Gustav And The New Orleans Quandary

The damage in New Orleans was hurricane related, but it wasn’t the damage you expect in a hurricane. On the Mississippi coast structures were blown apart. In New Orleans most buildings were intact until they were flooded.

As I type this, Gustav is somewhere near the Cayman Islands, picking up strength and heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is warm. Gustav will strengthen some more.

For the past few days the official Hurricane Center Track has pushed Gustav toward the Louisiana coast sometime late Monday/early Tuesday. The latest center of the track would bring landfall west of the Mississippi over a swampy, sparsely populated area near Vermillion Bay. That would put New Orleans on the stronger side of the storm, but possibly far enough away to escape the worst. Katrina struck on the opposite side of New Orleans–actually on the Mississippi coast. For Katrina, New Orleans was on the weak side!

Monday’s a long way off. The track will certainly shift somewhat by then.

There is a misconception most people have about Katrina. I’m writing tonight to put that part of the Katrina saga in perspective. The damage in New Orleans was hurricane related, but it wasn’t the damage you expect in a hurricane. On the Mississippi coast structures were blown apart. In New Orleans most buildings were intact until they were flooded.

I’m not saying there wasn’t damage before the water–there most certainly was. But New Orleans wasn’t flattened by a hurricane. It didn’t receive strong and sustained hurricane force winds. It was not the ‘worst case scenario’ storm New Orleans had feared.

I wrote this as Katrina began to pull away Monday evening.

Katrina Comes Ashore 08/29/05 9:21 PM

New Orleans wasn’t totally laid to waste. There has been plenty of damage, and once we get out of the ‘fog of war’ we’ll find plenty more. The coasts of Alabama and Mississippi really took the brunt of Hurricane Katrina. That was more than expected.

After the fact, I still agree with the decision to empty out New Orleans. Yes, some people will crawl out of the woodwork to say they rode it out and it wasn’t that bad. That’s not the point.

At this point the New Orleans hurricane damage from Katrina wasn’t that bad. The damage we all saw didn’t start until later Monday night long after the storm was over. It was as if the Katrina unfolded in slow motion.

Bad News For New Orleans, Out of Left Field 08/30/05 3:02 AM

Rick Sanchez was on the air, speaking by phone with someone from Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. The hospital’s spokesperson was talking about water – rising water.

The hospital had seen no real flooding while Hurricane Katrina passed by, but tonight, water had begun rushing in and it was rising at an alarming rate.

I could hear the fear in her voice as she described the water level rising an inch every five minutes. That’s a foot an hour. Already there was six feet of water outside the hospital. Soon, water would reach the level of their emergency generators on the second floor.

Sanchez was taken aback. I’m not sure he originally understood what she was saying. It was so unexpected – so out of context.

She said a levee keeping Lake Ponchartrain out of New Orleans had been breached. The cut in the levee was two blocks long and water was rushing in unimpeded. Even if there were pumps working, and she wasn’t sure there were, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with this deluge.

On CNN, Rick Sanchez kept asking questions, but it was obvious this woman wanted to get off the phone. Speaking to him wasn’t going to help her.

I heard terror in her voice.

The hospital had to get its patients out. Its patients were by and large critical. The only way to move them would be by helicopter and FEMA would be needed for that.

The other all news stations are in their usual reruns. I have no way of knowing if this is true. If it is, this is New Orleans’ worst fears are realized. Lake Ponchartrain could inundate the city.

Here’s my point. If Gustav gets strong (likely) and hits just west of New Orleans (possible) there will be a different type of damage in the Crescent City. New Orleans could just get blown over. Nothing FEMA or the Corps of Engineers has done would prevent this kind of destruction.

I’m not sure which scenario is worse–what happened in ’05 or what’s possible in a few days. They are not, unfortunately, mutually exclusive scenarios.

What Goes Up – Take 2

A few days ago I wrote about the US spy satellite that will soon come crashing to the Earth. “Falling US satellite is not dangerous,” was the sentiment attributed to NASA.

The Air Force looks at it a little differently. Gen. Gene Renuart, who heads of U.S. Northern Command was interviewed by the AP.

“…it looks like it might re-enter into the North American area,” then the U.S. military along with the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will either have to deal with the impact or assist Canadian or Mexican authorities.

Say what?

We haven’t heard the last of this out-of-control bad boy. Odds are nothing happens, but today no one can guarantee that.

Computers Can’t Be Trusted

“Computer problem.” I’ve heard those two words a million times. Mostly, it’s a crock. Computer problems aren’t usually computer problems but problems which appear when humans operate computers. In other words, it’s mostly human error.

Computers only do what they’re told. Hardware failures that allow them to run amok are relatively rare. It’s that fingertip/keyboard interface where all the trouble arises.

With that perspective, it’s off to Chicago where, earlier this week, WGN radio found itself broadcast all over the radio and TV dial. I was tipped off to this story by Adam Chernow in Wisconsin, but I’ll quote the Chicago Tribune:

In the parlance of the Cold War era that spawned the federally mandated Emergency Alert System, launch codes were issued throughout Illinois on Tuesday morning, automatically pre-empting dozens of radio and television stations as if the region faced nuclear annihilation.

Rather than President Bush reassuring citizens after an atomic blast or some other calamity, the audience of many Chicago outlets was treated to the sound of dead air followed by the voice of WGN-AM 720 morning man Spike O’Dell struggling to figure out what had happened.

It turns out O’Dell’s pair of brief surprise appearances between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. on everything from local public broadcasting to music stations — an “unintentional disruption,” a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman called it — stemmed from a FEMA contractor’s installation of the state’s Emergency Alert System satellite receiver in Springfield as part of a nationwide upgrade.

If the contractor had asked me to call all those stations, I would have pointed out the error of his ways. Computers are more obedient and, unfortunately, don’t question authority!

Why do we do this? Why do we allow an automated system take control so an errant human can cause chaos?

I know why. I was there the morning the old system failed!

It was February 20, 1971. As I remember, it was a sunny and mild winter’s day. I was working as a disk jockey at WQXT, located right on the ocean in Palm Beach, Florida. Life was good.

At 9:33 AM a series of ten bells rang out from the Associated Press teletype. Ten bells was the signature for a national emergency, an EBS alert… but this was Saturday at 9:33 AM. They tested the system every Saturday at 9:33 AM.

Somewhere deep within Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, a technician put the wrong put tape in his teletype. Instead of sending the test, he sent the real thing!

From Wikipedia: An EBS activation message authenticated with the codeword “HATEFULNESS” was sent through the entire system, ordering stations to shut down and broadcast the alert of a national emergency. A cancellation message with the wrong codeword was sent at 9:59 AM EST, and a cancellation message with the correct codeword was not sent until 10:13AM EST.

Most radio and TV stations did nothing! They had no way of knowing the message was wrong. In fact, every indication was it was real.

In my case, I heard the bells and disregarded them. It was test time. I heard those bells every Saturday morning.

By the time I looked at the teletype, the alert had been corrected. The few people listening to my little radio station were well served because I totally screwed up!

After that debacle the government worked to change to a better, faster, more streamlined, heavily automated system. And yet, with this week’s problem, the cause was exactly the same – human error.

It’s this automated system that has sometimes allowed cable companies to cut my television station’s audio as they run emergency crawls… even though we’re giving emergency info when they kill our audio!

Society has become so complex, we can’t operate without computer assistance. Unfortunately, that has forced us to put much too much power in someone’s fingertip. The folks in Chicago understand.

The Meisels Go Home To New Orleans

Back when Hurricane Katrina was threatening the Gulf Coast, I did my best to get Ruth Meisel out. The day she drove to safety up north was the last time she saw her home, until yesterday.

With her two adult children in tow, Ruth Meisel returned to New Orleans to see what could be salvaged and tie up loose ends. She will be among the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, who will leave their homes and move elsewhere.

New Orleans is being abandoned, wholesale.

I asked her son, my friend, Farrell to type some of his thoughts so I could put them here in the blog. I’ll sprinkle a few of his photos here, though the best way to see them is in this slideshow.

Clean up goes on. 80% of the city was affected. Some parts of the city have begun to function, albeit at half speed. This area is still without electricity and is deemed unsafe. It’s expected that electricity won’t be restored in New Orleans East for six to nine months. My mother returned for the first time since the hurricane and subsequent floods, to survey the damage and see if anything could be saved. She’s suited up and ready to go inside. In the background, my sister, Cheri, ready to suit up, as well.

It’s nice… no, it’s amazing to see Ruth smiling.

Here’s my read. She could be distressed with what she’s about to see, or she could be happy to see she raised her children right, and they are accompanying and supporting her. She chose the latter.

My mother knew from earlier reports and a prior visit by my sister, that things didn’t look so good. She’s been very optimistic and hopeful, looking forward and giving us much encouragement. My mother’s house survived the storm on the outside, but the inside looked and smelled awful and was a total disaster. Entering the front door we were greeted by a living room chair that wasn’t there when my mother left in August. That gives you an idea of how we were greeted.

From the marks on the wall it looks like 4-5 feet of water made it into the house. From the ‘bunny suits’ the Meisel’s wore, you can assume it wasn’t spring water.

Nearly everything was ruined.

One of the things that struck Farrell when we spoke on the phone was the proliferation of signs advertising Katrina related services. There are also markings, scrawled on homes with spray paint.

This house has been FEMA’d. FEMA is not an acronym here. It’s a four-letter word. BTW, so is Bush.
One of the city’s synagogues, Beth Israel, an Orthodox house of worship…Also one of the city’s oldest, which used to be in the historic uptown area until the late 1960s. Also on Canal Blvd, note the watermarks. Reportedly, the head Rabbi fled town, leaving the Torah scrolls to flood and be rescued from religious volunteers. The Rabbi has since been fired. My sister spotted prayer books and prayer shawls on the ground in front of the now-deserted synagogue….a sin in the Jewish religion.

Here’s how Farrell ended his note, and I’ll leave it pretty much intact:

As I visit here, for the first time in several years, 3 months after the devastation that has been chronicled worldwide, I have now discovered: A Missing City. Parts of the city and neighboring parish (Jefferson) we have seen are beginning to function, but it’s slow and without spirit.

In our many conversations with New Orleanians and Jeffersonians, one hears a great deal of anger leveled at Government. I could only find one person with a nice thing to say about President Bush. I asked why? The waitress at the seafood restaurant said it was the Louisiana Governor’s fault for not letting Bush send FEMA and the troops in. I then asked, out of curiosity, did she know that Bush was on a fundraising trip in California for three days before he did a “fly-over”, VP Cheney was buying a vacation house and the Secretary of State was shopping in Manhattan, while her home state, Alabama, was flooded. The waitress hadn’t heard that.

A newspaper stand owner or manager clearly vented his anger towards Bush, but didn’t spare either the local, regional and state governments, but felt, the US Government let Louisiana down.

Most of the Greater New Orleans area, (Orleans and neighboring parishes), as it’s known, with some 1 million people once living there, don’t have electricity, a home, assistance from FEMA, insurance companies, and they feel forgotten just three months after the hurricane and floods.. As is the case with crises the world over, once the cameras leave, the sense of urgency goes with the camera crews.

The stores and shops that are open are operating for limited hours due to two factors: limited shoppers and limited staff.

It’s quite unusual to be driving in one part of the area, say neighboring Metairie, where the shops and malls have reopened, only to continue on Interstate 10 to downtown New Orleans, and pass through darkness because whole areas have no power.

There were some signs of life downtown and in the French Quarter. The beautiful St. Charles Avenue historic areas seemed to be untouched and lit, yet, just a few blocks away, one would have thought we could have been in a war zone.

Rumors of price gouging exist. Household stores are reportedly charging double for goods consumers can buy in the middle of the state or in Mississippi for less. Gasoline is 30 cents a gallon more expensive than in the center of Mississippi or Louisiana reportedly.

Residents feel abandoned now. From the newspaper shop owner to restaurateur, residents don’t feel the city of N.O. census will approach even half of it’s close to 461,000 registered residents.

Employers are looking for employees. Potential employees are looking for housing, assistance from FEMA and the insurance companies, and those are the few, who have returned.

The Times-Picayune reported today that the New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, rumored to be in Washington on business, actually wasn’t there on business, but took his family on vacation to Jamaica. While I’m sure he’s deserving of a break, there are several hundred thousand to one million people, who’d love to take that break, if only they could get some help from the various government agencies so they could get on with their lives and rebuild. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the levee system.

As I write this at 2am Central Standard Time, I was trying to think, after only two days here, how could I best describe what I have seen and heard? The word that comes to mind is “abyss.”

New Orleans, which had once been described as the “city that care forgot,” from an old Mardi Gras tale, has become the bottomless gulf or pit. There are only a handful of truly unique cities in the U.S. with some history and character. When tourists think of those cities, New Orleans had always been in the same company with San Francisco, Boston, New York, Savannah, and perhaps one or two other cities or towns.

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest, if there is no sense of urgency, New Orleans could drop off that list in my lifetime.

Please, look at the pictures. It is so sad… so tragic.

I Didn’t Know I Was This Nice

My friend Farrell’s mom, Ruth, has been interviewed again about her escape from New Orleans.

Every time she tells the story, I become a bigger hero. It’s now the “Legend of Geoff Fox.”

Seriously, this was a call anyone with info would make to the parent of a close friend. I am glad Ruth escaped New Orleans unscathed. I’m glad she listened to her family and friends, because I know in her heart she very much wanted to stay.

The story from the Valley Gazette continues at the jump.

Continue reading “I Didn’t Know I Was This Nice”

Why I Might Change Browsers

This is a very geeky entry. I apologize in advance. Feel free to pass it by.

When I go on the Internet, like right now, I use the Firefox browser. Firefox comes from Mozilla. I suppose this is unimportant to all but those of us who wear propeller hats.

Most people use Internet Explorer. That’s the browser that comes standard with Windows.

IE, as it’s called, is fine… except it is often the equivalent of living in a home in a bad neighborhood with no locks on the doors. Truthfully, if everyone were trustworthy, IE would be perfect. They aren’t. It isn’t.

There are some improvements Firefox brings, including some in security. A whole community has sprung up, writing ‘extensions’ to give it extra capabilities. I take advantage of many of those (including one that eliminates all pop-ups and most other ads).

Unfortunately, Firefox isn’t without its downside. It was totally incompatible with the software Mississippi State used to administer my courses. It falls on its face on MSNBC.com video files(big surprise there), asking me to install software I already have.

This weekend I attempted to install MyWebexPC.com. That too wouldn’t play well with Firefox.

I am not alone. There have been a number of articles citing the inability of FEMA’s website to work with anything but Internet Explorer.

From CNET: Unfortunately, more and more U.S. government agency Web sites are becoming Internet Explorer-only sites. For example, if you want to fill out a Katrina claim form online with FEMA, you have no other choice but to use the only 66 percent secure Internet Explorer 6.x.

The problem is, Firefox follows the standards that have been established for the web. Anything that won’t work with Firefox won’t work because the author has decided to write to Internet Explorer’s peculiarities. Websites should be browser agnostic.

Since IE controls nearly 90% of the browser market, it makes sense to keep things compatible with it. What doesn’t make sense is excluding Microsoft’s competitor.

If these sites were more forgiving toward agreed upon standards, Firefox might get a better foothold and Microsoft would have to respond by improving IE. Competition is good.

As it stands right now, I am seriously thinking of abandoning Firefox. That’s not because it isn’t good. It’s because I’m sick and tired of hitting dead ends.

Firefox doesn’t have to be ‘fixed’ for it to work. Quite the contrary. The only thing wrong with Firefox is, it isn’t broken.

Katrina Timeline Straightening

I am one of those people who firmly believe FEMA and/or the National Guard should have been in New Orleans as soon as the wind began to die down. However, a great misconception most people have is the flooding started around the time the storm peaked.

Here’s what I wrote around 3:00 AM EDT Tuesday morning. By then the storm had moved north and New Orleans no longer had hurricane conditions.

Rick Sanchez was on the air, speaking by phone with someone from Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. The hospital’s spokesperson was talking about water – rising water.

The hospital had seen no real flooding while Hurricane Katrina passed by, but tonight, water had begun rushing in and it was rising at an alarming rate.

I could hear the fear in her voice as she described the water level rising an inch every five minutes. That’s a foot an hour. Already there was six feet of water outside the hospital. Soon, water would reach the level of their emergency generators on the second floor.

Sanchez was taken aback. I’m not sure he originally understood what she was saying. It was so unexpected – so out of context.

She said a levee keeping Lake Ponchartrain out of New Orleans had been breached. The cut in the levee was two blocks long and water was rushing in unimpeded. Even if there were pumps working, and she wasn’t sure there were, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with this deluge.

On CNN, Rick Sanchez kept asking questions, but it was obvious this woman wanted to get off the phone. Speaking to him wasn’t going to help her.

I heard terror in her voice.

The hospital had to get its patients out. Its patients were by and large critical. The only way to move them would be by helicopter and FEMA would be needed for that.

The other all news stations are in their usual reruns. I have no way of knowing if this is true. If it is, this is New Orleans’ worst fears are realized. Lake Ponchartrain could inundate the city.

As far as I can tell, that was the first national report of flooding in New Orleans.

From Editor & Publisher: On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff told Tim Russert that one reason for the delay in rushing federal aid to the Gulf Coast was that “everyone” thought the crisis had passed when the storm left town: “I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, ‘New Orleans Dodged The Bullet.'”

So, maybe that was what Chertoff thought on Tuesday… but where was he on Monday? Even before the flooding, New Orleans was in great need. The city was without power. Windows were blown out all over the city. Buildings had been destroyed. People were homeless or were housed in shelters with no food, water or sanitary facilities.

Yes, the flooding came late, but wasn’t anyone there surveying the damage or deciding what kind of support the city would need before then? Even before the flooding, the city had suffered a tragedy.

Why was he depending on newspapers (or any media) for his information?

More On Katrina’s Aftermath

This story is beginning to wind down for me. However, what has happened in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast cannot be forgotten.

I am mortified at the sight of the United States begging other countries for aid. Is this our true place in the world? Heaven help us all.

While I was away from my computer, my friend Ashley Adams sent this IM. He was gone by the time I returned to the keyboard:

Ashley: Geoff, why weren’t FEMA and the other fed agencies better prepared in New Orleans? You were telling me that this was going to be the disaster of the century two days before it hit.

That, of course, is the money question.

This morning’s New Orleans Times-Picayune had a scathing editorial.

Despite the city

Asking Tough Questions

This is a small blog with minimal schlep. I’ve been asking where our country’s response to Hurricane Katrina has been for days. Now, through Internet audio and video, I have watched others – mainly journalists with network weight, asking the same questions.

I’ve found most of the links on Crooks and Liars. It is a site I had never seen before today and, quite honestly, I don’t know anything about it or its political slant.

The answers I’ve heard haven’t been satisfying to me. The fact that these journalists now feel empowered to ask tough questions is a good thing.

I watched Anderson Cooper interview Senator Landrieu of Louisiana. He was having none of whatever she was saying – especially her glad handing other politicians for their diligent work in this catastrophe. He brought her back to dead bodies and suffering people.

In the past I have criticized Anderson Cooper for his ‘cowboy’ reporting in the face of imminent natural disasters. My opinion of Mr. Cooper has greatly changed, and to the better. I have seen thoughtful and insightful reporting on his part. He has won me over.

I’ve always enjoyed Jack Cafferty. Whoever at CNN decided to let him speak his mind did us all a great favor. Whether I agree with everything he says, I always listen and ponder.

In a piece of video I just watched, Cafferty used his age, 62 years old, as a reference when speaking that he had never seen a response like this to any disaster – ever.

I’m am watching Ted Koppel in a segment that has been captioned:

He had no interest in the spin, and began at least five questions with “With all due respect Mr Brown, but…” Koppel is leading the growing chorus of speaking truth to power.

Ted is interviewing Michael Brown from FEMA. This is not a good day to be Michael Brown.

The More I Watch, The More Unhappy I Am

Hurricane Katrina ceased being a weather story days ago. I now watch as an interested bystander. I am very unhappy with what I see.

If FEMA or any other part of Homeland Security has had an impact on those people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I haven’t seen it. Again, this storm wasn’t a surprise. I told people here in Connecticut how bad I thought it would be… but I wasn’t alone.

Reading the pre-Katrina statements from the Weather Service’s New Orleans office, there was no doubt this was being portrayed as a killer… a once in a lifetime type event. The Hurricane Center was saying the same thing.

Where was FEMA?

Where was Homeland Security?

Where are they today?

How can we allow our fellow citizens to suffer, as these people are certainly suffering? Where is the humanity that symbolizes America? These poor citizens deserve comfort.

New Orleans is a city filled with poor, black people. I would be easy to think this was racist or classist treatment. I don’t think so. I think this is a case of inept agencies. They would have poorly served any group so affected, regardless of station in life.

It looks like there are still people dying from this storm. How disgusting is that?

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

A doctor in University Hospital telephoned a Baton Rouge TV station, hoping to call attention to the desperate plight at his hospital. The hospital was running low on food and water, and had no power, the doctor said.

Where Is The Federal Government?

“Good afternoon…there is a desperate, desperate race to try to save those who made it through the storm, but may not survive the aftermath. This may be one of the saddest spectacles I have ever seen.” – Shepard Smith, Fox News Channel

I’m not in New Orleans nor the Gulf Coast. I only know what I see on television and read in the newspaper. I am not happy with what I’m seeing.

Times-Picayune

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Looting on Tchoupitoulas Avenue

By Michael Perlstein

Staff writer

Looting in New Orleans was so widespread Wednesday that police were forced to prioritize their overwhelmed enforcement effort.

The officers were rushing to a break-in next door at the Sports Authority, desperate to secure the store’s stockpile of guns and ammunition.

“I think we ran them off before they got any of it,” said the commanding officer at the scene. The cops secured the store with heavy plywood before moving on to other emergencies.

There’s more, but it’s too depressing.

Where is FEMA? Where is Homeland Security? Where is the National Guard? Where are tents and cots and kitchens?

Why on Wednesday is this first being announced by President Bush&#185?

That Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast was no surprise. It was well forecast, both intensity and track. The predictions from the Hurricane Center were dire with some of the strongest cautionary language I’ve ever read relating to weather.

Wasn’t anything brought in to be ready?

As we have a moment to step back from this tragedy, maybe it’s time to question how the resources allocated for emergency services are deployed. If I were in New Orleans or the Mississippi and Alabama coastal towns, I’d be more than steaming right now. I’d want answers.

&#185 – Though President Bush is ‘in charge’, operational decisions should have been made at lower governmental levels.

Bad News For New Orleans, Out of Left Field

I just finished watching a show I’d recorded earlier tonight. When it ended, I went down to my cable system’s block of news channels to scout around.

Usually, this time of night, they’re re-running shows from earlier in the evening. Tonight, as I hit CNN, I noticed a white LIVE ‘bug’ in the upper left hand corner.

Rick Sanchez was on the air, speaking by phone with someone from Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. The hospital’s spokesperson was talking about water – rising water.

The hospital had seen no real flooding while Hurricane Katrina passed by, but tonight, water had begun rushing in and it was rising at an alarming rate.

I could hear the fear in her voice as she described the water level rising an inch every five minutes. That’s a foot an hour. Already there was six feet of water outside the hospital. Soon, water would reach the level of their emergency generators on the second floor.

Sanchez was taken aback. I’m not sure he originally understood what she was saying. It was so unexpected – so out of context.

She said a levee keeping Lake Ponchartrain out of New Orleans had been breached. The cut in the levee was two blocks long and water was rushing in unimpeded. Even if there were pumps working, and she wasn’t sure there were, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with this deluge.

On CNN, Rick Sanchez kept asking questions, but it was obvious this woman wanted to get off the phone. Speaking to him wasn’t going to help her.

I heard terror in her voice.

The hospital had to get its patients out. Its patients were by and large critical. The only way to move them would be by helicopter and FEMA would be needed for that.

The other all news stations are in their usual reruns. I have no way of knowing if this is true. If it is, this is New Orleans’ worst fears are realized. Lake Ponchartrain could inundate the city.

I went to WWL’s streaming site, but it’s down. WDSU’s streaming site has static and solid blue video.

CNN is my only source and their info is coming from a woman whose identity I can’t confirm. On top of that, her claim is totally unexpected.

There was nothing at nola.com, so I went back to WWL’s website and found a recorded video clip from the mayor. He confirms the levee breach and a lot more.

I thought, based on what I’d seen and heard, New Orleans’ damage was moderate. Based on what I’m hearing now, it’s tragic. The mayor sounds like a defeated man. Some city areas are under 20 feet of water. Highways and bridges have been destroyed. Gas lines have been broken and geysers of flame are shooting up through the water on a few flooded streets.

The Twin Spans are gone. When the mayor said that, the two anchors sitting with him stared in total disbelief.

The Twin Spans are an amazing 23.8 miles across, held in place by 9,000 concrete pilings. During the day, as you approach the middle of the bridge, you can see no land in either direction. At night, you can faintly see the city lights.

Locals say it’s an eerie feeling until you get used to it. Too late for that now, I suppose.

Earlier, I had used the term “fog of war” to describe how much we didn’t know. Now that the fog is lifting, the true extent is damage is coming into view.

Blogger’s note: In my original posting on this entry, I think I confused one roadway for another.

Geoff,

Came across your blog when doing a google search on Twin Spans after what

I heard in the NO Mayor’s interview that according what FEMA told him that

Twin Spans are gone. Well it may be correct but you are confusing the Twin

Spans with the twin Ponchartrain Causeway (the one which is 24 miles long)

and connect the North and South shores.

The TWIN SPANS are the bridges on the I 10E crossing the Lake on the

eastern side of NO.

You will find it in the map below

http://www.wwltv.com/weather/hurricane/images/contraflowmap.jpg

regards

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– –

Jignesh Badani

I appreciate Jignesh’s attention and help in pointing this out.

Where Do I Go To Get A Life?

As I begin to type this, it is 2:26 AM. I am sitting in front of the computer, as I have for the past few hours. Earlier, I was playing poker. Now I am just killing time, waiting for the 00z run of the gfdl to come in so I can see the latest on Hurricane Frances&#185.

This run should be somewhat telling, because there are signs the track of the storm might be changing… or at least the forecast signs are changing. Some earlier models tonight, models that aren’t especially good with hurricanes, brought Frances farther up the coast before landfall.

It’s in.

Yes, the guidance points further up the coast for landfall – maybe the border between the Carolinas.

My friend Bob, who I’ve been talking to much of the night on Instant Messenger, pointed out what a nightmare this could be for FEMA. With landfall anywhere along the East Coast, hundreds of miles and millions of people will need to be warned. Hopefully the track will become more well defined with time.

Hurricane forecasting is incredibly imprecise. These are tiny storms compared to the typical low and high pressure systems we track. And they spend much of their lives in an area with little in the way of steering currents.

Still, for me, they are fascinating to watch as they develop.

They are beautiful to see on satellite images (Frances is still too far from land to be seen on radar). The laws of physics define their shape. Though nothing but clouds and water vapor, they are real objects with mass and momentum. When you stop and think of it, the energy necessary to move that much ‘stuff’ around that quickly is immense.

By the time I get up the computers will have crunched the numbers again with another imprecise solution. I will be drawn to it like a moth to flame.

&#185 – Weather wouldn’t make sense unless everything was synchronized. You’d like all readings to be taken at the same time. Of course, there are better than two dozen different time zones! So, to keep everyone on the same page, we use Universal Coordinated Time and abbreviate it “Z”. 00Z is midnight Universal Coordinated Time, or 8:00 PM EDT, on the preceding day.

Gfdl refers to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, where this model was born.