Sunday, August 28, 2005

Feverish Earth - Late August update

Thousands of people living in and around the low-lying Louisiana city of New Orleans are fleeing as the Hurricane Katrina approaches. Ray Nagin, the city's mayor, who ordered the mandatory evacuation, says it is an unprecedented move. Forecasters say the city could be in the eye of the storm when Katrina, now swirling over the Gulf of Mexico, hits. The storm has strengthened into a dangerous Category Five hurricane - the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale - with winds of up to 160 mph (257 km/h). Katrina has caused at least nine deaths since it lashed Florida on Thursday. It is the sixth hurricane hitting Florida in less than a year.

Feverish Earth on the Midnight Fire weblog so far:

July 30.
August 4.
August 24.


The hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and surrounding areas this morning. Most of its impact was on the heavily populated area east of the city. But windows were still smashed and roofs disappeared in the central parts of town. Thousands of poor refugees, people without a car, unable to obey the evacuation order, hid inside the Superdome stadium. Parts of its roof blew off, but it stood its ground. Trees have broken everywhere, and water covers the street. There is not a single whole house anywhere. Yet a sense of relief is actually dominating people’s thoughts, a certainty that New Orleans avoided Armageddon once more.

- It’s bad, a man says, – but we all know we didn’t get the worst of it. We could have, if only things were a little bit different.

Katrina wasn’t as powerful as was feared. It lost some of its punch (going from Category Five to Four), and turning left, just before landfall. In spite of all the destruction, all the suffering it didn’t turn out to be anywhere near the cataclysmic disaster it could have become.

New Orleans has been given yet another reprieve.

Powerful hurricanes have increased in both intensity and longevity the last ten years. An index describing the intensity and longevity of the hurricanes shows that the hurricane level in the period 1995-2004 was 70 percent higher than the average for the last fifty years. The surface temperature of the oceans gives energy and drive to the hurricanes, and that has also reached dramatic record levels the last ten years.


It is now evident that the initial fairly positive reports from Katrina’s arrival in New Orleans and Louisiana/Mississippi were not very reliable. The devastation is immense. At least hundreds of people, probably more, in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have lost their lives. Media has had an increasing tendency to underreport natural disasters the last decade or so, and we all wonder why...

Local government officials are now stepping forward one by one, telling it like it is, and a picture of horror and immense destruction is emerging.

Katrina, carrying a nine meter tall wall of water, hit the city of Biloxy «like a velvet glove», and quite simply disintegrated houses in its path. A levee holding back water from Lake Pontchartrain has a seventeen meters broad hole. Most of New Orleans is flooded and the water level is rising fast. It is said that at least hundred thousand people are trapped within the city. Bodies are floating in the water.

Major parts of the region will be inhospitable for weeks, perhaps longer. Electricity will be gone for a long time. Drinking water will be heavily polluted and make people ill in the foreseeable future. People are looting shops and grocery stores right in front of the police and soldiers, stating that they have to do so to feed, to survive. South Eastern United states has become a wasteland of rubble and ruins and death.

And this was, according to official statements «only» a Category Four» hurricane the moment it hit land. One can hardly imagine how much worse it would have been if Katrina had remained a Category Five.

Oh, yeah, ninety percent of the United States' Gulf of Mexico oil production has shut down.

Sunday there were queues all the way to the Texas border, and the refugees will remain there for a while, before returning slowly, painfully to «the City of the Dead».

The Atlantic hurricane season ends in November. At least traditionally it does.

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