Second, the following very lightly condensed piece is from a weather service bulletin on what can be expected in the worst hit areas; hopefully the direct hit will miss New Orleans:
DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED
HURRICANE KATRINAA MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969. MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. ATLEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL.PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED.
CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE. HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATEADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...
POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS...
And... this does not even address what will happen in New Orleans if levees burst - and flood the city with up to twenty feet of water.
Lastly, if you read my previous post - all this might happen in a city where it took President Bush, the Governor of the state and, finally, direct federal intervention to get the Mayor to declare a mandatory evacution to get people out of the city; an evacuation order, I might add - that came far too late to be effective and which may cost hundreds if not thousands of people - their lives if Hurricane Katrina scores a direct hit on New Orleans.
UPDATE -- New York Times Coverage - IGNORES - the dispute over evacuation!
While the Miami Herald continues to cover the battle it took President Bush, the Governor of Louisiana and storm experts to - finally - force the Mayor of New Orleans to order mandatory evacuation - the New York Times takes a very... different... view:
The city's distinct terrain makes it particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, heavy rains and high winds of a hurricane. With more than a million people in its suburbs and center, the city is surrounded on three sides by water, and lies below sea level in a bowl-shaped basin. Pumps would fail if the storm surge of up to 25 feet overwhelmed the city's levees.
"That's why we are taking this unprecedented move," Mayor Ray Nagin said at a news conference that was broadcast live. "The storm surge most likely will topple our levee system."
Now, it was known long before Mayor Nagin took his "unprecedented move" that the levees of New Orleans will likely collapse - leaving the majority of the city uninhabitable - but the New York Times has chosen - at least at this time - not to report that the Mayor single-handedy - prevented this order from being declared until just hours before the storm hits.
More from USA TODAY -- in a JULY 2000 story, yet -- on why New Orleans needed a mandatory evacuation order as soon as it was clear that the levees were in serious danger - and long before this morning:
"A slow-moving Category 3 or any Category 4 or 5 hurricane passing within 20 or 30 miles of New Orleans would be devastating," Suhayda says.
The storm surge — water pushed into a mound by hurricane winds — would pour over the Pontchartrain levee and flood the city. A severe hurricane could push floodwaters inside the New Orleans bowl as high as 20-30 feet, covering most homes and the first three or four stories of buildings in the city, he says. "This brings a great risk of casualties."
In this type of scenario the metro area could be submerged for more than 10 weeks, says Walter S. Maestri, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson Parish, which encompasses more than half of the city. In those 10 weeks, residents would need drinking water, food and a dry place to live.
Besides the major problems flooding would bring, there is also concern about a potentially explosive and deadly problem. Suhayda says flooding of the whole city could easily mix industrial and household chemicals into a toxic and volatile mix. Coupled with an estimated 100,000 tons of sediment, a cleanup could take several months. In the worst case scenario, the mix of toxic chemicals could make some areas of the city uninhabitable. "It could take several years for the city to recover fully, economically, from a strong hurricane," says Suhayda.
To make residents aware of the dangers New Orleans faces, Maestri and his staff visit churches, professional organizations and social clubs almost every week of the year to discuss the risks. They distribute videos to schools, libraries and even to video stores for free distribution to the public. They also provide information to the commercial mass media to make the public aware.
Maestri says that the public knows and understands the threat they face if a major hurricane was to strike near New Orleans. For instance, when Hurricane Georges threatened the Gulf Coast in 1998, an estimated 60 percent of the New Orleans population evacuated the city, Maestri says. It was the largest evacuation in U.S. history at the time, according to the National Weather Service. Even then, not everyone could get out, and the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans was used as a shelter for the first time. Fortunately for the city, Hurricane Georges, a Category 2 hurricane with winds near 110 mph, landed to the east in Biloxi, Miss.Despite the difficulty in getting everyone out, Maestri says evacuation is the best policy for a city under sea level and not fully protected from storm surge and flooding. But he is concerned that he still might not have enough advance warning to evacuate all of New Orleans. Improvements in hurricane predictions during the last 30 years have made it possible for the National Hurricane Center to issue hurricane warnings 24 hours ahead of when a storm hits. But, Maestri says it takes nearly 72 hours to fully evacuate New Orleans.
Again, look at my previous post. We need to learn from what is about to happen to New Orleans. We need to be better prepared for our big one than New Orleans is for theirs.
Further update -- LA Times also ignores evacuation controversy, but Scott Gold does an excellent job in covering the chaos the lateness of the Mayor's mandatory order created, and how unprepared the city was to make it happen:
Tens of thousands of people had fled low-lying coastal areas in Louisiana and surrounding states earlier in the weekend, and many pockets of New Orleans were as they should be, officials said -- virtually deserted. But in other areas, the mayor's evacuation order prompted chaos.
Traffic was bumper-to-bumper and at a near standstill for 15 miles in any direction by noon. Fistfights broke out at convenience stores when managers tried to close; one convenience store clerk was forced to enlist a customer to lock and unlock the door to let the last customers out. Two dozen people were seen banging on the glass windows of a large hardware store, begging to come inside for plywood and other supplies.
In the heart of New Orleans, and eerie sense of dread had settled over the aged streets. New Orleans, while it is one of the more visited cities in the nation, is not a wealthy city, it was clear that thousands of people simply did not have the means to evacuate. One man sat forlornly on a street corner with a backpack and an umbrella. Another man walked down Canal Street carrying only a pillow.
Many tourists were also stranded; several people were seen weeping at Louis Armstrong International Airport, unable to get a flight out or a rental car.
Lastly -- coverage of this disaster shows how major newpapers can no longer cover these kind of events - even on-line.
While many reports can be found showing how the trafic jams of peole leaving the city are lessening - the New York Times still - quoting an old AP wire - states that the highways out of New Orleans are still gridlocked. And the LA Times has a photo caption saying that the roads are " jammed" heading out of New Orleans - and yet the AP photo it is attached to - shows light to moderate traffic going on that direction. This even though five minutes spent on-line, would have told both the New York and the LA Times the more accurate story.
There is one very important thing that photo does show, though.
It is not the highway or the physical infrastructure of New Orleans that can not handle the evacuation of the city - it is the political structure.