SparkyCola, on Mar 18 2007, 07:17 PM, said:
Ok, lots to address.
Below sea level - yeah, most of The Netherlands is below sea level too. They don't seem too bothered by it. As usual it's the "Bad neighbours? Under a volcano? Below sea level? live on a bad street? JUST MOVE!!" over-simplifying. Like it's that simple to just up and leave. Some people have been there all their lives, many are much too poor to move, it's not that easy. Try it yourself and see. Balderdash is right. People who live below sea level can expect flooding every now and then. But what happened in NO is more than "a bit of flooding". Just like Boscastle, what it requires is not adding insult to injury and saying the residents "Well, what did you expect?" Because the answer to that is "we expected the levee to be stronger, as we had been led to believe it would hold". What they need is country-wide support, and I don't know if they got that - but knowing the US, almost certainly they did and still are getting support. I just don't buy this "it's their own fault" nonsense.
The residents of NO might could
have expected the NO levees to hold for Katrina, but they should have known they were gambling. However, it isn't correct to say that the residents didn't know that the levees could fail--or at least they should
have known. Because of costs, the levees weren't built strong enough or tall enough to handle a hurricane stronger than a Category 3. That was widely known.
There were reports out years before Katrina hit detailing the possibility of the levees failing. FEMA declared a hurricane hitting NO one of the top 3 most likely disasters back in 2001. The Times-Picayune (NO's newspaper) had a series of articles called Washing Away
that came out in 2002 that covered what could happen if a hurricane struck NO.
Granted, the risks the article described mainly discussed the risks of overtopped levees and what actualy happened was a breached levee, but when the Katrina evacuation was called, it wasn't at all clear that the storm wouldn't
overtop the levees. Overtopping or breach, the description was very accurate (except that enough people got out to make the death toll relatively low compared to what the article predicted).
If enough water from Lake Pontchartrain topped the levee system along its south shore, the result would be apocalyptic. Vast areas would be submerged for days or weeks until engineers dynamited the levees to let the water escape. Some places on the east bank of Orleans and Jefferson parishes are as low as 10 feet below sea level. Adding a 20-foot storm surge from a Category 4 or 5 storm would mean 30 feet of standing water.
Whoever remained in the city would be at grave risk. According to the American Red Cross, a likely death toll would be between 25,000 and 100,000 people, dwarfing estimated death tolls for other natural disasters and all but the most nightmarish potential terrorist attacks. Tens of thousands more would be stranded on rooftops and high ground, awaiting rescue that could take days or longer. They would face thirst, hunger and exposure to toxic chemicals.
"We don't know where the pipelines are, and you have the landfills, oil and gas facilities, abandoned brine pits, hardware stores, gas stations, the chemicals in our houses," said Ivor van Heerden, assistant director of the LSU Hurricane Center. "We have no idea what people will be exposed to. You're looking at the proverbial witch's brew of chemicals."
Look, I live right on the Gulf Coast (not water front, but still within storm surge range if you're talking a Katrina or Rita size storm). I get why people take the risks they do (we live were we do for work/school related reasons), but that doesn't change the fact that when you live in certain areas you are assuming very high risks. When Rita came through, we faced a very real possibility of losing everything that we couldn't evacuate with us. We got really lucky when the storm turned, but when we left, we knew we might be coming back to a bare lot (or one filled with rubble). I don't know what it's like to lose everything, but depending on the hurricane season in the next couple of years, I may still get to find out. If we do lose it all in a storm, it will be a combination of being unlucky and the natural consequences of our choices. We've done what we can to mitigate our risks--we have all the necessary insurances, we live behind a seawall, we have hurricane shutters, etc, etc--but ultimately we're choosing to gamble with nature. We think our odds are pretty good (although I'm not sure we would have made the same choices if we'd bought our house after the 2005 hurricane season), but we may lose.
The people in NO made the same gamble we're making. Their odds were pretty good too. NO had been missed for years. They finally lost. Yeah, some of them were too poor to move, but a lot of them made the choice to stay. They probably had good reasons--they'd lived there all their lives, their family was there, their jobs were there--but ultimately, they made a choice. I might have made the same choice, but that doesn't take away the fact that at least part of the responsibility is theirs. It would have been great if the federal government had built stronger levees, but they didn't and, well, everyone knew they didn't, so while you can and IMO, should critize the government for their cost cutting measures and disregard for safety, if you know
that corners have been cut, and still choose to live there, again, you
are making the choice.