Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hurricane Katrina... Yikes.

On Sunday afternoon's after we get home from church we usually watch a little TV after eating lunch. Most times it's an eclectic mix of the Food network and sports, but today MSNBC, CNN and the Weather Channel ruled the day.

I'm not sure if you have been keeping up with it, but Hurricane Katrina, which was a category 1 storm as it crossed Florida, has grown into a "cat 5" as they say in the business and some are calling it a 5 and a half storm. And it's heading for the soup bowl of the country, New Orleans.

I was glued to the TV for about 2 solid hours watching this and Fox News had the graphic that best showed what New Orleans is. On one side to the north you have a gigantic lake. Lake Ponchatrain or something like that. Well it has a levee system to keep the water out since the lake is practically on the ocean. Then to the south of New Orleans you a tiny river we like to call the Mississippi. It too is levied and is a little higher than the lake levee.

In the center of this levee system is New Orleans which is 12 feet below sea level. They are talking about 20-40 feet of flood water coming into the city. Now since this is the 21st century, the city does have a sophisticated pumping system to pump out flood water since it is a bowl. Unfortunately, the pumps send the water out into the lake which is levied lower than the river levee meaning as long as water is coming in, the water pumped out will come right back in.

And on top of that, if too much water comes in the pump system won't work and they'll just have to take in the water until it quits so they can open levee gates to let some of it run out.

I believe it was the Weather Channel that was showing expected wind speeds as the storm progressed and they showed that when the storm hit Tennessee and here in Kentucky, they were expected to be in the 60 mph range.

Piccu and I couldn't believe that New Orleans is situated the way that it is. No offense to those of you who live there, but it's plain crazy the way the city is positioned between the largest river in the country and a lake the size of half the state of Rhode Island. And below sea level on the coast. It's basically one big storm drain.

Granted, nothing like this has really happened in at least 37 years, which was Hurricane Camille, but I believe the Weather Channel said that New Orleans has never taken a direct hit. So given the fact that New Orleans has never been hit directly by a storm out of the calm gulf waters, it still had to have been in the back of everyone's mind. You are talking about a major metropolitan area that could have business districts under as much as 10-20 feet of water depending on the lay of the land. The levees were built to withstand a fast moving category 3 storm according to a New Orleans official. This storm is currently a category 5 and its outer edge is already licking the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The term "catastrophe" is thrown around loosely these days, but right now it looks like that may be the proper term for this event. Some are expecting New Orleans to be crippled for months while they try to get rid of the water. And lets not forget that they are looking at possibly 15 or more inches of rain on top of the storm surge.

As of 20 minutes ago the seas had risen over 5 feet at a coastal port and they expected another 15-20 more feet when the storm hits. And the way Lake Ponchatrain is situated the storm surge could blow right into it's spillway from the ocean.

For lack of a better way to put it, this is history in the making and the entire world will be watching it unfold on their TV's and computers.

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