The storm

A great place to keep track on Hurricane Katrina is the hurricane center at, one of the services I used oversee. Jon Donley, the editor there, is a weather madman.

See tomorrow’s “hurricane edition” of the Times-Picayune here. And no one will be in the town to read it.

Here is the disaster scenario, put forward in a scary Times-Picayune series about The Big One:

…emergency officials’ worst-case scenario: hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water pouring over the levees into an area averaging 5 feet below sea level with no natural means of drainage.

That would turn the city and the east bank of Jefferson Parish into a lake as much as 30 feet deep, fouled with chemicals and waste from ruined septic systems, businesses and homes. Such a flood could trap hundreds of thousands of people in buildings and in vehicles. At the same time, high winds and tornadoes would tear at everything left standing. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die, said John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross.

“A catastrophic hurricane represents 10 or 15 atomic bombs in terms of the energy it releases,” said Joseph Suhayda, a Louisiana State University engineer who is studying ways to limit hurricane damage in the New Orleans area. “Think about it. New York lost two big buildings. Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 30 in the area impacted and the people lost, and we know what could happen.”

Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn’t be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins.

Read the rest of the scenario. This is why they’re hightailing it out of there.

: Here‘s audio of Donley driving on the bridge going into New Orleans. He’ll be working out of the hurricane bunker at the T-P.

: From the breaking-news blog, this terrifying warning from the weather service:

“Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer,” says the statement. “At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.
The statement says the majority of industrial buildings will become “non-functional,” with partial or complete wall and roof failure.
“All wood-framed low-rising apartments will sustain major damage, including some wall and roof failure,” the statement said. “Concrete block low-rise apartments will sustain major damage, including some wall and roof failure.”
The statement says high-rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously, “a few to the point of total collapse.” And all their windows will blow out.
Airborne debris will be widespread, and may include heavy items — household appliances and light cars and trucks –and even sport utility vehicles and trucks will be moved.
“The blown debris will create additional destruction,” the statement said. “Persons, pets and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck.”

: More links from Rex Hammock and Rogers Cadenhead.

: Here, via Nola, is a list of New Orleans bloggers. Fleshbotter Jonno has a storm edition.
Another list of local bloggers here.

: Here are cams; you see a deserted city. Lost Remote has media links.

: Here, via NowPublic, is the “before” shot we’ll be seeing after: An aerial image of New Orleans as it stands today:

: And here is a link to the Google satellite view of the Superdome and the French Quarter.

: Here‘s Donna at Southern Spaces writing from Mississippi on evacuating:

But the real horror is the number of homeless people who call New Orleans home. They’re the ones who truly are trapped. I’m bitching and griping because of the timing. Especially with the recent car repairs and fifteen other “inconveniences” that have sprung up recently. Fact is, I can get in my car and drive as far as I want….

…you make damn sure you pack a razor. A smart girl knows shaved legs are an absolute must. She might not have a bathttub upon her return, but she’s damn sure got a razor!! You also pack baseball caps for those inevitable bad hair days that are coming. And barettes to pull your hair up with. Especially if you have long hair. And you pack your cell chargers. I’ll be packing several….

Finally, you make it out to the yard. Things that you look at every day you suddenly realize will become a missle in a hurricane. So you move it to the barn or tie it up with those bunjee cords. It’s never finished. You’re never satisfied that you’ve remembered everything and thought of everything. You take one last look on your way out the door. The truth is, you don’t know if you’ll even have anything to come back to. You say a prayer, get in your car and then drive. We’re human. We’re going to stress, grieve, worry, lose sleep, not eat, become cranky…oh, it’s endless the emotions one goes through.

Read the rest.

: Max Sparber at the Daily Lush writes a simply wonderful report from Pat O’Brien’s where they were drinking — what else? — hurricanes:

NEW ORLEANS MAYOR C. RAY NAGIN, usually a laconic man with a neat moustache, shaved head, and sleepy eyes, has a panicky air about him on television tonight. He has just received a phone call from Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and the news was not good. Katrina, a monstrous hurricane swirling in the Gulf Coast, is making a beeline directly for New Orleans. Mayfield informed Mayor Nagin that in his entire career, Mayfield has never seen a storm like this. Mayfield strongly urged Nagin to make the evacuation of New Orleans mandatory; if there’s any political fallout, Mayfield said he would take full responsibility. On a local newscast, as the anchormen detail the growing storm, Nagin shouts a single word: “Leave!” …

There is a certain poignancy to tonight, though. After all, tonight Pat O’s is filled with tourists who might very literally be dead in the next few days — if the rumors are right, volunteers at DMORT are packing their body bags at this very moment. These very tourists are happily consuming a beverage that bears the name of the monster that might kill them in a bar that might be underwater within a day or so. If the unimaginable were to happen, these might be the last moments of these people in this bar in this city. Unless the most educated men in the study of weather are wrong in their best guess, a disaster named Katrina is coming to bury us all.

But, just at this moment, it is business as usual at Pat O’s, the busiest saloon in America, and “Stayin’ Alive” is playing throughout the bar.

: See also Storm Digest. [via Rubel] And Terry Teachout has more links. And here’s Joe Gandelman’s roundup.

: How long before this is called America’s tsunami?