Tuesday, September 14, 2004

 

The Death of New Orleans?

Hurricane Ivan continues to track north towards the Gulf coast, with the most likely track smack dab in the middle of the "Redneck Riviera" in Alabama and Mississippi.

However, if the storm angles west, there is a risk that New Orleans could take a direct hit.

New Orleans is below sea level.

From a 2001 issue of Popular Mechanics:

Emergency planners believe that it is a foregone conclusion that the Big Easy someday will be hit by a scouring storm surge. And, given the tremendous amount of coastal-area development, this watery "big one" will produce a staggering amount of damage.
From a May 2004 article in USA Today:
"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.
Ivan is a Category 4, with a nasty habit of surging to Category 5.
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.
Could some please tell me when, precisely, real life became an NBC mini-series of the week? I watch the news wondering just when Ed Begley, Jr. and Connie Seleca will show up.

Good luck to all those in Ivan's path, and here's hoping that worst-case scenarios remain just that: scenarios.


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