Category Five

The top winds in Hurricane Katrina are up to 175 miles an hour, the third-highest hurricane wind speed ever recorded. What’s worse, the storm is bearing down on arguably the most vulnerable spot in the continental United States, New Orleans.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune published a long series a few years back about what might happen if the city were hit by a major storm. Their analysis wasn’t pretty, and it should scare the hell out of anybody in the area (or anybody anywhere):

Georges, a Category 2 storm that only grazed New Orleans, had pushed waves to within a foot of the top of the levees. A stronger storm on a slightly different course — such as the path Georges was on just 16 hours before landfall — could have realized 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.”

An old boss of mine was a kid growing up in Jefferson Parish during Betsy (1965), when the local government broke the levee to save downtown New Orleans–flooding Jefferson Parish and tens of thousands of homes. He and his family had to be rescued from the roof of their house. This one could easily be much worse.

If you’re in the area, get out, and do it now. This is not just another hurricane that might turn away and hit Galveston or Mobile instead. You can’t afford to take that chance this time.

For everybody else, get ready to help. I don’t mean to be a harbinger of doom here, and I’m certainly hoping that Katrina fizzles out, a la Dennis, but there’s a very real possibility that this could be our tsunami.

UPDATE: Here’s the latest damage prediction from the National Weather Service. It’s very grim reading.

DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED

HURRICANE KATRINA
A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH…RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. 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 MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR HURRICANE FORCE…OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE…ARE CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.

ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET…DO NOT VENTURE OUTSIDE!

LAZ038-040-050-056>070-282100-ASSUMPTION-LIVINGSTON-LOWER JEFFERSON-LOWER LAFOURCHE-LOWER PLAQUEMINES-LOWER ST. BERNARD-LOWER TERREBONNE-ORLEANS-ST. CHARLES-ST. JAMES-ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST-ST. TAMMANY-TANGIPAHOA-UPPER JEFFERSON-UPPER LAFOURCHE-UPPER PLAQUEMINES-UPPER ST. BERNARD-UPPER TERREBONNE-
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

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31 Responses to “Category Five”

  1. erp Says:

    Of course, Americans will pitch in to help as soon as we know what and where its needed. Just get the people safe, damage can be repaired and/or rebuilt.

    I hope Louisianna gov. Blanco does as good a job as Jeb did here in Florida last year.

  2. Jessica Says:

    This will be an interesting story to watch unfold on TV. I’m thankful not to live within the storm’s path. I hope that the damage isn’t as severe as expected.

  3. cirby Says:

    One huge problem is that “getting out” only works to a certain point. Most gas stations in southern Louisiana are apparently out of fuel (or closed since the attendants have left). If you have a car but not a full tank of gas, all you can do is evacuate right into the path of 175 MPH winds.

    For the folks with no cars or transport, they’ve gotta stick.

    The guy who has been doing the simulations of this situation is on Fox right now, and he’s saying there could be 30 to 35 feet of water in some parts of Nawlins… he only simluated a Cat 3 for the “worst case” that people have been discussing.

    The *only* thing that could save the city would be a noticeable shift to one side.

  4. mrsizer Says:

    If it’s seriously damaged – New Orleans is big and “destroyed” seems unlikely – do you think we’ll be stupid enough to rebuild it or will we be smart and realize that a coastal city lying below sea level is a really stupid thing and just abandon it? (and where would everyone go?)

    Another question: How long before Pat Robertson claims its God’s wrath for all the hedonism in the French Quarter?

  5. Stacy Says:

    Katrina will probably cancel Cotillion as well. Beth is hosting as well this week and is in the path of this storm. Anyway, it was nice meeting you last week at the Blogger Bash, forgot to tell you that.

  6. Stacy Says:

    Sorry, I swear IE is messing up my html codes. Can’t use Firefox because of my ISP.

  7. Chris Byrne Says:

    Heres a scary thought. Port Fourcheon and the L.O.O.P. getting smashed by a Cat 5

  8. cirby Says:

    Chris:
    Even if L.O.O.P. survives, it’s not going to be usable for a week or more.

    At least 25% of the oil platforms in the Gulf are going bye-bye (they’re old, and weren’t designed for 175 MPH winds and 35 foot sea states anyway). Even the newer production platforms are expecting a ten to twenty percent loss rate.

    One way to think of it:

    New Orleans is being hit by an F3 tornado that’s 30 to 50 miles wide.

  9. richard mcenroe Says:

    “Of course, Americans will pitch in to help as soon as we know what and where its needed.”

    Absolutely not. Didn’t we just make this mistake in Indonesia? Much better to wait for the UN and proceeded in an orderly and coordinated multilateral fashion.

  10. TexasSecurityMom Says:

    We live in Houston, and have been nervously watching this storm all week. Close friends from Baton Rouge are stuck in traffic right now on their way here, trying to escape with their young son. They have been told they could be without power for weeks, and they are further inland than NOLA. If you don’t live on the Gulf Coast, or the lower Atlantic Coast, you can’t imagine how stressful hurricane season is. All we can do right now is pray that everyone is getting out. This is going to bring unimaginable devastation to NOLA, and to a huge swath of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and beyond. Does everyone remember the images from Florida after Andrew hit? I am fearful that this one is going to make Andrew look small, because Andrew hit in a less populated area. Let’s hope that this serves as a HUGE wakeup call for other costal cities, because right now Galveston and Houston are ill-prepared to handle a Cat 5 storm.

  11. FL Mom Says:

    LOL Richard! The UN…helping the US…ROTFL

    Seriously, though, I do hope everyone can evacuate to safety in time. Where ever it lands, a Cat. 5 will be devastating.

  12. The Moderate Voice Says:

    Katrina’s Winds 175 MPH As New Orleans Ordered Evacuation

    New Orleans sounds like it’s a weather horror story about to happen — and if you live there get out of town now:

    The mayor…

  13. Ed Driscoll.com Says:

    Cat-5: It’s Not Just For LAN Cables Anymore

    When Nina and I visited New Orleans last year and drove around the surrounding Louisiana countryside (sampling the odd drive-through daiquiri bar along the way…), we noted several roads with signs indicating that they’re Hurricane Escape Routes. They…

  14. blue sky in texas Says:

    Katrina, Katrina

    Florida Cracker is unimpressed with the Louisiana leadership. Kathleen Blanco hasn’t taken any lessons from Jeb Bush apparently. New Orleans is looking more and more like a ghost town, but there are still people who have to stay. Who knows…

  15. Steve Says:

    Heh … want to bet that the Islamist types will be saying something about “Allah’s wrath”? Though we probably won’t see Palestinian street parties this time, at least …

    Steve

  16. sulizano Says:

    We’re under alert here in North Alabama for the inland aftermath due to hit early Tuesday.

    I’m counting the minutes until some politician compares Katrina to 9/11.

  17. Jonathan Says:

    I was just watching Fox a short while ago and they are reporting on a bunch of die hards partying it up in the French Quarter. So much for “mandatory evacuation.” I hope their surviving relatives don’t decide to sue the authorities for not warning them enough. At least the gene pool will be improved……..

  18. Loup Garou Says:

    Tell me again: why did we think it was a good idea to build a city below sea level?

  19. JP Says:

    I used to live in Kenner, out next to New Orleans’ airport (work at the airport in fact) The runway is the highest thing in the area other than Monkey Hill and the Levees. I recall the main runway is 15 feet above sea level. Worse case the water will be “only” 10 or so feet deep. My aunt likes to say “It never flooded here so I aint worried”. I’d explain that threr were few houses and far less concrete back then. Forget the storm surge. It will flood if enough rain hits. Add 28 feet of storm surge and Bill Cosby comes to mind: [as Noah to his neighbor]-“How Long Can You Tread Water?”

  20. gh Says:

    Our thoughts and prayers to all in the path of Hurricane Katrina

  21. richard mcenroe Says:

    Loup Garou… that’s where the harbors are.

  22. richard mcenroe Says:

    Steve

  23. wetzel36 Says:

    Jeeez,structural wise it could be as bad as Hiroshima.I’m praying that it might peter out a bit.

  24. FL Mom Says:

    “Mandatory evacuation” (in Daytona Beach, FL, anyway) simply means that a police officer bangs on your door and tells you to leave. If you want to stay, you have to give the officer the name(s) of your next of kin, and then you’re basically cut off, and the authorities are no longer responsible for anything foolish that you may do.

    Katrina is indeed a monster on all the satellite imagery. If only there was an area of cold water or a pocket of dry air…anything to slow her momentum. It’s gonna be a long, terrible night.

  25. Texican Says:

    I think it was the French who originally built New Orleans.

    ‘Nuff said!

  26. bb Says:

    My Family is in Mccomb, Ms, 100 miles north of New Orleans. They have predicted winds of 100 miles an hour. If that turns out to be true, the devastation will reach far beyond New Orleans. I’m afraid for my mother’s creaky old home right now.

  27. Ed Driscoll.com Says:

    My God

    Will Collier updated his post on Hurricane Katrina (which we linked to earlier today) to include a National Weather Service forecast. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more frightening forecast in my life–it sounds akin to waiting for an…

  28. jmchez Says:

    Actually, Texican it was the Spanish who first settled it but then ceded it to the French (I forget which war). That’s why the architecture in the “French Quarter” is Spanish and why “Bourbon Street” was originally called “Calle Borbon” as the sign there will tell you.

  29. Michelle Malkin Says:

    KATRINA BLOGGING: DIRE OUTLOOK

    ***scroll down for continuous updates*** The Phog Blog says, “Pray for New Orleans:” As I write this, Hurricane Katrina is approaching New Orleans. New Orleans is about 12 feet below sea level and has always lived under a death sentence…

  30. chaika Says:

    When I first read this post a few days ago it was the first I’d seen anybody predicting anything remotely this bad. I’m sure you’d be really glad to have been dead wrong, but this post sure looks prescient right now. Hopefully you scared at least a few fencesitters into leaving town.

  31. newton Says:

    jmchez,

    Remember also that the name “Borbon” comes from the French “Bourbon”, since Phillip of Bourbon inherited the Spanish Crown after the death of Charles V of Germany and I of Spain, and after “solving” the inheritance dispute during the War of Spanish Succession.

    The current Spanish royal family carries the name “Borbon”, but never forget that their ancestors were originally French.

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