I’ve been riveted to the news from New Orleans for the past 48 hours. As best as I can tell, the breaches of the levees separating the city from Lake Ponchartrain are going to result in the city flooding until the water level in the bowl that is New Orleans reaches the same level as the lake. (Currently the lake is 6 feet above its normal level, meaning even more additional flooding.) At that point, I guess it will be possible to repair the levees since water won’t be cascading through the breaches. It’s impossible for anybody to really tell what this all means, but the talk now is of power not being restored to some areas for 6-8 weeks and schools not reopening for months. Right now the city is even without fresh water due to a broken water main.
The floodwaters seem to have turned New Orleans into a hellscape. Power is off everywhere, including the Superdome and the hospitals, and everyone is being evacuated. Looting also seems to be rampant, and police are too busy rescuing people from their flooded homes to keep the order.
The time for second guessing appears to have arrived already, with blame being handed out to President Bush for spending money that had been earmarked for improving the levee system on the war in Iraq, FEMA for shirking its disaster preparedness function, and humanity for destroying the coastal wetlands that offered Lousiana some measure of protection from storms. There’s also going to be plenty of talk about whether the extended deployments of National Guard troops to Iraq affected the disaster response capabilities of the states affected by Katrina.
New Orleans is just about my favorite city in the world, and I’m shocked to think that it will never be the same.
Update: Craig Newmark has a post pointing to ways people are using Craigslist to help recover from Katrina.