Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina and the waves

The prescient date on this article is September 11, 2001.

New Orleans Is Sinking: "Think of the city as a chin jutting out, waiting for a one-two punch from Mother Nature. The first blow comes from the sky. Hurricanes plying the Gulf of Mexico push massive domes of water (storm surges) ahead of their swirling winds. After the surges hit, the second blow strikes from below. The same swampy delta ground that necessitates above-ground burials leaves water from the storm surge with no place to go but up.

The fact that New Orleans has not already sunk is a matter of luck. If slightly different paths had been followed by Hurricanes Camille, which struck in August 1969, Andrew in August 1992 or George in September 1998, today we might need scuba gear to tour the French Quarter.

'In New Orleans, you never get above sea level, so you're always going to be isolated during a strong hurricane,' says Kay Wilkins of the southeast Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross.

During a strong hurricane, the city could be inundated with water blocking all streets in and out for days, leaving people stranded without electricity and access to clean drinking water. Many also could die because the city has few buildings that could withstand the sustained 96- to 100-mph winds and 6- to 8-ft. storm surges of a Category 2 hurricane. Moving to higher elevations would be just as dangerous as staying on low ground. Had Camille, a Category 5 storm, made landfall at New Orleans, instead of losing her punch before arriving, her winds would have blown twice as hard and her storm surge would have been three times as high.


If the buildings can't stand 96-100 mph I sure hope the Superdome can withstand 175 (just in case).

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