What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans?
September 2, 2005 12:43 PM   Subscribe

What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans? Author’s Note: This column was originally intended to be the final disaster in the “Disasters Waiting to Happen” series. As I was developing the hypothetical situation depicting a devastating hurricane striking New Orleans, Louisiana, the disaster waiting to happen threatened to become a reality: Hurricane Ivan, a category 4 hurricane (with 140 mph winds) fluctuating to a category 5 (up to 155 mph winds), was slowly moving directly toward New Orleans. Forecasters were predicting a one-in-four chance that Ivan would remain on this direct path and would be an “extreme storm” at landfall. In reality, the storm veered to the north and made landfall east of Mobile Bay, Alabama, causing devastation and destruction well into the central Gulf shoreline and throughout the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic states.
posted by Postroad (7 comments total)

Los Angeles Times: "This disaster was all but scripted; why wasn't the response?"
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:45 PM on September 2, 2005

"Residents who did not have personal transportation were unable to evacuate even if they wanted to. Approximately 120,000 residents (51,000 housing units x 2.4 persons/unit) do not have cars. A proposal made after the evacuation for Hurricane Georges to use public transit buses to assist in their evacuation out of the city was not implemented for Ivan. If Ivan had struck New Orleans directly it is estimated that 40-60,000 residents of the area would have perished."

So much for all those people who "ignored" the evacuation order.
posted by OmieWise at 12:48 PM on September 2, 2005

If Ivan had struck New Orleans directly it is estimated that 40-60,000 residents of the area would have perished."

Is it not, then, at least a partial indicator of some success that these totals are not close to being approached now? (AFAIK)
posted by loquax at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2005

The hurricane scenario for New Orleans that these converging risks portend is almost unimaginable. Hurricane Ivan had the potential to make the unthinkable a reality. Next time New Orleans may not be so fortunate.

Wow. But at least we learned something from Ivan, like using public transit to take people to the superdome.
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2005

I have had this thought often in the last days. What if Katrina had come ashore eighty or so miles to the west...

I think the point to keep in mind is that if Katrina had come ashore further to the west New Orleans would have been exposed to much more devastating winds and storm surge, unbelievable as that seems. The destruction could have been exponentially worse and it could still happen.
posted by flummox at 2:01 PM on September 2, 2005

I believe you guys have a precedent for this. The Japanese Naval Academy ran annual exercises concerning a sneak-attack on Pearl Harbour for most of the 1930s, and even set questions about it in the year-end exams.

Those who do not remember history &tc.
posted by Hogshead at 2:58 PM on September 2, 2005

Hogshead: Any competent military makes plans to attack its adversaries and potential adversaries. Somewhere in the Pentagon there's a dusty cabinet with a war plan to invade Canada. To the extent that story is true, it's somewhat exaggerated; the Japanese traditionally expected a battleship-attrition naval war and most of their plans revolved around that. It was, in fact, the unexpected relocation of the US fleet at Pearl by FDR that sharpened their desperation and led Yamamoto to an audacious, untried air attack, largely following the lead of the RAF at Taranto in 1940, which was an improvement over the battleship-centered operation at Mers-al-Kebir when the RN destroyed the French fleet. It is instructive that the Japanese carefully noted what our British allies (or soon to be allies) were doing.
posted by dhartung at 5:02 PM on September 2, 2005

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