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Disaster Looming

Unless Hurricane Katrina wobbles late in the game - and not to
wish bad luck on anyone, but we hope it does - New Orleans, as we have known and
loved it, is probably doomed. Check out what the weather service said Sunday
night:

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...

AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK. 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.THE VAST
MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN
STANDING...

BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEWCROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS
WILL BEKILLED.AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEARHURRICANE
FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE..

.ARECERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE
WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTUREOUTSIDE!LAZ038-040-050-056>070-282100-ASSUMPTION-LIVINGSTON-LOWER
JEFFERSON-LOWER LAFOURCHE-LOWER PLAQUEMINES-LOWER ST. BERNARD-LOWER TERREBONNE-ORLEANS-ST.
CHARLES-ST. JAMES-ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST-ST. TAMMANY-TANGIPAHOA-UPPER JEFFERSON-UPPER
LAFOURCHE-UPPER PLAQUEMINES-UPPER ST. BERNARD-UPPER TERREBONNE-1011 AM CDT SUN AUG
28 2005

Most of you probably know by now, if you didn't already, that New
Orleans is essentially in a bowl, and that once the power goes out, it can't be
drained easily. And you may have heard of the serious dangers of chemical
contamination, bloated corpses both human and animal, cholera, botulism, and
more.

A writer in the Washington Post actually suggests that New Orleans may die by
the end of the day. Ken Ringle:

"...the storm's eye and strongest winds will have to thread a fairly precise path that carries its deadly northeast quadrant just east of the city. The real vulnerability of the city is not just that it's 10 to 15 feet below sea level, laced with more drainage canals than Venice, and must pump for its life around the clock in even the driest weather. Nor is the city's biggest problem the flown-in TV reporter's favorite specter of a hurricane storm surge up the Mississippi River that overtops the city's famous levees. That could theoretically happen, but it's less
likely.

The real nightmare has always been the prospect of a Wagnerian hurricane like Katrina coming ashore so that its strongest winds push the Gulf of Mexico into the eastern-facing entrance to Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city's northern edge. The lake is both unusually shallow -- rarely more than 20 feet deep -- and unusually large -- more than half the size of the state of Rhode Island. A 20-foot storm surge arriving in concert with both high tide and 20-inch rains could overwhelm the city's more vulnerable lakeside levees and then flow downhill all the way to the French Quarter. Many of the city's massive drainage pumps are located closer to the lake. Were they to be flooded out, the city would not only be helplessly inundated while the hurricane is overhead -- it would remain so for weeks if not months."

Whatever happens, it's going to be bad, but obviously a direct hit on New
Orleans is the worst possibility. Aside from the obvious tragedies of lost
lives and destroyed homes and businesses, New Orleans has contributed
immeasurably to American culture and to the world in general. The role
Jazz played in the downfall of communism is often overlooked but was
critical. And of course, Fats Domino, Little Richard and company gave
birth to the greatest flavors of rock and roll. And literature too has
oozed from the city for a long, long time.

We'll know soon what has happened - perhaps by the time you read this - but
whatever it is, let's hope the city survives, and that the birthplace of so much
vitality and genius can continue.