly overdone."

When I want to see Chihuly's work, I only have to go to my local library (Foothills Branch, Glendale, AZ), which has a large Chihuly sculpture, Sun and Moon, hanging from its lobby ceiling.

I must admit, though, that sometimes I look up at that sculpture hamging high overhead, with its hundreds of long twisting pieces of glass, and think, "Who DUSTS that thing?"

#86 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2004, 10:36 PM:

I came across Water Joe in the Minicon green room one year.

Naturally, what immediately occurred to me was to brew a pot of coffee with it. A lively green room ensued.

Jill, what was it they thought a New Hampshirite would be phased by? Eating game? Can we say Unclear On The Concept?

#87 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2004, 10:46 PM:

A note from sunny Puerto Rico, which (thanks to Jeanne) hasn't been very sunny for four days now -- Jeanne herself didn't do much here, besides a lot of rain; a farmer friend of ours lost about half his stock to flooding (it still feels weird to call a guy a farmer who grows palm trees and other ornamentals instead of wholesome corn and beans, but still.)

The worst damage was due to the power company. 11 AM on Wednesday, about five hours before the storm hit, they turned off the power, just in case. To the entire island. At 11:30 AM, they warned people... There are investigations threatened and vitriole on all sides; it's been very entertaining. The two days of life without traffic lights in what's got to be the home of the worst drivers I've ever seen -- that was entertaining, too.

But it was a nice enforce two-day vacation and extended nap for me... Yay Caribbean!

#88 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2004, 12:34 PM:

Even dry-as-dust Arizona can get some hurricane fall-out. Javier, now a tropical storm somewhere around the Gulf of Mexico, interacted with a low from up north to give us flash flood warnings and a spate of thunderstorms after our usual "monsoon season". Here in Prescott, we just got a kind of wet Saturday night/Sunday morning, but the clouds are still around, the sky is starting to rumble again, and the winds are quickening. Not exactly Ivan-style chaos, but who knows? Things could get stranger out here in the coming years.

#89 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 01:25 AM:


On a visit to Scottsdale, my wife wondered aloud why there was a chunk of undeveloped land right between the road and the housing development. I pointed out the level of said land, and explained flash floods.

The Cleveland area, where she grew up, doesn't get flash floods.

In the other direction, LA area visitors at Noreascon tended to have nervous reactions to all the brick buildings in the Back Bay.

#90 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 02:54 AM:

The Cleveland area... doesn't get flash floods.

Well, not often, anyway. Just ask the good folks of Western NC about that. I spoke with a friend's mom, who lives out in Leicester (just west of Asheville) who's been without water since the storm, and her brother, who lives further out was pretty much cut off when a flash flood wiped out the only road out of his area.

In the other direction, LA area visitors at Noreascon tended to have nervous reactions to all the brick buildings in the Back Bay.

Heck, I've lived on the Ring of Fire for only five years, and every time I go back east, I marvel at the slender supports holding up the expressways. On the other hand, when I'm driving up a steep street in SF, especially on Potrero Hill, I still get that mix of dread and wonder as to what happens when it snows. Usually takes me about 15 seconds to realize that it just doesn't happen.

#91 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 03:29 AM:

Larry, I moved from Boston to California 11 years ago, and I still have that reaction to steep, windy roads here. "Must be a bitch when it snows," I think to myself.

Coldest it ever gets here in San Diego is down to the 40s in the deepest, darkest parts of the deepest, darkest nights in winter.

#92 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 03:58 AM:

In the winter of '01-02 (I think) it did snow up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was a little bit of ice and maybe 2-3 inches of accumulation. They had to close Highway 17 (the main road from Santa Cruz to San Jose) and all of the secondary roads, not so much because they were impassible - the folks here just had no idea what to do, and relied too much on their ABS. After all, if you have ABS, you can't skid, can you? No matter how fast you're going in your SUV. Heh.

BTW - the snow on the hills was really beautiful. It made Cupertino look like Seattle.

#93 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 06:42 AM:

Patrick, I thought it was funny, too - I guess I came across as more urban (NH? I know) and that I would be appalled to find I was consuming Bambi. They were definitely and clearly disappointed to find out I wasn't squicked by it.

Now that I think of it, I can't recall if they even knew I was originally from NH - they may have just known I was Steph's friend "from DC."

#94 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 02:46 PM:

Ah yes, the Snow Reaction Effect.

Helen's first exposure to Bott's Dots on I-5 in Washington state:

"What happens to those when they plow?"

"You don't have to plow rain."

Of course, when it does snow, the whole area shuts down and people discover that four wheel drive just lets you get moving fast enough to be in trouble. ("I canna change the laws of physics, Cap'n!")

I once saw a car that had spun out and into the trees at Ft. Lewis after a horrible 1-2" of snow "blizzard". It had done either an almost-180 or a just-over-180 (I didn't see the spin, so I don't know if it went clockwise or counterclockwise) and wound up facing almost directly back along the original direction of travel.

#95 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 04:13 PM:

Wyomingans (who have a STATE LAW against selling burgers at less than medium-well -- so much for the independent spirit of the west) have tried to shock me with Moose. Moose! I mean, c'mon! It's an ungulate! What is this, weird-food amateur hour?

Sure, we in The City sometimes have strange ideas about people in the outer void (I'm still mildly embarrassed by my first reaction upon seeing Atlanta), but do they think we're going to be shocked by protein sources that don't go "Moo" or "Cluck"? Do they think we'll react to mildly spiced chili with some kind of overwrought slapstick routine?

#96 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 06:05 PM:

I'll add to the list of regional incompetencies; DC got something almost every year in my memory (1953-1971) and sometimes got serious storms (>2' and cold enough to drift instead of matting in 2/66), but it was a standing joke that the Russians would attack when DC was paralyzed by half an inch of snow. Of course, it didn't help that this was before all-weather tires; people would put on their snows whenever they got around to it, so a few early flakes (which were usually wet and so more dangerous) could cause a lot of trouble.

I was served moose chili at a chili fest in Corpus Christi a few years ago; my only question was where they got the moose from. (I'd just been to Alaska...).

#97 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 06:23 PM:

I was in DC for one of those 3-inch "blizzards". Much to my surprise (and consternation) the first thing they did was shut the Metro.

I understand that in recent years they've managed to figure out that this is a very bad idea.

#98 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 06:44 PM:

Larry -- if they neglected to spend money on tech with the free hand used on decoration, shutting down in a snowstorm could be understandable; IIRC the Metro has some significant grades (and you can be sure the trains don't have sand dispensers) and the third rail could ice over if it weren't heated. Just guessing -- I rode the first segment just after opening but haven't kept up with developments.

#99 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 06:44 PM:

On the other hand, my first winter in Boston, there was about a gazillion feet of snow in one blizzard. I mean, it was whiteout conditions for, like, three friggin consecutive days.

I worked from home, then as now, and had a refrigerator full of food, so I just stayed in and watched the snow pile up.

Saturday was the fourth day, and by then the snow was piled midway up the window of my fourth floor apartment.

But, when I finally ventured out of my apartment on the fourth day, I found the Bostonians were going on about their business unperturbed, as though they'd just experienced a misty summer drizzle.

#100 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2004, 07:42 PM:

CHip and Larry - the Metro shut down for at least one day this year (during a snowstorm where we got 24" of snow in 24 hours, so not your normal snowstorm - it took 2 days for the plows to even get to our tertiary road). Jonetta Rose Barras, local gadfly and commentator on the Kojo Nnamdi show, is still ticked off over that one.

#101 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2004, 10:46 PM:

Jill -- it occurs to me such a shutdown has another reason (or at least rationale): IIRC there is \no/ underground storage for trains, so they'd either have to push through several miles of surface track or have been left in the tunnels (with the corresponding problems of getting drivers to and from the trains).

Boston has had weather shutdowns, but they have reason to be better prepared against the problems and (given the tiny streets) to get moving again as soon as possible. DC may just not have spent the money the way Boston did, ]thinking[ it wasn't necessary

#102 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:29 AM:

"One implication of the results is that if the frequency of tropical cyclones remains the same over the coming century, a greenhouse gas–induced warming may lead to a gradually increasing risk in the occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms."--Journal of Climate paper.

Overview in NY Times.

#103 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:41 AM:

Correction. paper.

#105 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 10:22 AM:

CHip - sorry, didn't see your response when it went up. I think you're probably right about that - I wasn't at all surprised that there were issues with Metro for that storm. I've lived in NH, Maine, Upstate NY, and Minnesota and I was impressed by the amount of snow dumped on the District in such a short period. It wasn't just a lot of snow for DC, it was a lot of snow for ANY region. That's why I find Jonetta's frothing at the mouth so tiresome - IMO, she had unreasonable expectations of the system functioning under such extreme conditions.

Then again, she makes her living frothing at the mouth, so I guess she's just earning her paycheck.

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