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Jim

Saw the flood coming

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Likely not news to you, but interesting.

 

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut the Corps of Engineers' request for holding back the waters of New Orleans' Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans levees, but it was too late. http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2005/08/31/disaster_preparation/index_np.html

 

I remember seeing some Army Corps reports of the possible post-hurricane events back in 1981. Nothing like preventive maintenance. Destroying the coastal wetlands that act as a buffer, and global warming (maybe) contributed to the +4 degree increase in Gulf that allowed a Category 1 to strengthen to a Category 5 in 72 hours. Global warming models have predicted such increases in storm strength. Sobering for low lying areas.

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In the wake of the flood, the economic consequences of malfeasance trickle down.

 

(Debate)

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Angelina Jolie's lips explode and Paris Hilton's cranium implodes at the same time.

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Seems like I've read some pretty credible weather studies that suggest the warming waters in the gulf are part of a long term cycle that is not really understood, but since it has been cycling for a long time, the current increase is likely not related to man made global warming.

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There is a long term cycle in the Atlantic (over a period of 30 years) where huricanes increase in number and then decrease. Also El Nino acts to reduce the number that hit the east coast.

 

However I've heard that a statistical study of huricanes has shown that the avarage wind speed of huricanes has increased over the last 50 years. That may be the link to global warming.

 

The loss of the bayou is an important factor too.

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Link

 

A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city. ...

 

A direct hit is inevitable. Large hurricanes come close every year. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy put parts of the city under eight feet of water. In 1992 monstrous Hurricane Andrew missed the city by only 100 miles. In 1998 Hurricane Georges veered east at the last moment but still caused billions of dollars of damage. At fault are natural processes that have been artificially accelerated by human tinkering--levying rivers, draining wetlands, dredging channels and cutting canals through marshes. Ironically, scientists and engineers say the only hope is more manipulation, although they don't necessarily agree on which proposed projects to pursue. Without intervention, experts at L.S.U. warn, the protective delta will be gone by 2090. The sunken city would sit directly on the sea--at best a troubled Venice, at worst a modern-day Atlantis.

 

 

Just maybe zoning and resistant architecture and contingency planning might limit disasters more than immense investments in windmills or solar panels.

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September 2, 2005

A Can't-Do Government

 

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.

 

the rest of editorial

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Yet anouther wise decision by

Pres.Bush. snaf.gifsnaf.gifsnaf.gifsnaf.gifsnaf.gif

He was probably to busy allocating resources to our terror alert level sytem hellno3d.gif(yelow, orange, green-have we even seen green?) Natural disaster? Na we need to get Oil- I mean terrorist....

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I remember seeing some Army Corps reports of the possible post-hurricane events back in 1981. Nothing like preventive maintenance. Destroying the coastal wetlands that act as a buffer, and global warming (maybe) contributed to the +4 degree increase in Gulf that allowed a Category 1 to strengthen to a Category 5 in 72 hours. Global warming models have predicted such increases in storm strength. Sobering for low lying areas.

 

Interesting about the global warming idea. But has anyone given much thought to the Gulf Hypoxia (The Dead Zone) Ag nitrate runoffs have definately had an affect on gulf temperatures. This gulf hypoxia is occuring in cycles as well, but for reasons not completly known. Have they linked hurricane severity to any of this?

Just thoughts cantfocus.gif

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This year is a bad one for tropical storms. There have already been twice as many named storms in the Atlantic as the yearly average, and the season lasts through November.

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...the evidence points, above all, to a stunning lack of both preparation and urgency in the federal government's response.

 

This is what I find most puzzling: it was apparent - days in advance - that something major was about to happen. It was apparent that a major population centre was going to be at or very near the epicentre, and that it was unusually vulnerable to this type of event. Now, imagine we had reliable evidence that a major earthquake was going to occur in, say, three days time. We didn't know exactly where the precise epicentre would be, but we knew it would be within a particular major population centre. We also didn't know exactly what the magnitude would be, but we knew it would be in the top 10-15% of the range for such events. Wouldn't we use the advance warning period to start mobilizing resources, and getting them in position ready to move in as soon after the quake as possible? Wouldn't we use that warning period assembling stockpiles of food and clean water and medicine, rescue and medical personnel, security forces, transportation...? I find it hard to believe, but by all appearances there was absolutely no advance preparation done at all, despite the clear indication that this was a massive hurricane heading directly toward a major population centre that was known to be particularly vulnerable. They can't even seem to round up enough buses to move people out of the city - how hard can that be? There are fleets of school buses all across the southern states, all fuelled up, ready to go for the start of the school year next week, and FEMA can't find them, or they just haven't thought to try looking for them?

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As one who was just in New Orleans and Gulfport about a month and a half ago, while another hurricane was bearing down on the coast - my sense is that the magnitude of the storm simply overwhelmed the emergency response capabilities of that region. When I was there there was a clear plan, dedicated evacuation zones, contingency plans for handling the flow of traffic out of the cities, and the like - and the vast majority of people were able to get out safely, but in retrospect it seems clear that there wasn't enough planning or assets dedicated to evacuating the most vulnerable - basically those too old, young, sick, etc - to drive out of town on their own.

 

I think that there comes a level at which no amount of organization is sufficient to deal with a crisis in a timely manner - and for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast I think this was it. The region had plenty of time to prepare, but there's only so much in the way of resources and manpower that people who live on those places are willing to dedicate to preparing for a threat that while omnious, just hasn't materialized over the course of several decades or longer - especially when it's a struggle just to keep things working from one day to the next.

 

The other thing to remember about this situation is - sorry if I offend anyone here - that we are talking about Louisiana and Mississippi. As a visitor I got the sense that the place was barely functional and bordering on chaos under normal circumstances, with a murder rate 10 times the national average etc, etc, etc - so I'm disturbed and saddened by the chaos in New Orleans, but terribly surprised.

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once again, everything is GWB's fault? i don't support the sucker, but i am always curious how anytime anything bad happens, it is always his fault. There is always a path that leads to him. However, if something good happens, it never gets linked back to him (for instance, the unemployment rate is now back down to 4.9%).

 

seems a bit fishy to me...

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The more apt the rationalization of Good and Evil, the more prone to deify and demonize. It's a consequence of the temporal environment.

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I think Peter hit on a major problem - land use planning. I mean are floating casinos a good idea in a hurricane prone area with a relief of 1 inch over 2 miles? And the scenario of the the New Orleans dikes breaking has be pondered by a number of government agencies and disaster NGOs over the past 20 years - but no coherent plan seems to have materialized.

 

I think this also is a sobering point indicating how stretched our resources are right now. National Guard units had to be called from the mid-west and west because - guess where a lot of them are now. The financial burden of this disaster is going to be more than a blip - the scope of how much so many people lost is staggering, and the cost of getting New Orleans back on its feet will be significant. Our treasury, military, and National Guard are spread a mile wide and an inch deep. I'm not sure what this administration's policy is except cut taxes, fork out to the business interests, and cut worthwhile dometing spending.

 

Before I diverge too much - did anyone see Bush's interview with Diane Swayer yesterday? She is a fluff ball but made Bush look like an idiot trying to answer the common question of why is relief taking so long? He smirked and chuckled - gosh darn it - help is on the way, "I fully understand..." One of his favorite openings. No, I don't think you do.

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In rerospect its easy to see how quite a number of things could have been done differently - but I wonder how well the PNW has prepared for the damage and disorder that would result from a magnitude 7.5+ earthquake, and we also have some of our own land-use patterns that are open to question - such as large-scale development in river valleys that would be at extreme risk from catastrophic mudflows if Mt. Ranier were to warm-up all of a sudden.

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Seattle is built on silt right next to a big pool of water. All we would need is a well-placed big earthquake to dislodge us. Fortunately, we are right next to a very active area where techtonic plates like to meet up.

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I think better than what is going on now - it is such a unique situation. At least with an earthquake you probably will have some remnant infrastructure and you could get around a bit. This - inundation of a city of 500k, no phone, water, sewer is grim.

 

There is a good interview with the Major of New Orleans on CNN - sounds like the ball was dropped on a number of occassions that made things worse than they had to be. Wish we had a leader in the White House.

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