I had never been there before but instantly fell in love with it. Not since I first stopped in San Francisco when I was 18 have I been so taken by a city. Tonight New Orleans literally faces destruction. Check out this statement from the National Weather Service:
EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE KATRINA CONTINUES TO APPROACH THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTAI've never read such a graphic statement from the usually bland and understated National Weather Service.
DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED
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.
And then there's this:
One MILLION homeless! From one city.
When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries.
Experts have warned for years that the levees and pumps that usually keep New Orleans dry have no chance against a direct hit by a Category 5 storm.
That's exactly what Katrina was as it churned toward the city. With top winds of 165 mph and the power to lift sea level by as much as 28 feet above normal, the storm threatened an environmental disaster of biblical proportions, one that could leave more than 1 million people homeless.
Lets hope the storm weakens or moves in a different direction or something. I just can't believe this is really going to happen.
On a personal note, before I left for my trip to New Orleans last month I checked the tropical forecast to make sure there was no chance of a hurricane or tropical storm ruining my vacation. Even while there, I checked being slightly nervous about it. I also would occasionally remember all the Gulf hurricanes over the years that eventually missed the city but before that was a certainty, warnings were relayed as to how devastating it would be if one did hit New Orleans directly. I thought about how lucky I was to be there before such a storm did hit some day. Little did I know then, that was about to happen. It's sickening to think that all I saw and experienced there could be gone or ruined by this time tomorrow.
UPDATE: 10:35 pm -- Aaron Brown on CNN has wall-to-wall coverage on what he is calling "The Storm of Our Lifetime". CNN even has a reporter standing on Bourbon Street where the party the never ends has apparently ended. He reports only one bar is open and they were getting ready to close. Now that's serious.
And in case you think this storm won't affect you, CNN is also reporting that oil imports, much of which come through Gulf ports, is being disrupted due to the storm. Guess what that means.
UPDATE II: Comic (I think) relief - Thank God Katrina STILL hasn't ruined Bush's summer vacation
UPDATE III: I keep hearing references and comparisons from "old timers" on the news about 1969's Hurricane Camille. I was nine years old at the time, living here in Springfield, and remember the news coverage of Camille. It's my oldest memory of a weather-related news event (but not my oldest memory of any news event since I recall the assassination of RFK in 1968 and the first moon landing in July 1969, a few weeks before Camille). The only reason I remember Camille is because it was so devastating. Hearing Camille's name being used again sends a shiver up my spine.