Posted by: bohography | August 27, 2007

Part #1: A Look Back At Katrina

This Wednesday, August 29, 2007, will mark the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Two years have passed since this major hurricane made land fall on the Gulf Coast. Two years later…, how will we remember that tragic day? This is the first of a 3 part series that will look back at the events leading up to Hurricane Katrina, how local and federal officials handled this disaster, what has been done in the rebuilding effort, and can we out build mother nature…

PART #1: “This Scenario Has Been Predicted For Many Years…”

The scenario has been studied for many years, the topic of a major hurricane striking on or near the city of New Orleans has always been a worry for many experts. This is something weather forecasters and emergency management services have worried about.

The United States has seen its share of major hurricanes and destruction, but the scenario of New Orleans was always in the back of everyone’s mind who are related to weather. Studies of the New Orleans scenario have always resulted in the same answer. New Orleans is a city well below sea level and major hurricane would indeed flood it.

What makes New Orleans’ scenario unique is the fact that the Big Easy is surrounded by three massive bodies of water, Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Because of this and due to the city sitting in a “bowl” like setting, it was easy to predict that people would drown and thousands of people would be trapped with no sufficient supplies. It was even predicted that residence would be on their roof tops trying to escape the flood…

As early as Friday afternoon, 4 days before landfall, most forecasting systems were showing this outcome. As one National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster would state, “To say that this storm was well forecast would be an understatement.”

When Sunday came, 1 day before landfall, Katrina one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic. The thought of most experts was that it didn’t matter where the hurricane made landfall, there would be catastrophic damage all around. That same day (Sunday), the NWS in New Orleans issued a weather statement which outlined close to the same scenario that was previously predicted.

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s initial landfall was between 6-7 a.m. over Grand Isle, LA, in the vicinity of Venice, LA as a category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. Katrina continued north and made a second landfall on the Mississippi coastline.

The storm surge caused by Katrina was the most damaging effect about the storm. Reports say the the surge of water was approximately 25-30 feet tall, the highest in United States history. Towns that suffered the highest of Katrina’s surge were in Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport and Waveland. The water pushed 6 miles inland and wiped out everything in its path. The entire coastline was changed.

But New Orleans was different. The initial storm surge did not effect the city, it wasn’t until the next day when the levies gave way and water began to slowly flood the area. The gradual rise of the water level created the tragedy as we know it today…

Knowing all of this, knowing that for many years parts of New Orleans would face complete disaster if a major hurricane were to strike, how did local and federal officials respond?

What is the truth? Who is really to blame? Is it fair to blame anyone on a major disaster? We’ll take an in depth look in Part #2 of the series; “Responding To Katrina.”

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Responses

  1. Bo, I moved to the New Orleans area around 1986. A 25 year-old, high school graduate with only a few basic college credits to my name. My dad had a 6th grade education and most of our family was dirt farmers from Arkansas.

    I tell you this because it didn’t take an engineering degree to figure out that I shouldn’t buy a house south of Lake Pochatrain. Any city that is 16ft below sea level with levies around it and in some places you have to look up at ships going up and down the Mississippi River is a disaster waiting to happen.

    After I moved there, I listened to a lot of talk radio as I drove around on my job working my way through college and they knew the levies weren’t going to survive a major storm and that the pumps weren’t going to cut it.

    I questioned the whole idea of constraining the Mississippi River to stay its current path when history shows that it changes course as needed.

    Still I ask, how is the Katrina fiasco the Bush adminstrations fault?

    I want to have compassion for the poor and elderly who had no choice, but I’m here to say that the elderly and poor didn’t make up the 1 million plus greater new orleans area that rightfully sunk and should remain sunk.

    Okay to preserve the historic French Quarter (if possilbe), but I pray that business will take care of this cause the politicians haven’t got the guts for it.

  2. Ed, thanks for your detailed comment. It is a shame and frankly unforgivable that people would allow the spread of the city to reach a point where it was unnatural to build.

    Mother nature will always win, we should understand that we cannot out build her. And not to mention the local officials should be blamed before Bush, they are the first responders and if Nagen and Blanco are too incompetent to protect their citizens, then they should step down.

    I see that your family is from Arkansas, like me…

    So, are you a Razorback? LOL!


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