Drowning New Orleans
September 1, 2005 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Drowning New Orleans [2001]A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city By Mark Fischetti
posted by Postroad (91 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
i remember reading a national geographic article about this like fifteen years ago.

i'm really just looking for a good reason to blame the corp of engineers and republicans on this one... let's loot washinton.
posted by trinarian at 5:11 AM on September 1, 2005


A major earthquake could...
posted by jaronson at 5:19 AM on September 1, 2005


Thought for the day: If you look UP at a lake from where you live, you ought not to live there.

I feel bad for the people suffering through this, and they need help now. But when it comes time to rebiuild this region, we'd better think twice about giving mother nature the finger again.
posted by JWright at 5:20 AM on September 1, 2005


Amazing that this scenario was described in such detail 4 years ago...
posted by zarex at 5:39 AM on September 1, 2005


This reporter will be featured on a href="http://www.democracynow.org">Democracy Now!! today. Nobody reports or gets interviews like Amy Goodman
posted by wheelieman at 5:41 AM on September 1, 2005


Nice find Postroad.

If one is very, very generous, one might be able to excuse the Bush administration for the poor planning for post war Iraq.

But the poor planning for post hurricane New Orleans is inexcusable. It has never been a secret that the city was vulnerable. The chances of a major hurricane hitting new Orleasns were always small, but have never been zero. And now the city, state, and federal government appear completely surprised by the level of devastation and incapable of doing much about it.

Walmart certainly had plans to divert chainsaws and building supplies to the area and put those plans in effect as soon as Katrina started heading north. Why didn't the federal government?

It seems that unless there is a MAJOR effort to provide relief very soon, the death toll post hurricane might exceed the death toll from the hurricane.
posted by three blind mice at 5:42 AM on September 1, 2005


Great post about this tragedy. Yet another case of criminal neglect from America’s somnambulant leaders. Flood defence is far from sexy but saves lives and livelihoods. It should be beyond ideology – its like having a smoke alarm – non negotiable. Last time I visited Venice I noticed signs everywhere showing what the government was doing to protect from flood and subsidence. New Orleans deserved better, too. Amazing that in such a dynamic, developed society that basic public infrastructure Romans would have taken for granted is left to rot – maybe if people demanded enough from the state as they famously do of service sector businesses, more could be expected of politicians. When things are in a better state, the whole nation should make it very clear that preventable death and destruction on this scale will no longer be tolerated in the name of bean counting and low taxes and hold those that did not heed warnings such as this. However, as the NYT said: “Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.”
posted by The Salaryman at 5:49 AM on September 1, 2005


(Sorry, I meant - 'held to account'). Too shocked, saddened and angered to complete sentences, I guess...
posted by The Salaryman at 5:53 AM on September 1, 2005


I don't know that it's fair to hold of the office of the President responsible for this alone, certainly the senate and congress have a big role to play in allocating funds when it comes to things this expensive (article quotes $14billion).

Great post though, it's always nice to know that the weatherman gets something right from time to time, even if it did turn out to be something we would have preferred them to be wrong about.
posted by tiamat at 5:56 AM on September 1, 2005


in the words of The Tragically Hip (1989):
« New Orleans is sinking man and i don't wanna swim.. »
posted by zenzizi at 6:03 AM on September 1, 2005


Checkout this one as well. And note the creepy publish date.
posted by glenwood at 6:07 AM on September 1, 2005


when it comes to things this expensive (article quotes $14billion).

The thing that amazes me about America is that the cost of sorting this out is nothing compared to the military spending. What's more important to you folks - the citizens of your own country who need real help or the spreading of "freedom" and "democracy"?

I don't know what the bias of the British press is but I was watching the BBC news last night and the only interview was from someone at the Red Cross talking about aid relief. I expect that from third world countries, but the richest nation in the world?

And the looters - there was footage of some policeman pointing a rifle at people trying to get food and supplies. What the fuck are they expected to do if their governement is failing them? Stop protecting the interests of the businesses for a change.

Maybe I'm just niave but Americas priorities are way out of whack.
posted by twistedonion at 6:10 AM on September 1, 2005


The Red Cross is also raising money for the London Bombings. Does that reflect poorly on the UK? What a dumb comment.
posted by smackfu at 6:16 AM on September 1, 2005


Everyone has known about this danger for a long time. That this was not addressed and fixed prior to this tragedy is not a surprise, but neither is it the fault of GWB or this administration. The federal government certainly deserves a whole lot of condemnation for not doing enough to stop this kind of debacle, but I think that the people of New Orleans, and LA in general, also bear a lot of the responsiblity. I hear about mardi gras every year, this only comes up when there's a scare. I know that there wasn't enough state money to fix this, but at the very least, the governor of LA should have been spending all of thier time lobbying for federal help until this was fixed.
posted by OmieWise at 6:17 AM on September 1, 2005


See the real problem is that Mark Fischetti never did get around to massively reengineering southeastern Louisiana like he said he would...
posted by anthill at 6:27 AM on September 1, 2005


Spare us the talk of GWB's administration being without blame.
posted by raysmj at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2005


smackfu -- They may be raising money, but I doubt it is for "aid relief". They are two totally different events. twistedonion was talking about the weirdness of the Red Cross raising money for people in the USA who are now homeless, stranded, hungry and at risk of diseases such as dysentry. That's not what people outside of the USA associated with the American and its prosperity.

It's also weird that the rest of the country seems to be functioning as though nothing has happened. Not too similar, but I am reminded of riots in La Paz, Bolivia where old men quietly sit and play chess on the street while on a parallel street protesters riot and clash with the police.
posted by xpermanentx at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2005


Actually, there was money requested for work to be done on upgrading the levees (currently rated to withstand Cat 3) because of fears of exactly this sort of break-through, but last year the Bush admin cut the proposed money for this in the budget they sent to Congress. Not to mention that Bush admin decisions and Homeland Security consolidation have essentially dropped the "Emergency Preparedness" portion of FEMA's mandate. Or that all of the federal response we'll probably finally start seeing today which will help with search and rescue, the medical facilities, the troops to patrol to stop looting and help evacuate all could have been put into motion two or even three days earlier when, if you'll recall, everyone thought it was a Cat 5 hurricane that was going to strike NO dead-on and destroy the city utterly. If you ask me, it's as if a whole bunch of people that were responsible for this sort of thing, and that includes ultimately the President himself, just sort of thought that it would happen all by itself. Instead, we look around on Tuesday as suddenly a whole city is drowning and go, hmm, maybe we should call in military and federal help?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2005


The Red Cross is also raising money for the London Bombings. Does that reflect poorly on the UK? What a dumb comment.

Badly explained comment - what I meant was it was the only interview I saw. I would expect to see an interview with George or some high ranking official explaining what the Government is planning on doing. Hell, if something of this scale happened in the UK the Queen would probably be down, mucking in to help the survivors. Even if it's just a gesture it goes a long way in comforting those who have lost someone or are suffering themselves.
posted by twistedonion at 6:29 AM on September 1, 2005


Is there any good reason New Orleans shouldn't simply become like Venice, Italy, and give up on trying to pump all the water out?
posted by odinsdream at 6:36 AM on September 1, 2005


i remember reading a national geographic article about this like fifteen years ago.

There was one just last year.
posted by Pseudonumb at 6:39 AM on September 1, 2005


The Sinking City of Venice
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on September 1, 2005


This is what I mean by America and it's priorites.

In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Bush drew no line between those looting stores for survival supplies like food and water and those stealing television sets that are of no use with electricity out in New Orleans....

WTF? If my kids were hungry and aid wasn't getting to me quick enough I'd be "looting" (surviving). Probably from the very shop I'd been supporting with my hard earned cash over the years anyway.
posted by twistedonion at 7:03 AM on September 1, 2005


Every penny that is spent, every man that is occupied worrying about "looting" could have been better used saving human life.

The message is clear: in times of crisis the state has the right to appropriate private property and to kill private citizens who engage in identical behavior.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:05 AM on September 1, 2005


Speaking of sciency type mags and disaster predictions, I remember reading a very interesting article in New Scientist. The gist being, there is a large chunk of rock somewhere that is holding back a large wall of water. This chunk of rock is eroding. And when this chunk of rock springs its first leak then ALL HELL is gonna break loose not long after.

Stupid me didn't keep the article, and a Google search with such vague keywords just seems too daunting at this stage. I think it was somewhere in Central Asia.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:06 AM on September 1, 2005


Odinsdream,

New Orleans is now a bowl of toxic, disease-laden floodwater. Life there is untenable now and is likely to be for quite a while. I find your comment, if it wasn't sarcastic, quite uninformed.
posted by AJaffe at 7:08 AM on September 1, 2005


I'm a rare commenter, but has anyone heard or know anything about Coldchef?
posted by Seth_Messinger at 7:08 AM on September 1, 2005


Just thought I would relate some of a conversation I had, last night, with a dear friend that is with FEMA, for those of us that are relying on the web for relief information. Please forgive the huge post but there are those that might benifit from the info:

FEMA is already on the scene. They are the first responders, the emergency care givers. These workers have been coordinated by FEMA although they may not be directly with FEMA.

The reason, I am told, that temporary shelter has not yet arrived is two fold. 1) It just simply takes time and, 2) temp shelters can not be erected in water. There will be tent cities erected and they, in turn, will turn into trailer cities. God knows where they will put them. While for some water and shelter and food are immediat concerns, just know that shelter and food and money will shortly arrive.

My friend asked me to remind people that FEMA's mission is to assist in deplyment of services, provide aftermath mitigation services for rebuiling safely and ecomonomically and, mostly, to hand out money. FEMA will put out their card tables and dole out the checks, but there are other more important priorities right now, like centalizing relief workers and supply so that it can be dispatched - which i understand is beginning to happoning today. Everyone should remember that they will not send in people to begin this long time work if the area is not safe (that is, with armed persons taking target paractice).

My friend also wanted to say that the Red Cross is not a federal organization. It is a private non-profit whose services (some of them) are partially coordinated by FEMA. They, like any private organization, must difer authority to the Local and Fed in going into a devistated area.

Personally, I think we are not too far off base in complaining that efforts are slow. Too slow to arrive. It is beyond me why worst case senarios can not be prepared for especially in areas like this where we have known for decades that this was going to happon. I do not intend partisan smearing here, but it should be understood that the previous FEMA director appointee was not well liked and did an argualbly wanting job. The FEMA that is so well known for its work is trying to get back on its feet and doing the best it can.

Everyone needs to try to hold on just a little longer. The world knows you are in need and everything that can be done is being done, right now, for you.

For those of us that are north of the devistation, contact youre local Red Cross or FEMA office and find out what kinds of community efforts you can make right now for when those gathered efforts/supplies can be sent to the effected areas.

posted by johnj at 7:08 AM on September 1, 2005


Spare us the talk of GWB's administration being without blame.

Hear hear! If this had been a terrorist attack and the government was so demonstrably unprepared to deal with the prevention and aftermath the citizenry would have been frothing at the mouth with criticism for GWB.

If "when and not if" justifies a pre-emptive war and hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq why was it not sufficient reason to act proactive urgency here?
posted by three blind mice at 7:10 AM on September 1, 2005


uncanny hengeman - you may mean this rock in the Canary Islands.
posted by plep at 7:12 AM on September 1, 2005


Seth, he posted extensively in the looting thread from two days ago.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:14 AM on September 1, 2005


Pseudonumb, that was pretty freaky to read.
posted by evoo at 7:16 AM on September 1, 2005


New Orleans is now a bowl of toxic, disease-laden floodwater. Life there is untenable now and is likely to be for quite a while. I find your comment, if it wasn't sarcastic, quite uninformed.

Maybe I should be clearer - it was a stupid idea to build a city that required constant support to keep from flooding. If people insist on returning to this area instead of moving and starting new somewhere else, there ought to be serious consideration on doing something permanent to fix the real problem, not just find a way to pump water back out and hold it at bay for another decade until it all happens again. This is a terrible situation as it is, who would want to repeat it? Talk of getting things "back to normal" seem naive... the city is devastated. There needs to be a drastic change in thinking to solve the real problem.
posted by odinsdream at 7:18 AM on September 1, 2005


I did not want to appear to be smearing the current Admin. because this thread is about Live Coverage and posters have noted that it is a source or important information for them. While I agree that a critical discussion of relief efforts is of value, i am not sure this is the right place to discuss it. I am not concerned with GW. I am currently consumed with "what can we do."

I know people feel helpless but there is much that each us us can do. And letting the stranded know we are moving is far more important.
posted by johnj at 7:23 AM on September 1, 2005


Destroying FEMA:
Indeed, the advent of the Bush administration in January 2001 signaled the beginning of the end for FEMA. The newly appointed leadership of the agency showed little interest in its work or in the missions pursued by the departed Witt. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Soon FEMA was being absorbed into the "homeland security borg."

This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2005


The political reality is that problems don't get dealt with until AFTER their effects are seen on the nightly news (9/11, anyone?). I'm not saying this is smart, it's just the way it is.

I'm not able to locate the NY Times article I distinctly recall which detailed the effects of a hurricane hitting NYC, but suffice it to say it was chilling (lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, where I'm sitting right now, would be thoroughly inundated). This article from last June describes the effects of a hurricane that came through here in 1938.

Some days I just can't escape the feeling that, one way or another, we're sitting ducks...
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:31 AM on September 1, 2005


While I agree that a critical discussion of relief efforts is of value, i am not sure this is the right place to discuss it.

um, where is then? This thread is about previous warnings about an impending disaster. Therefore the discussion of the relief effort is very appropriate, seeing as how you would think that the Government would have taken on board the previous warnings and had a proper plan of action.
posted by twistedonion at 7:32 AM on September 1, 2005


I think the blame lies not only on individual leaders but on the inherent shortcomings of our political system.

Although the probability of a disaster like this approaches 100% on a long enough time frame, the chance of it happening while one specific set of leaders is in office is very low.

Thus, no one is willing or able to spend the political capital to undertake expensive projects like reinforcing the levees around New Orleans. If you are a politician, it's a better solution to do nothing and hope nothing happens on your watch.

Cutting funds for levee reinforcement was, in hindsight, a bad idea. But the buck does not stop with Bush. The Drowning of New Orleans stemmed from a broader failure of our political system at all levels - a lack of far-sighted leadership from the federal government on down to the state and local level.
posted by nyterrant at 7:35 AM on September 1, 2005


seth_messinger: ColdChef and his family are safe in Baton Rouge - he has given more specific updates over in 9622.net.
posted by yhbc at 7:35 AM on September 1, 2005


raysmj writes "Spare us the talk of GWB's administration being without blame."

I'm not sure if that was addressed to me, but I certainl did not suggest they were without blame. But when you blame them, perhaps you should also consider blaming all past administrations at least as far back as the 1927 flood, since the problems here have been known and unaddressed for a long time.
posted by OmieWise at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2005


obinsdream: Put a sock in it, please, if you have nothing more informed or insightful to say.

Meanwhile, James Lee Witt says FEMA had---while he was in charge of the agency during the Clinton admin.--a plan in place to deal with massive flooding in New Orleans that was quite detailed. Among the plans were to immediately post ships with pumps near the city after flooding and get the water out of the city. Lots of other complaints and revealing info about FEMA at work now and plans for NoLa in this article.
posted by raysmj at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2005


OmieWise: If you don't want to read any links, fine.
posted by raysmj at 7:42 AM on September 1, 2005


exactly true, nyterrant.
posted by taz at 7:44 AM on September 1, 2005


three blind mice writes "Hear hear! If this had been a terrorist attack and the government was so demonstrably unprepared to deal with the prevention and aftermath the citizenry would have been frothing at the mouth with criticism for GWB.

"If 'when and not if' justifies a pre-emptive war and hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq why was it not sufficient reason to act proactive urgency here?"


Man, I just have to address this also. I'm nobody's fan of GWB, but criticizing his admin for not doing something that no admin has done sounds more and more like sour grapes. Of course there are things he's done that contribute to some of the problems in New Orleans now, but he didn't create New Orleans' vulnerability, and every chief of state that has not addressed the problem of that vulnerability is as repsonsible as he is.
posted by OmieWise at 7:48 AM on September 1, 2005


Here's a scary thought: look at the carnage and devastation in the Gulf Region wrought by the hurricane. Imagine this on a greater scale say, in California from a major earthquake, or after a great terrorist attack.

If anything, I've sort of lost faith in the American trait to hold ones' head high, suck it up and deal and to manage a disaster on a local/individual level.

Now all I see in the news is looting, shooting and rampaging through New Orleans. Am I getting a false picture here, or is this what is really happening there?
posted by tgrundke at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2005


raysmj: I'm sure obinsdream can defend himself but what the fuck are you on about, seriously?

Are you saying he isn't allowed to question the validity of setting up New Orleans for yet another fall? I'd say he's just being realistic about the whole situation.
posted by twistedonion at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2005


Hear hear! If this had been a terrorist attack and the government was so demonstrably unprepared to deal with the prevention and aftermath the citizenry would have been frothing at the mouth with criticism for GWB.

Those damn hurricanes, they just hate our dryness!
posted by delmoi at 7:52 AM on September 1, 2005


Thanks plep!

That's not it but very interesting nonetheless. I've read about that one before. Something about comparing a landslide to a massive undersea quake doesn't sit right with me. That is, how bloody big a landslide would it have to be to match the energy released that caused the recent tsunami?

The article I remember was more about a devastating inland flood, and I've got a feeling it was in Eastern Europe / Asia.

I also remember reading a theory that a similar geological event might have caused the great flood mentioned in the Old Testament and other cultures.

(Crikey! I hope I'm not getting all my stories merged together!!!)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:54 AM on September 1, 2005


Wall Street Journal: "Three years ago, the New Orleans Times-Picayune won journalism awards for an exhaustive five-part series called 'Washing Away' which began with the words: 'It's only a matter of time before south Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day.' "
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on September 1, 2005


I'm satisfied by Odinsdream's response, and while I think rebuilding the city on the same spot is feasible, it seems misguided to think it can be done with what now appears to be primitive safeguards in place, i.e. earth levees.
posted by AJaffe at 7:56 AM on September 1, 2005


Look, I meant no offence, and I'm not claiming to be an expert on anything, or even slightly informed beyond what I read and learn about New Orleans from external sources. I don't live there, I never claimed I did. Still, you have to admit, the "Let's just put everything back the way it was" plan isn't exactly the greatest idea. This will happen again.
posted by odinsdream at 7:58 AM on September 1, 2005


raysmj writes "OmieWise: If you don't want to read any links, fine."

Give me a break. I'm defending no one, and I'm not suggesting that there aren't things GWB did that contributed to the current trouble, but blaming his admin is the same as blaming god, something that might make you feel better, but has no basis in fact, despite the lapses your link suggest. Would you be as adamant about federal culpability if the hurricane had hit in 1995?

When you get around to reading the FPP link, you might read this sentence, which is essentially what I said in my first comment:
"If Congress and President George W. Bush hear a unified call for action, authorizing it would seem prudent." It isn't that I don't think that GWB and the cats in congress bear any responsibility, but just that I think the issue is much more complex, has much more to do with local stupidities and desires, and is much less dependent on any one person. By all means, call out GWB, but in the process call out everyone who voted for a budget that slashed funding, everyone who didn't lobby loudly enough, everyone who was complacent about our ability to get things finished in time, everyone who lobbied for levies over wetlands, everyone who drives a car powered bu gulf shore gas, etc etc. Blaming Bush primarily seems just too partisan for serious consideration.
posted by OmieWise at 7:59 AM on September 1, 2005


Actually, there was money requested for work to be done on upgrading the levees (currently rated to withstand Cat 3) because of fears of exactly this sort of break-through, but last year the Bush admin cut the proposed money for this in the budget they sent to Congress.

Exactly ...
"In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.

It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said.

'I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction,' said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. 'I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to.'

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now....

The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget." [New Orleans City Business | June 6, 2005]

posted by ericb at 8:02 AM on September 1, 2005


OmniWise: Read the frickin' links, already, including the one I just posted and an earlier link regarding FEMA. Plenty of people are to blame for letting the wetlands go, engineering miscalculations over time, yes, but Bush has much more for which to be held accountable than recent presidents AND should be held totally, absolutely accountable for total chaos than New Orleans is in now.
posted by raysmj at 8:03 AM on September 1, 2005


twistedonion: It's the third or fourth largest port in the world, for starters. and virtually irreplaceable. And it's the home to hundreds of thousands, home to businesses. It's such a tossed-off comment posing as informed that I don't have time to respond.
posted by raysmj at 8:06 AM on September 1, 2005


obinsdream: Put a sock in it, please, if you have nothing more informed or insightful to say.

Maybe I'm missing something, but why is what odinsdream is saying so terrible? There was a report the other day about the Tsunami hit communities rebuilding inland and on higher ground. If it makes sense for them, why not the communities that have been destroyed by this hurricane in the US? Like odinsdream, I'm not trying to start a fight or insult, just understand, so if you don't agree with this, please refute with facts rather than insults. Cheers!
posted by chill at 8:07 AM on September 1, 2005


odinsdream: And read the link re FEMA and previous plans. The chaos that is the aftermath was, it appears, avoidable even in the worst-case scenario.
posted by raysmj at 8:08 AM on September 1, 2005


I just heard a excerpt of an interview with "our fearless leader" from this morning on NPR.
"... nobody expected those levees to break."

GASP
posted by threehundredandsixty at 8:09 AM on September 1, 2005


Odinsdream,

I understand your comments -- even if others do not. And I agree. As you say, what is needed is "something permanent to fix the real problem, not just find a way to pump water back out and hold it at bay for another decade until it all happens again." Venice has been supple like the reed bending with the wind. (The rigid oak break against the strong wind, as the saying goes.) That city has bent with the forces of nature, allowing the water to come in and fill its streets (canals) rather than relying solely on a "wall-building" tactic.

Yes, right now the bowl in New Orleans needs to be emptied, people need to be cared for, and order needs to be restored. But in the longer term, giving parts of the area back to the gulf/river/lake might not be such a bad idea. Mother Nature (Mother Water) is intent on taking parts of that area back. It would be a whole lot wiser if we would give her some room in advance instead of letting her pummel us to get what she wants in the future.
posted by Possum at 8:11 AM on September 1, 2005


Those damn hurricanes, they just hate our dryness!

The President's Response to Insurgent Katrina
Fox News and others are reporting that the President just got "his own bird's eye view" of Katrina's damage as Air Force One flew over the devestated region. Shortly after, Bush gave prepared remarks to the press pool:
We are making progress in New Orleans. The flood is in its last throes. Clearly, the hurricane has a hateful ideology and does not like our freedom or our dryness. We cannot surrender to it. In New Orleans, they are working on a draft evacuation; it is an evacuation process, and we must expect that if we are to bring American-style democracy to the Mississippi Delta.
The president added that "to pull out now would only give aid to the elements."
posted by ericb at 8:13 AM on September 1, 2005


chill: Where is the "higher ground" of which he speaks that would still make a good port for the Miss.? What to do with all that's left behind? Just let it all pollute the seas, spread disease, etc.? Would that be more costly that rebuilding? And what about the Miss.'s wanting to change course? What if you build a new city on higher ground, and Mother Nature gives your supposedly wise self the finger again? There's not a simple answer here.
posted by raysmj at 8:13 AM on September 1, 2005


Am I the only one cringing at the ad in the article for the History Channel's show on the coliseum that states "The World's First Superdome"?
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:21 AM on September 1, 2005


New Orleans has been rebuilt after previous devastations -- after the Flood and Fire of 1788 and the Dual Hurricanes and Fire of 1794.
posted by ericb at 8:25 AM on September 1, 2005


"[There is] abject misery, crying and sobbing [of the people]. [The faces of the families] told the ruin of a city which in less than five hours has been transformed into an arid and horrible wilderness." [Governor Esteban Miro, New Orleans, 1788]
posted by ericb at 8:28 AM on September 1, 2005


raysmj-I read the links. I still don't see it. I see where there were cuts, I see where Bush was partly responsible for those cuts, I see where FEMA was partially dismantled (which seems like the biggest thing to hold Bush accountable for), I need no links to know that Bush is a buffoon and an asshole. I just don't see him being mostly to blame for this natural disaster. Disagreeing with you does not constitute either failure to RTFA or failure to understand.
posted by OmieWise at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2005


After reading "Destroying FEMA" this becomes more relevant:

- If FEMA put a Category 5 hurricane in New Orleans on the same level as a terrorist attack in New York City or an earthquake in San Francisco, why did the White House and the Department of Homeland Security only show substantial interest in, and fund remedies for, the New York version of potential catastrophe?
posted by 31d1 at 8:37 AM on September 1, 2005


There really wasn't much to rebuild 210 years ago, though.
posted by wakko at 8:54 AM on September 1, 2005


I'm nobody's fan of GWB, but criticizing his admin for not doing something that no admin has done sounds more and more like sour grapes.

It's not partisan sour grapes odinsdream, but this guy has built his administration on the rhetoric of "defending" and "protecting" America.

I'm not blaming him or his administration for the fact that New Orleans lies under sea level, but I AM blaming his administration for not having a cogent plan of contingency to provide emergency relief in case of something like this.

Again, if his administration was so poorly prepared to deal with the aftermath of a terrorist attack no not amount of criticism would be unfounded.
posted by three blind mice at 8:58 AM on September 1, 2005


In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.
posted by three blind mice at 9:14 AM on September 1, 2005


http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,372455,00.html
posted by Postroad at 9:17 AM on September 1, 2005


It seems as if the evacuation plan basically left tens of thousands of poor people there to die. There was no contingency for folks without cars/funds. No plans to feed/water/shelter them after the hurricane. It was obvious from Wednesday/Thursday last week that something bad could potentially happen (and what has happened seems to be a lot 'better' than some of the worst-case Cat 5 direct hit scenarios that were being bandied around then). I can't believe that it is Thursday morning a week later and refugees have been 4+ days now without supplies, in stinking, industrially polluted, foetid water.

Bush sat on his ass until yesterday. He or Cheney should have been in DC by Saturday night in case the worst nightmare came true. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was babbling so inanely on one of the news channels this morning that they cut the feed from his speech in mid-sentence. I remember watching the tsunami coverage and thinking that the late arrival of relief supplies was probably due to poverty and poor local infrastructure. Commentators nodded knowingly and made asides about 'Third World countries.' But this is New Orleans. Don't they have emergency supplies? Don't they have planes/boast/amphibious vehicles to take basic food and water and meds around? It's been four days. Something is really really wrong here.
posted by carter at 9:17 AM on September 1, 2005


Here's a link to the police scanner for NOFD

http://www.firefeeds.com/feedroom/la-neworleans.html
posted by atomicmedia at 9:19 AM on September 1, 2005


There's not a simple answer here.
posted by raysmj at 8:13 AM PST on September 1


And how do you propose to get anything but a simple answer, when you won't listen to any suggested solutions? Sounds like you just want to sit around till some miracle makes NO like it once was, instead of seeing that people have to discuss in a democracy, before action occurs....
posted by nomisxid at 9:22 AM on September 1, 2005


I just heard a excerpt of an interview with "our fearless leader" from this morning on NPR.
'... nobody expected those levees to break.'
Had I had any inkling whatsoever that the people were Lord was going to fly airplanes hurricanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:35 AM on September 1, 2005


I love New Orleans. Or perhaps loved. Years pass between events that cause me too weep, but seeing the city I have such affection for so afflicted has brought me to it repeatedly. But even with that I still have wondered aloud, several times, if it makes sense to drain it and return to the prior status quo. I find it hard to believe anyone could have ever stood in the park in front of Loyola, look off towards the Miss and watch boats sail past at a level higher than their heads and NOT ponder whether it's pratical to keep New Orleans above water. So I guess you can either flame at me as you have odin'sDream or consider that there's many of us with affection for NO wondering what the most sensible course of action is.
posted by phearlez at 9:36 AM on September 1, 2005


what the most sensible course of action is.

1. emergency evacuation

2. emergency communications

3. emergency shelter

4. emergency water and food

5. emergency sanitation

6. emergency recovery of the floating bodies

Let 'em loot. For an administration that values life, the focus should be on saving lives and not property.
posted by three blind mice at 9:45 AM on September 1, 2005


Hey, but no worries that we cut money to the engineering corps in New Orleans, we got $200 million in funding for a super keen bridge which will service the 50 people living on a tiny island in Alaska! Awesome!

/incompentent morans
posted by crunchywelch at 9:52 AM on September 1, 2005


It occurs to me that they could do what they did in Seattle when they realized that everyones plumbing would backup with the tide everyday. They raised the streets, sometimes as much as much as 32 feet to avoid constant flooding. I imagine that something similar could be done here? I'm not really sure, never been to New Orleans, but certainly this is not the first time a city has sprung up in an unfortunate location and strange/drastic measures had to be taken to prevent disasters like this.
posted by crunchywelch at 10:02 AM on September 1, 2005


three blind mice, I didn't say what you thought I said, that was OmieWise.
posted by odinsdream at 10:06 AM on September 1, 2005


three blind mice, I didn't say what you thought I said, that was OmieWise.

My mistake odinsdream. Sorry. I stand corrected.
posted by three blind mice at 10:21 AM on September 1, 2005


Right on, sonofsamiam:

"The message is clear: in times of crisis the state has the right to appropriate private property and to kill private citizens who engage in identical behavior."

I read something earlier today about emergency responders "requisitioning" supplies from a Wal-Mart without permission. White people borrow, black people loot, ordinary citizens loot but government representatives "requisition." Oy. I can't believe some of the things I've been reading.

Carter's comments are also dead-on:

"It seems as if the evacuation plan basically left tens of thousands of poor people there to die. There was no contingency for folks without cars/funds."

and

"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was babbling so inanely on one of the news channels this morning that they cut the feed from his speech in mid-sentence."

Wow. How comforting! I find it disgusting that absolutely nothing was planned for those who wouldn't be able to get out of the storm's way under their own power -- from poor people, to those in hospitals to (let's not forget) all the animals.

What's Chertoff's damage, anyway? I missed the aforementioned babble-fest.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:34 AM on September 1, 2005


Indifferent reading: Flood victims are being moved from the Superdome to the Astrodome.

Sudden thought: Can we call the refugees "domeless"?
posted by fandango_matt at 10:35 AM on September 1, 2005


Part of me wonders if we have expectations set a little too high on how quickly supplies and rescue can be implemented over a wide area.

In the first 36 hours I also saw a lot of people who seemed to think that the aid should come to them on their doorsteps. In one interview I saw on Tuesday a woman was complaining that she had no water, that she had been told where she could go to get water but that it was too far to go without a car. It was about 6 miles. Yeah, that sucks, but start hoofing it instead of sitting around complaining that that Culligan water man hasn't been by to make a personal delivery.

I expect that there will be plenty of second guessing and recrimations in the aftermath of this. But since I don't really know what has been tried and why it has failed I'm not yet ready to assume everybody has been sitting around with their thumbs up their asses. Did FEMA get caught without a plan? Or did they get caught with a plan that didn't work the way they expected? Or a plan that didn't implement as quickly as designed. Was the breakdown at upper levels or lower levels.

To me, watching the situation on TV the most egregious failure seems to be in communication. I can accept that things are overwhelming and that those needing help must meet the helpers halfway. But there seems to be no significant effort to tell people how to do that. On FoxNews Shepherd Smith is obviously angry and distressed with this failure. He spent the last two days on the freeway near the Superdome and says that authorities have just stopped going there. That they can get there but don't and the thousands of refugees ont that stretch of freeway have not been told what to do or where to go.

Another person was just on begging them to get helicoptors with loudspeakers into the air assuring people they haven't been abandoned and telling them what they should do if they're able to move.

This lack of basic communication and organization around communication is, to me, the most obvious sign that things are being poorly run. But I'll wait awhile before deciding why that is, and who is to blame.
posted by obfusciatrist at 10:47 AM on September 1, 2005


According to CNN:
A police officer working in downtown New Orleans said police were siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles in an effort to keep their squad cars running, CNN's Chris Lawrence reported.

The officer said police are "on their own" for food and water, scrounging up what they can from anybody who is generous enough to give them some -- and that they have no communication whatsoever.
As far as I recall Chertoff was talking about how disaster response was basically a neighbourhood/community issue. He then started going on about how workers at some train station (Grand Central Station?) had formed an emergency response team amongst themselves. He was making very little sense, and you could see him starting to recognise this. Kind of like Wile E. Coyote running off of the edge of a cliff, skidding to a stop in thin air, feeling around with his toe, then plummeting down the canyon.
posted by carter at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2005


[O/T: can someone link me up with another stream? The WDSU webcast has been stacatto on vid and sound for the last few hours]
posted by peacay at 11:04 AM on September 1, 2005


Let 'em loot. For an administration that values life, the focus should be on saving lives and not property.

It seems that was the plan until people with guns started to interfere with the relief efforts. This forced the police and National Guard to redirect resources towards establishing control.
posted by forforf at 11:11 AM on September 1, 2005


There's not a simple answer here.

True, and the idea of simply restoring everything to pre-Katrina state falls into that category, no? It really looks in the short term like large areas of that low-rise residential at least oughta be somewhere else.

In the search for answers as to why the impact of this well predicted event has been so horrific maybe all need to look at themselves. Everyone from the pres and his high-level financial machinations on down to the guy on the ground who practiced zero preparedness.
posted by scheptech at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2005


Why do Hurricanes hate freedom so much?
posted by glenwood at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2005


To address the concerns raised by odinsdream and others, regarding the wisdom of rebuilding with the same mind set as we have been using. In fact there has been work done to think about and plan for ways to rehabilitate and rebuild the delta/NO area in a sustainable way. This morning Michael Tidwell, (author of "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast"), was on the Diane Rehm Show. Heres more (pdf)






posted by flummox at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2005


Let's get the GAO investigators on this right away! /sarcasm/
posted by grateful at 11:32 AM on September 1, 2005


From a 1999 report by The Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado:

Thirty Years After Hurricane Camille:
Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost


9. Better knowledge of hurricanes, by itself, is generally not sufficient for behavior change.

Just because society has “learned a lesson" does not mean that the lesson will be implemented. Indeed, many of the lessons to be gleaned from the experience with Hurricane Camille were also learned in the aftermath of Andrew. Lessons gleaned from experience with past disasters are central to proactive action. Without fail, in the aftermath of every hurricane's impact, general lessons for coping with hurricanes are drawn, but typically are soon forgotten, only to have to be relearned by another community (and sometimes in the same community) in the aftermath of the next hurricane.

posted by cenoxo at 2:33 PM on September 1, 2005


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