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The big easy

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 best coverage so far has come from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which had to abandon its offices yesterday morning and relocate to Houma, and WWLTV, the New Orleans CBS affiliate.

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.

4 Comments

  1. It’s not just “second-guessing” – there was plenty of criticism of these and related decisions prior to the outcome we’re looking at today.

  2. Although no doubt those things would have helped, the fact that New Orleans is below sea level and all seems to have meant it was doomed to me. I don’t think it’s even a good idea to rebuild a lot of it, as this could happen again next year or next month. My wife used to life in NO, and there is the possibility of one of her friends coming to live with us to look for a job in Austin since it doesn’t appear she has a home or job anymore.

    I’m also worried about my wife’s step-father and her ex-husband who live in Baton Rouge, since now there are a lot of refugees and any business that had a significant portion of its income from New Orleans has the risk of going out of business, making Baton Rouge problematic, too.

    I keep watching and I just don’t know what all is going to happen, but I feel this is going to have a long-lasting effect on the entire south and some effect on most of the rest of country economically.

  3. Rafe – One of our former coworkers moved to New Orleans about 2 weeks ago. She emailed me and others last night to let us know that she, her husband and cats are safe in Texas for the time being. Of course they don’t know when they will be able to go back, or what there will be to go back to.

  4. Rebuilding the city seems unlikely, unless they spend billions on creating a hurricane-proof levee system. The insurance companies certainly can’t be happy about the billions/trillions of dollars in claims they will have to pay out.

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