Wade's World

Just leave it where Jesus flang it.

Friday, September 09, 2005

When Were The Levees Breached?

Irish Eagle finds evidence in plain view that the levees were known to be breached on Monday morning, the same morning Katrina hit New Orleans:

I know I'm not the only one who is under the impression that the levees broke well after the storm had passed. It seems that this may not actually be true. If you read this web diary of the storm from the New Orleans Times-Picayune it seems pretty clear that the levees had failed before 9am on the Monday, that is just as the eye was passing New Orleans.


It may be because the city authorities initially thought the levees had been "topped" and not breached. Although, they had confirmed a breach by 2pm on the day of the storm.
The significance of course, is that the whole "New Orleans Dodges a Bullet" meme began circulating within hours of the storm's passing, including two press releases from U.S. Senators:

The Times-Picayune reported that the two US Senators for Louisiana had issued press releases by 3pm, both of which give the impression that nothing all that serious has happened.
The next day the Washington Post was reporting the story as a "near miss" as well:

NEW ORLEANS -- Announcing itself with shrieking, 145-mph winds, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday, submerging entire neighborhoods up to their roofs, swamping Mississippi's beachfront casinos and blowing out windows in hospitals and high-rises. At least 55 people were killed, authorities said.

For New Orleans _ a dangerously vulnerable city because it sits mostly below sea level in a bowl-shaped depression _ it was not the apocalyptic storm forecasters had feared.


Katrina had menaced the Gulf Coast over the weekend as a 175-mph, Category 5 monster, the most powerful ranking on the scale. But it weakened to a Category 4 and made a slight right-hand turn just become it came ashore around daybreak near the Louisiana bayou town of Buras, passing just east of New Orleans on a path that spared the Big Easy _ and its fabled French Quarter _ from its full fury.


Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime storm, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had issued a mandatory evacuation order as Katrina drew near. But the doomsday vision of hurricane waters spilling over levees and swamping the city in a toxic soup of refinery chemicals, sewage and human bodies never materialized.

Forecasters said New Orleans _ which has not been hit directly by a major storm since Category 3 Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965 _ got lucky again.

"The real important issue here is that when it got to the metropolitan area, it was weaker," said National Hurricane Center deputy director Ed Rappaport, who estimated the highest winds in New Orleans were 100 mph.

What difference would it have made in the relief efforts? I'm not entirely sure, although it may have created a greater sense of urgency among the remaining denizens (and possibly Mayor Nagin and Gov. Blanco) to get out of the city. Certainly the die-hards who still occupy parts of New Orleans would have stayed behind, but there may have been more emphasis placed on getting everyone out, including those at the Superdome and the Convention Center instead using those two venues as the place to deposit storm survivors who were scattered about town.


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