Monday, October 29, 2007

New Orleans & Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Katrina was the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1, 2005. That's seven more than typically have formed by now in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
New Orleans' worst previous hurricane disaster happened 40 years ago, when Hurricane Betsy blasted the Gulf Coast. In that storm, flood waters approached 20 feet in some areas, fishing villages were flattened, and the storm surge left almost half of New Orleans under water and 60,000 residents homeless. Hurricane Betsy killed 74 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
The human toll from Katrina remains unclear. By one estimate there were 150,000 or more people, largely poor people with limited resources, still in New Orleans when the levees failed. A few days after the storm passed, on 01 September 2005 New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin estimated deaths in his city to number "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands". The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire caused somewhere between 500 to 6,000 deaths, while a hurricane in 1900 at Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. In 2002 John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross predicted that between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die when New Orleans was hit by a large hurricane such as Katrina. on 06 September 2005 Lt. David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, said the death toll could reach 2,000 to 20,000. By 08 September 2005 emergency officials in Louisiana had 25,000 body bags at hand in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
US economic forecasters say total losses from Hurricane Katrina's devastation could top $100 billion. In terms of insurance losses alone, industry forecasters say they estimated payouts to be around $25 billion. Insurance adjusters said they will have a clearer picture of the damage when they are able to enter New Orleans and other Gulf of Mexico coastal cities.
The Times-Picayune reported Sunday 06 September 2005 that Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said that FEMA Director Brown and DHS Secretary Chertoff were in on electronic briefings given by his staff in advance of Hurricane Katrina and were advised of the storm's catastrophic growth. Mayfield said the strength of the storm and its devastating potential was stressed during both the briefings and in formal advisories, including warnings that Katrina's storm surge could overtop New Orleans' levees. "We were briefing them way before landfall," Mayfield told the newspaper. "It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."

Satellite Imagery of New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina Photos

Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, Louisiana was catastrophic and long-lasting. As the center of Katrina passed east of New Orleans on August 29, 2005, winds were in the Category 2 range, and tidal surge was equivalent to about a Category 3 hurricane. Though the most severe portion of Katrina missed the city, the storm surge caused more than 50 breaches in drainage canal levees and also in navigational canal levees and precipitated the worst engineering disaster in US history. [1]
By August 31, 2005, eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded, with some parts under 15 feet of water. Most of the city's levees designed and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers were breached, including the 17th Street Canal levee, the Industrial Canal levee, and the London Avenue Canal floodwall. These breaches are responsible for at least two-thirds of the flooding according to a June 2007 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers. [2]
Ninety percent of the residents of southeast Louisiana were evacuated in the most successful evacuation of a major urban area in the nation's history. Despite this, many remained (mainly the elderly and poor). The Louisiana Superdome was used as a designated "refuge of last resort" for those who remained in the city. The city flooded due primarily to the failure of the federally built levee system. Many who remained in their homes had to swim for their lives, wade through deep water, or remain trapped in their attics or on their rooftops.
The disaster had major implications for a large segment of the population, economy and politics of the entire United States. It has prompted a Congressional review of the Army Corps of Engineers and the near total failure of the federally built flood protection system which experts agree should have protected the city's inhabitants from Katrina's surge. Katrina has also stimulated significant research in the academic community into urban planning, real estate finance, and economic issues in the wake of a natural disaster.[3]

Deadly Katrina - Tracking the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Two years after Katrina, New Orleans continues to struggle with a number of challenges
Summertime - and after Katrina, life still ain't easy,,2157830,00.html
Two Infusions of Vision to Bolster New Orleans
"It ain't easy in the Big Easy"
Colorful village rises for New Orleans musicians
NPR: Dear New Orleans: I'm Leaving You [Real Player]
Louisiana Digital Library: State Museum Jazz Collection [Real Player]
The past two years have been particularly trying for the city of New Orleans, and emotions around town have included jubilation, sadness, frustration, and at times, a steely-eyed determination. While the Army Corps of Engineers has been working on repairing levees, other contingents have been working on repairing the musical fabric of the city. This has been quite a challenge, as many local musicians left the city shortly before Katrina touched down in the area, and some are more than a bit reluctant to return. One of the city's most storied legends is still around, and "Fats" Domino has been adamant about his desire to remain. Domino's love of the Crescent City is well known, and he frequently talks about his favorite restaurants and other haunts. At a recent performance at the jazz club Tipitina's, Domino said, "I think we will be all right." Everyone, particularly his fellow musicians, does not share Domino's buoyant optimism. It is estimated that of the 3000 musicians who made New Orleans their home before Katrina that only about 1800 have returned so far. Bringing together feelings that might be shared by everyone in the city, the local musician's union president Deacon John Moore recently opined, "It ain't easy to be in the Big Easy". [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to a news article from this Wednesday's Guardian which reports on some of the continuing challenges faced by residents of New Orleans. The second link whisks visitors away to an architectural review from the New York Times which provides images and commentary on two new proposed projects for New Orleans' downtown. Moving on, the third link leads to a piece from Salon that talks about the specific challenges faced by musicians in the Big Easy. The fourth link leads to a piece from CNN which talks about the construction of a new "musicians' village" in the city which was built through a partnership between Habitat for Humanity, several corporate partners, along with Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. The fifth link will take users to a heartfelt bit of commentary by NPR commentator Eve Troeh on why she recently decided to leave the city she cares about so much. Finally, the last link takes visitors to the very fine digital collection of photographs, audio recordings, and musical instruments from the collections of the Louisiana State Museum. [KMG]
Katrina Educates World on Need for Owning Guns
By Erich Pratt
September 24, 2005
“All our operators are busy right now. Please remain on the line and an operator will be with you shortly. Your call is important to us.”
Can you imagine any words more horrifying after dialing 9-1-1? Your life’s in danger, but there’s no one available to help you.
For several days, life was absolutely terrifying for many New Orleans residents who got stranded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. There were no operators … there were no phone calls being handled.
Heck, there was no 9-1-1. Even if the phone lines had been working, there were no police officers waiting to be dispatched.
Hundreds of New Orleans police officers had fled the city. Some took their badges and threw them out the windows of their cars as they sped away. Others participated in the looting of the city.
To be sure, there are many officers who have acted honorably. Many have given their best effort to apprehend dangerous thugs, even while grieving the loss of their own family members.
But thousands of residents were trapped inside a city, forced to fend for their own safety and well-being.
“It was pandemonium for a couple of nights,” said Charlie Hackett, a New Orleans resident. “We just felt that when they got done with the stores, they’d come to the homes.”
Hackett was right . . . which is why he and his neighbor, John Carolan, stood guard over their homes to ward off looters who, rummaging through the neighborhoods, were smashing windows and ransacking stores.
Armed looters did eventually come to Carolan’s house and demanded his generator. But Carolan showed them his gun and they left.
No wonder then that gun stores, which weren’t under water, were selling firearms at a record pace to people looking to defend themselves. “I’ve got people like you wouldn’t believe, lots of people, coming in and buying handguns,” said Briley Reed, the assistant manager of the E-Z Pawn store in Baton Rouge.
“I’ve even had soldiers coming in here buying guns,” Reed said.
Indeed, firearms were the hottest commodity in the days following the massive destruction. In Gulf Port, Mississippi, Ron Roland, 51, used his firearm to stop looters from rummaging through his storm-damaged property.
Roland and his son even performed a citizen’s arrest on one plunderer and then warned future thieves by posting the following message in his yard: “NO TRESPASSERS! ARMED HOMEOWNERS.”
Signs like this were common throughout the Gulf Coast region in the days following Katrina. And it should serve as a reminder to us that the police can’t always be there to protect us.
We should have learned this lesson more than a decade ago when the entire country saw horrifying images during the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
For several days, that city was in complete turmoil as stores were looted and burned. Motorists were dragged from their cars and beaten.
Further aggravating the situation, police were very slow in responding to the crisis. Many Guardsmen, after being mobilized to the affected areas, sat by and watched the violence because their rifles were low on ammunition.
But not everybody in Los Angeles suffered. In some of the hot spots, Korean merchants were able to successfully protect their stores with semi-automatic firearms.
In areas where armed citizens banded together for self-protection, their businesses were spared while others (which were left unprotected) burned to the ground.
Press reports described how life-long gun control supporters were even running to gun stores to buy an item they never thought they would need -- a gun. Tragically, they were surprised (and outraged!) to learn there was a 15-day waiting period upon firearms.
Fast forward more than a decade, it seems we still haven’t learned the lessons from previous tragedies. Rather than arming the poor, defenseless survivors that are stranded in New Orleans, Police Superintendent Edwin Compass III has actually ordered the very opposite -- the confiscation of legally-owned firearms!
These guns were the only thing that prevented good people from becoming victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But now, will the police superintendent provide 24-hour, round-the-clock protection for each of these disarmed families? Will he make himself personally liable for anyone who is injured or killed as a result of being prevented from defending himself or his family?
When your life is in danger, you don’t want to rely on a police force that is stretched way too thin. And the last thing you want to hear when you call 9-1-1 is, “All our operators are busy right now….”
That might just be the last thing you ever hear.
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