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?

  • Wow, sounds like this storm is overwhelmingly large. I’m glad that I don’t live in LA. I hope that it is less severe than expected for anyone in it’s path.

  • Watching the storm path and listening to the news. Tough to imagine how anyone of sane mind can wish to ride this one out in the bottom of a saucer. But the news tends to needlessly increase anxiety as well. I have to turn it off.

  • Sometimes anxiety is the emotion you want to foster. At least enough to get people out of a dangerous area.

    I noticed the emphasis is on Lake Pontchatrain overflowing. What about the Mississippi? What about storm damage to the river levees leading to Ole Miss taking a new course? What if New Orleans is unsalvageable?

    BTW, I remember shots of freighters sailing by a New Orleans neighborhood and those ships were more than 5 feet above the street.

  • I’m riding it out north of the city across the lake, we’re all boarded up and have a generator for when the power goes out. I left my house in New Orleans yesterday and hope that it is still there when I get back.

    The news is addictive at this point, and for some reason the ABC affiliate has thrown in the towel already – the other networks are still local and on the air.

  • Unfortunately, it seems like the storm has already hit the site. Lots of folks listed there, but to try and visit them is to visit a ghost town – either the blogger gave up, abandoned the site, last posted in some other year, or was driven off by rude people.

    But regarding the real storm, hope this turns out as best as can be expected for those who live in the Mississippi delta.

  • New Orleans based author Poopy Z. Brite says she is staying:

    Thanks to everyone who has offered sanctuary, but we’re definitely staying put. If it’s any comfort, our house has stood since 1919 and I expect it to stand a little longer. It’s the potential loss of power (read: air conditioning) that I truly dread; drowning in thirty feet of toxic sludge would almost be preferable. We have batteries, and Chris has laid in a large supply of bottled water, beer, chips, pretzels, Cheezits, and Double-Stuf Oreos. I think he actually likes hurricanes because they are the only times I let him buy this much junk food all at once.

    I will keep you posted.

  • Mike Swi…

    In 2002 PBS did a special on what the effects of a major hurricane would be on the city of New Orleans. Here is the transcript (it is sobering reading)…

  • Eileen


    Please stay safe. My prayers are for you and all who are or will be affected by this monster.

    My sister and her family have left their home in NO and arrived safely in Birmingham. For that I am very grateful indeed. But as she said, “We don’t know when we’ll be able to return.” And then there were all the other unspoken words, like, ‘or if there will be anything to return to’.

    My heart is already breaking. I dread turning on the computer or tv in the morning.

    Prayers. Even if you’re not the praying type, please pray on this one.

  • Thank you for the link on your site! Folks who are interested in Camille’s damage inflicted in 1966 can find copious pictures of the storm on several sites, and we think that some of the folks being interview who are NOT leaving their homes have literally no grasp of reality. The PBS link is a great one, and truly the magnitude of damage is hard to imagine.

  • I understand Metairie is pretty deserted by now, sensibly. I ache for the FRrench Quarter. NO is definitely not in need of this sort of urban renewal, and evacuation is no joke.

  • owl 1

    Good luck Candace/all. Pure charm in South LA. Hoping some of you can let us know the real news after it passes but doubt you will have power.

  • penny

    As per James Wolcott, should we draw the conclusion that New Orleans is getting it because of Marde Gra litter?

    “I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong–Mother Nature’s fist of fury, Gaia’s stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.”

  • penny – will you be gloating when people are dead tomorrow, too?

    I learned when I lived in the northeast for several years that attempting to explain what Mardi Gras actually is to those weaned on girls gone wild is at best difficult, so I’m not even going to start on that right now.

    Where I am now, we saw out of state utility trucks come nearby to stay the night so that they can get into the city quickly tomorrow. So at least they think it’s safe. It’s gonna snap a lot of trees, here, though.

    The AP reported that the last bar closed in the french quarter at 6pm – Molly’s at the Market on Decatur. The news crews are starting to bail, at least one already did, but I read that the Times-Picayune and the AP are staying.

  • penny

    penny – will you be gloating when people are dead tomorrow, too?

    Perhaps reading comprehension isn’t your best skill, Candice. It’s really pretty hard to misconstrue my post. And, yeah, maybe it is best you leave your explanation of what Mardi Gras really is for another time.

  • In fairness to Candice, penny, what appears to be a link in your post is not clickable, so although I wasn’t confused, I can see how she could be.

    I’m liveblogging at

  • Q: How long before this is called America’s tsunami?
    A: CNN: Katrina may be ‘our Asian tsunami’. Sunday, August 28, 2005; Posted: 10:46 p.m. EDT (02:46 GMT)

  • John

    What’s especially frightening is what can happen to a place like Placeman (sp?) LA which is SE of Nola, it houses many petrol-chemical plants (Dow, Huntsman, BASF, etc) and most of these are older and not the most up to date in many cases. They have always planned for this storm but have never had to actually deal with it. Hopefully the fine folks of lower LA can make it through this as well as the Gulf. I’m in Houston and its dificult to find a hotel room in town this evening with the exodus on I-10 from the east.

  • penny

    Corrected, I hope, as if the link really matters. You’ve got the quote from Wolcott. You’ve got my sarcasm about the quote. You weren’t confused. How obtuse can someone be?

    Her remark to me was off the wall.

  • Eileen

    Candice and Penny, my sistas,

    Peace, eh, please? I read a mere misunderstanding, only exacerbated by this horrific event.

    My own sister is more worried about her patients and coworkers she had to leave behind in NO than her home/job/family’s existence (she’s a clinical psycologist for Tulane, along with other state affiliations, while my brother-in-law heads departments of psychiatry and Etc. at Tulane) – like a young boy at the Medical Center who is on life support while waiting for a heart transplant. The hospital is ‘open’…7 stories high…lots of glass.

    May we be grateful for mere misunderstandings. Again, stay safe, Candice. Penny, appreciated your message..

    Sistas. Prayers.

  • Sean

    Please take a moment to pray for all our friends and family in the path of this awful hurricane. If you could, include one for Mary.

    My wife, Mary, is a nurse and is on duty at West Jefferson Medical Center, on the Westbank of the Mississippi river. She is a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is taking care of sick newborns.

    I am stuck at home in Baton rouge. My parents are here, but the full scale of what is about to hit new orleans with my wife there in the way is quite a burden. She is the love of my life and I can’t even think about losing her. By the way, she is three months pregnant with our first child.

    I know this will be bad no matter what- Katrina isn’t going to turn around and go home. It would take a miracle today to keep all the people safe. Please pray for Mary and the others.


  • Eileen

    O Sean……

    Prayers for your love, Mary, and for your baby.

    Prayers for you and your parents as well.

    And for ALL. We are ONE.

    Sean….please call Mary now.

    Sending love, hope and prayers.

  • Eileen

    Candice, Sean, ALL,

    Hold tight and stay strong! You ARE STRONG!!! You and your loved ones – all of us – are eternal. Forget fear. Breathe deeply….and know we are ONE.

    My heart sings your own song. My prayers are with you.

    May your baby, Sean, be a beautiful girl named Katy, short for Katrina.

  • Sean

    I just heard from Mary. She is ok, but the hospital is on its last leg of backup power (how absurdly inadequate?). They heard that at East Jefferson, in Metairie, across the river from them, that there was flooding on the lowest level of the hospital. Confirmed on WWL TV.

    They are all- both shifts- heading to their unit (NICU) and will continue to work. Some of the babies, two I think, are on ventilators, so they will have to be hand-bagged from the moment the power goes out until…

    She said the National Guard is at the hospital, so that is evecuation needs to happen they have some help. She seemd reassured that the Guard is there.

    Also, she said that some people reported some scary noises coming through the building. Hopefully just the noise of the storm.

    I am amazed she called me on her cell phone! Told her to turn it off after we hang up to conserve her battery.



  • Praying, Sean.

    Reports from some media presences are that with the power off it’s getting awfully ‘uncomfortable’. Such suffering … well, a good time to remind us of what life is like with the power off. Windows breaking at the Hilton, too. Please take care of each other.

  • Ann

    My heart is breaking at the thought of losing my beloved New Orleans. My husband and I spend a few days every spring in La Pavillion. There’s no place else we’d rather go than New Orleans. I’ve just ordered some coffee-table books about the French Quarter and NO architecture from Amazon. I can’t stand the thought that this might be all we have left to remember what is being lost.

  • Some thoughts as we all watched the coverage of the thousands of people standing in line to get into the Super Dome……some thoughts…….

    How many bosses forced their employees to stay to take care of
    tourists….to sell that last drink….and thus made their employees
    miss an opportunity to get out of town?

    How many people were incapable of making an informed decision about
    getting out of town because they were drunk or high on drugs?

    How many people have made behavioral choices in their life that have led
    to a life of so-called poverty. (I wonder how the current definition
    of poverty would compare to, for example, the pioneers of our ancestry.)

    How many people have an attitude of waiting for the city or the
    government to come protect them or evacuate them? Most of the people at the Super Dome did not bring food or water. They KNEW the government would provide for them.

    How many people have chosen to stay in New Orleans in order to be among the first to pick through the rubble. Katrina is not finished destroying the Gulf Coast, and there are already reports of looting.

    I can still see the face of the man at Ground Zero after 911 who told a
    Fox News camera about finding a Rolex as he picked through the rubble of
    the WTC. His heart was not focused on helping his fellow man.

    How many emergency service personnel will be put in harm’s way because of the many instances of a LACK of personal responsibility?

    We live in a very spoiled and pampered country.

    I heard an electricity repair manager talk about restoring power to the
    lower income first after Hurricane Katrina. I think about Rome and its
    “bread and circuses” to keep the masses from rioting. Hopefully he just
    forgot to mention that the power would be restored to hospitals or
    nursing homes first.

    I’m remembering an ice storm of about a decade ago where we are in north-central Mississippi. We were without electricity for 177 hours because someone had stolen the downed power lines for its copper content.

    Those emergency electricity crews that travel from storm to storm to restore power told us that happened all the time, especially in the inner cities. They often experienced unrolling new electricity line to re-establish power to a neighborhood while the very people of that neighborhood would be rolling it up to steal it.

    Yes, there is poverty in this country….and children who are born into
    unhealthy environments……and people who need help to pull themselves out of poverty…..but there is also a great need for personal
    responsibility….and there is much abuse of the American spirit of
    generosity in helping our fellow man.

    I’m praying for God to preserve life during this terrible storm as we wait for Katrina’s wrath to reach us in Montgomery County, MS.

    Penny, a sixth generation Mississippian…and a different Penny than the one who posted earlier.

    PS: I love your blog design!

  • Lorenzo

    Lowercase penny, I’m not sure what you’re getting at either, but writing as a Mississippian who fears his home is flooded and won’t know for a few days yet whether I, my wife, or children still have shoes I believe that your sarcasm is misplaced at this time. Sarcasm is a refusal to accept reality and speak honestly. That’s why it is so often misunderstood. At this time what we need to do is support each other, not cast blame at people who are doing the best they can.

    BTW, I’m staying in Alabama and we’re safe here.

  • Ravo

    Re Penny Fikes does have a point about there being “much abuse of the American spirit of generosity in helping our fellow man.”,12271,1558908,00.html

    “The water’s rising pretty fast. I got a hammer and an axe and a crowbar, but I’m holding off on breaking through the roof until the last minute. “Tell someone to come get me please. I want to live.”

    Sure hope that man had a really good reason to stay out of the superdome.

    His decision to do so puts someone else’s beloved husband or brother in harm’s way of a killer hurricane to come to the rescue.

  • penny

    …. believe that your sarcasm is misplaced at this time

  • oboreruhito

    17th street evee breach at lake pontchartrain, tulane hospital may be evacuated

  • Barbara

    Any word on the condition of the Fat City area in Metairie? Between Severn and Division Street, actually Edenborn Street? Is there water in that area?

  • penny

    I believe that your sarcasm is misplaced at this time.

    Whose sarcasm are you referring to? James Wolcott “I root for hurricanes” or may sarcasm at what a jerk statement he made?

  • Eileen


    I googled news related to Metairie a few hours ago as that is where my sister and her family (used to) live. I don’t know the Fat City area, but based on various accounts water was waist deep on Veteran and also 41st. The shot they keep repeating of the rescue worker hacking into a roof with water up to the eaves was a Metairie home. Given the new breach, I am no longer optimistic. I’d also very much appreciate learning more about Metairie’s status from anyone who has information.

    I am also extremely concerned about the 10,000 or so people stuck in the dome as water continues to rise. How will they be evacuated if need be?

  • Robin


    Can you find out if Mary knows the whereabouts of the parents of all the airlifted babies? We would like to help get them reunited.


  • Tropical storm Katrina (one of the worst natural disasters of US history) has already caused over $25,000,000,000 (25 billion dollars, this figure could double with insurance claims) in damages, food/water/gas/housing/shelter shortages, looting/crime (price gauging) running rampant (military law to take affect?), it is hurendous!

    I have had my life uprooted from accidental fires (once an appartment fire caused me to become homeless without any possesions of my own), but I could not imagine my entire neighbourhood, city or even state destroyed and devastated.

    My heart goes out to people living in Mississippi, New Orleans, southern Alabama, Gulf Coast, etc… I encourage everyone to volunteer (search & rescue workers, fire fighters, debris clearing, medical staff, engineers, etc) for or donate to a hurricane relief fund (the damage is tremendous and many homeless or missing) like UNICEF, United Way, American Red Cross (many wounded need blood donations, even volunteer nurses and doctors are needed) or the Salvation Army (find links on for homeless/poverty organizations near disaster areas), (make sure it is reputable organization)!

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