disaster porn

Here's a Java applet that shows an animation of the path of Hurricane Katrina. Damn that's big.

Here's a cut-away view that shows how New Orleans can easily turn into a lake.

Earlier today this page said the following, but it's since been deleted. I don't know if that means they no longer believe it, or if they thought it was a little too wrath-of-god:

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.

Some folks in disasterporn said:

And what lives in the water in that part of the country? Alligators and poisonous snakes? Oh, that the basin also has above-ground graves, chemical plants, and (like most cities) sewage treatment plants. [...] The live feed reporters also just said, "Oh, and fire ants." They'll swarm floating things to save themselves, then people out there wading grab the floating things, and... (the reporter actually shuddered a little).

A couple of older articles about how screwed New Orleans is: What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans? And Thinking Big About Hurricanes.

Rescue teams would have to don special breathing equipment to protect themselves from floodwaters contaminated with chemicals and toxins released from commercial sources within the city and the petrochemical plants that dot the river's edge. Additionally, tank cars carrying hazardous materials, which constantly pass through the city, would likely be damaged, leaking their contents into the floodwater and adding to the "brew." The floodwater could become so polluted that the Environmental Protection Agency might consider it to be hazardous waste and prohibit it from being pumped out of the leveed areas into the lake and marshes until treated.

Lots of info at Wikipedia.

Scene missing! A video that used to be embedded in this post has disappeared. If you know of a copy of this video that is still accessible, please mail me so that I can update the link.
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28 Responses:

  1. substitute says:

    I recommend John McPhee's book The Control of Nature. The chapter on the Army Corps of Engineers versus the Mississippi is educational and laugh out loud scary, even more than the chapter about Los Angeles Versus the Mountains.

    • mactavish says:

      I laugh pretty hard at the Los Angeles vs. the Mountains story, and I love the Icelanders vs. the Volcano story. But of all of those, the Mississippi-wants-to-be-the-Atchafalaya story is the most emotionally fulfilling, for me. The Army Corps of Engineers must know it's screwed eventually.

  2. bodyfour says:

    Weren't we just talking about this?

  3. johnreen says:

    I love Armstrong International's current TAF report; it starts out not-so-bad and moves quickly to "We're fucked" and back again.

    290105Z 290124 05015G25KT 6SM -RA SCT020 BKN040 TEMPO 0206 VRB65KT 1SM +SHRA BKN010 OVC020CB

    FM0700 04045G75KT 1SM +SHRA SCT005 OVC020CB TEMPO 0913 VRB120KT 1/4SM +SHRA OVC010CB

    FM1800 28045KT 6SM -RA SCT020 BKN050 TEMPO 1822 3SM -RA SCT030 BKN080

  4. That first excerpt is basic descriptive text for Category 5 storms.

    My best friend lives in New Orleans. She and her boyfriend are staying in one of the big hotels. I'm pretty worried. I think that staying in the city for this one is a huge mistake. If the city floods, she's going to have a hell of a time trying to get out.

  5. strspn says:

    The NWS forecasts have certainly been scrubbed. The local TV station maps clearly state max winds at 160 mph with gusts to 195 mph(!!) while the NWS claims only, "... WINDS 30 TO 65 MPH ... INCREASING TO 50 TO 85 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT...." 85 mph my ass.

    The hurricane has intensified slightly in the past 24 hours, and has slowed from 15 down to 10 miles per hour, implying even greater damage than the wrath-o-God text states.

    I predict the biggest U.S. disaster ever, with carnage dwarfing the 9/11 deaths.

    • johnreen says:

      I predict the biggest U.S. disaster ever, with carnage dwarfing the 9/11 deaths.

      Makes one wonder if Bush's crack team is spending time tonight trying to figure out how to blame this storm on Saddam.

      • strspn says:

        God. The storm is strengthening after weakening a little over the past two hours, the National Hurricane Center can't figure out why the eye is so big and why the pressure (910 mb) doesn't match the windspeed. The WeatherUndergroud blog posters are saying 35 foot storm surge. There are 100,000 people trapped in the city.

        The NWS forcasts for wide distribution are completely contradicting the local forcaster's advisory which returns some of the wrath-o-god text, "MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS REMAIN NEAR 160 MPH WITH HIGHER GUSTS." That's more like it.

        Gusts in downtown NOLA are already 90 mph according to the WWLTV feed/stream.

      • jck says:

        Um, duh, Iraq was a success. This is obviously Iran's fault. Time to pack up the troops and go fight the Iranian Weather Terrorists!

  6. justmealex says:

    Thankfully the Louisiana Army National Guard can be called out to help...oh wait, they're in Iraq.

  7. pavel_lishin says:

    Sounds like a great story to be written.

  8. loosechanj says:

    I went down to Homestead a month after Andrew. I have no problem believing that apocalyptic description.

  9. springdew says:

    The levee system in NOLA was intended to fend off a hurricane similar to Betsy in 1965. They didn't have the Saffir-Simpson scale then. They called Betsy, which would have been roughly a cat 3 fast-mover, a "SPH" - standard project hurricane.

    Betsy approached from much the same direction that Katrina is now.

    These two graphics show projected storm surge over the area if it were Betsy striking:

    http://www.pubs.asce.org/ceonline/art/art03/0603feat9A.jpg
    http://www.pubs.asce.org/ceonline/art/art03/0603feat10A.jpg

    Source:
    http://www.pubs.asce.org/ceonline/ceonline03/0603feat.html

  10. leolo says:

    If it keeps on raining, the levee's goin' to break
    If it keeps on raining, the levee's goin' to break
    And when the levee breaks, I'll have no place to stay.

    Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
    Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
    When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

  11. fooishbar says:

    The NOAA hysteria wasn't scrubbed as such. The links you get point to an auto-refreshing 'latest update' page. The wrath-of-God hysterics were posted in update #023, which simply vanished with later updates. My entry here has a little more of the text, and the full text got reproduced on deadlykatrina.com.

    At this point, we're up to update #025B, and there should be another within the next couple of hours.

    • as far as I can tell the NOAA page still has the full text up and viewable. It is found at HERE and is accesable from JWZ's link by clikcing on the link that says, "Urgent Weather Message for Lower Plaquemines, LA"

  12. pathwalker says:

    The (not quite) real time water height data from the USGS/ACoE monitoring station in New Orleans is available here.

    At 3:00 am, it had spiked up to around 8 feet.

  13. st_arbirix says:

    On the bright side, it will be cleaned.

  14. xariusx says:

    Is every city in that country built on a fault line/hurricane path/tornado hotspot/active volcano or something?

    :/

    • jesus_x says:

      North America has the privilege of being located at a wonderful nexus of natural disaster points. Pretty much anywhere you build SOMETHING will try to kill you. West coast has quakes, east coast has floods, midwest has tornadoes, and the south has hurricanes. For added fun, hurricanes like this one spawn tornadoes at the edges, and them move north and east so the northeast gets plowed under with whatever rain didn't fall on the south, and floods us out. Occasionally a hurricane will veer enough southward and cross Mexico and give California a thrill, or one forms in the Pacific, but they're rarely as strong.

  15. retrodiva1 says:

    Gary's comment to me this morning was "good thing we decided to go to vegas instead of new orleans".

    Hasn't NO been sinking steadily over time as it is? It looks like nature just decided to give it a push. Man that's a shame though I love that city I can't even imagine what the destructions is going to be like.

    Good thing I never bought property there. For a time seriously entertained thoughts of it.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, it's been sinking in part due to the levees, and in part due to the draining of marshes and wetlands for oil drilling and waterfront industrialization. That prevents deposition of new sediment from the rivers, while not preventing erosion into the bay.

  16. buckthorn says:

    Reading one of the many CNN stories on this, they mentioned something I'd not thought about (which isn't hard, but still).

    One Disaster Expert(tm) mentioned that people staying behind would be trapped in their homes.. and if they managed to get out and climb a telephone pole or tree or something.. well the fire ants are mighty keen on such vertical structures during flooding, and eventually the fire ants would win.

    And I won't quote numbers because I'll get them wrong, but suffice it to say there is apparently a silly number of fire and mounts per square yard in the NO area.

  17. cdavies says:

    Surely the music should have been Katrina and the Waves? Perhaps The Sun Won't Shine. Or as a distant second, River Deep Mountain High.