Friday, August 25, 2006

Interesting article in the Washington Post

If you haven't gotten your fill of the he said/she said hurricane debate, read this.

27 comments:

Dano said...

Curry and Trenberth are on SciFri today, BTW.

The WaPo is typical stuff, sadly.

Best,

D

George Landis said...

Excellent dano, you and I can agree on the wash post.

Bill F said...

It really burns me up to see people continue to talk about Katrina as if it was some terribly powerful storm that unleashed a previously unimaginable beating on New Orleans. The fact is that while Katrina's storm surge was larger because of its previous strength, she was at best a cat 3 when she first touched land and may have been significantly weaker by the time she hit New Orleans and Mississippi. The reality is that the beating New Orleans and Mississippi faced wasn't "unimaginable", it had already been imagined, documented, researched, and predicted nearly a decade before it happened. The reason that Katrina caused the damage and chaos she did was a function of 1) man's arrogance in building a city below sea level next to the mouth of the largest river on the continent in a flood and hurricane prone area; 2) governmental corruption and ignorance in spending money for "flood control" and "levee maintenance" on marina projects, statues, and other worthless political stunts; 3) simple stupidity in creating an erroneous cross section when designing the levee that failed which resulted in a sheet piling that was 10 feet shallower than it needed to be; and 4) the cumulative results of 40 years of nanny-state programs that stripped the self preservation instincts and self-reliance out of a population of nearly 400,000 people.

What happened in New Orleans was EXACTLY what was predicted to happen when a category 3+ storm surge hit a city built below sea level with a faulty levee system that had not been properly maintained for nearly 2 decades. It had nothing to do with global warming. Category 3 storms have hit the gulf coast for hundreds of years and there was nothing at all extraordinary about this once except that it hit an ill prepared city with a population that expected government to do everything for them instead of taking responsibility for their own safety.

The debate over last year's hurricane season and its relation to global warming will go on, but there is absolutely no relationship between the aftereffects of Katrina and global warming. People who use Katrina as a rallying call for global warming action are being dishonest, disrespectful, and irresponsible in giving the population as a whole a scapegoat to blame, instead of turning the bright light of truth on the reality that New Orleans in its current form is a city that never should have been built, should not have been populated by the time Katrina hit, and should not be rebuilt now.

Dano said...

but there is absolutely no relationship between the aftereffects of Katrina and global warming.

Wow. Blockbuster, fer sure. Absolutely is a powerful statement. Absolutely huh - what evidence do you have?

Best,

D

George Landis said...

Oh, Oh, let me bill f.

From Kerry Emanuel's [MIT] homepage:

"Q: I gather from this last discussion that it would be absurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming?
A: Yes, it would be absurd."

Dano said...

Golly, George, it's annoying when people don't follow standard protocol, isn't it? It causes confusion. Like when we don't get a link to an interview to see if a quote is in context.

Because, you know, Emanuel might have qualified something before what was included, and it's not our understanding that he has that position (note the links so folk can check to see if I'm cherry-picking):

-----

Q What's going on? Is it global warming? Or do some scientists still believe that the increased hurricane activity is part of a natural cycle?

Emanuel: I think the idea that it's part of a natural cycle is dead.

[...]

Airhart: So when it comes to the debate about the relationship between stronger hurricanes and global warming, we just have to wait?

Emanuel: Very definitely. I think this issue, like all scientific issues, will get resolved. I hope sooner rather than later.

-----

And maybe global warming, you know, if you wait long enough will also start to show up in those statistics.

GELLERMAN: So global warming right now you don't think is having an influence? Or it is having an influence?

EMANUEL: No, if you look at the global record of hurricane activity, you do see a pronounced upward trend that began in the 1970s, which is very highly correlated with an upward trend in the tropical ocean temperature. And the people who study tropical ocean temperatures believe that this recent upward trend is mostly a consequence of global warming, and that's why we're worried that we're now seeing a global warming signal in hurricanes.

-----

Emanuel: I was surprised. When I did this analysis in the Nature paper, I wasn't even looking for any kind of global trends. And global warming was far from my mind. I was looking for natural variability in the amount of energy expended by hurricanes. And you could see the natural variability, but on top of that, it's this trend that we couldn't really get rid of. It became worrying, and led to the Nature paper.

-----

Huh.

So, without us being able to check, it all seems so confusing, no?

Perhaps you can help lend some clarity here George.

Thank you in advance,

Best,

D

George Landis said...

dano, just go to his homepage and read it for yourself. It's very simple, well for those with normal reading comprehension skills that is, but give it a shot. Do you contend he didn't say it? Do you contend some special context would make his quote somehow agree with your idea that AGW caused Katrina's damages? If so, evidence , pleeez.

George Landis said...

OK dano, since you are too lazy to get to it, here it is:
http://wind.mit.edu/~emanuel/anthro2.htm

Check question 8, or read the whole thing, he is very evasive, as most are.

Bill F said...

Dano,

Show me one thing that has anything to do with global warming in a population of people with no instincts for self preservation or self reliance that stand around screaming and crying because the government teat was suddenly yanked from their mouths. Read carefully...I said "aftereffects". Katrina was a moderate storm that happened to take dead aim for an area we knew had an achilles heel when it came to storm surge and flooding, and the AFTEREFFECTS were purely a function of decades of nanny-state politics. When entire towns in the midwest flooded when levees broke on the Mississippi, they didn't stand around bitching about why government wasn't there to feed them. They filled up sand bags, started up pumps, picked up shovels, and got to work fixing what was broken. What happened with Katrina's storm surge and subsequent levee failures was predicted over a decade before it happened, and it was the foolishness, incompetence, and corruptness of local politicians that allowed that prediction to be ignored.

Dano said...

OK dano, since you are too lazy to get to it, here it is:

Thank you for the link, George.

You'll remember from your purportedly numerous reading comprehension courses that when you quote something, you need to cite it too, as that's how the system works. Kinda like a courtesy.

The fundamental issue here is that at our current level of knowledge, our statistics is not good enough to separate one event from any detectable trend. That is: we can't say one way or the other. To restate again: we can't say yes, we can't say no.

So, to restate again, the point I'm making about Bill F's statement is that there's no way to back a Katrina tout, whatever position you take.

Anyway,

Hurricanes are one way the planet transports heat to the extratropics. Emanuel (since George likes him so much, let's quote him) found in his 2005 Nature paper that it looks like there has been an increase in the total power dissipated by hurricanes. Emanuel says as much in his question 3) and explained further in his 5-6. This is not inconsistent with the observation that total GHG forcing is increasing on the planet, and SSTs appear to be increasing (although not linearly or consistently). But as the number of landfalling hrcns is so few, we don't have a big enough sample for our current statistics to remove confounding factors to attribute damage to AGW.

HTH,

D

Bill F said...

"So, to restate again, the point I'm making about Bill F's statement is that there's no way to back a Katrina tout, whatever position you take."

There is absolutely a way to back my position. You are trying to have a discussion about statistics and whether the effects of global warming can be found in a single hurricane season or a single storm. I am talking specifically about why Katrina became such a huge disaster and correspondingly huge news story. It is 100% impossible to say that Katrina was in any way related to global warming. If she were the largest ever or the strongest ever, such a claim might have miniscule merit. Katrina was briefly strong enough to be in the top 5 most powerful Atlantic hurricanes, but ended the season as only the third most powerful of that season. By the time she made landfall, Katrina was a Category 3 and weakening fast, and New Orleans, on the clean side of the storm was spared most of that fury. What happened in New Orleans was a function of geography, sociology, and engineering, not meteorology.

Here is my point...Category 3 hurricanes have been hitting the Gulf Coast for hundreds of years. While Katrina was one of the more powerful recent hurricanes for a period of time while she was in the Gulf, her power at the time she hit New Orleans was neither extraordinary or unusual. The storm surge she spawned was similar to that of Camille in Mississippi, but the surge in and around New Orleans was on the order of 15-19 feet, which is not even close to the 24-28 feet that was seen in Mississippi. Cities all along the Gulf Coast have been hit with very similar (or stronger) hurricanes numerous times in the last 100 years or so. As a hurricane, Katrina was large and strong, but was NOT unusual, and therefore, we cannot through any means say that she was a product of a world-wide multi-decade climatological trend. If I had taken a single record low temperature on a sunday in January in Buffalo, NY in 1970 and tried to claim it was caused by Global Cooling, and made movies talking about how the world would look like Buffalo on that frigid Sunday in Januaryy unless we changed our ways, people would jump all over me saying there was no way to prove why the temperature was that low on that particular day, and you would probably be one of them. But people are taking a relatively unremarkable storm in Katrina and trying to paint her as a global warming spawned harbinger of the future, simply because she also happened to kill a bunch of people and made a mess of America's Mardi Gras playground.

What was extraordinary or unusual about Katrina was that she hit a city that is mostly below sea level, surrounded by levees that were KNOWN FOR AT LEAST A DECADE to be inadequate to protect the city from such a storm's storm surge, and that was filled with a population that had neither the instinct to get out of the way nor the self-discipline to properly prepare for the LIKELY effects if they stayed.

Let me say that again...New Orleans is mostly constructed below sea level. Lets reiterate this part too...The flooding that occurred in New Orleans was predicted more than a decade before it happened. All of the agencies and governments charged with protecting and governing New Orleans were aware of the prediction and the science that was behind it. The prediction was not the fringe rantings of some crazy pseudo-scientist...they were from a well respected LSU professor who had plenty of science to back him up. Very few of the agencies and governments doubted his prediction. They all stood around for a decade or more, wrung their hands in anguish, and prayed that a storm like Katrina wouldn't hit them; while at the same time, they spent levee maintenance funds on statues, marina projects, and other bennies for their politically well connected friends. And when Katrina hit, all of the carefully laid plans were swamped in the rising flood water while the politicians did nothing. Mayor Nagin waited until he got a call from Max Mayfield before he ordered the evacuation of New Orleans and then didn't send the buses around to pick up handicapped and elderly people or to evacuate hospitals as called for in the plan. Kathleen Blanco held off asking for federal help while she and her staff debated who should be in charge. FEMA sat on their hands and waited to cross the political t's and dot the beaurocratic i's before starting to try to coordinate assistance. But that wasn't the worst of it. People in New Orleans, who had been conditioned by decades of getting missed by big storms at the last minute, having government take care of everything they wouldn't do for themselves, and waiting to be told what to do; sat in their homes and waited. Or they went to the Superdome and waited. Despite instructions to bring food and water with them...most didn't. Despite instructions to leave any way they possibly could...most didn't. Despite instructions to get out of the most vulnerable areas...most didn't. And after the storm...most (who didn't die) stood around and waited for government to come save them...they sat around and waited for government to do what they should have done for themselves.

THAT is the story of Katrina. Katrina was a relatively ordinary category 3 hurricane that was large in size and that affected a wide area, but that spared New Orleans the worst of her wrath. The reason Katrina was a major news story was that she hit a city that was ill-prepared for what they knew would happen and that contained a population that was unwilling to take responsibility for their own safety. If Katrina had hit about 50 miles further to the east and not flooded New Orleans, she would have killed about 250-300 people in southern Mississippi and Alabama (which would still be tragic), and would have been quickly forgotten by the news media. The reason Katrina was among the top 5 deadliest to strike the US is because she hit a city that knew for more than a decade it would be flooded by such a storm, and hundreds of thousands of people refused to leave when told to do so. Their decision had nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with willful arrogance in the face mother nature's superior firepower. The biggest shock to the people left in the flooded streets of New Orleans wasn't that their city flooded, but that government wasn't there within 24 hours to fix it for them.

I was in Cozumel when category 4 Wilma hit and then squatted on us for over 48 hours. Yes there was widespread devastation, yes there was flooding and damage, and only a couple of people died. Why? Because they prepared for the storm. They stockpiled supplies, they went to places they knew wouldn't flood, and they took care of themselves instead of waiting for somebody to do it for them. And the morning the storm let up, they were in the streets picking up debris, loading it into trucks, and getting the shops and businesses back in order so they could reopen as soon as the power came back on. When Vicente Fox drove by with his escorts, very few people even looked up from their hard work to wonder who it was. Seeing that scene firsthand just a couple of months after Katrina gave me a perspective on how people prepare for and respond to disasters that I will never forget.

Dano said...

It is 100% impossible to say that Katrina was in any way related to global warming.

Hmmm...apparently somewhere along the line I misunderstood your point. Apologies (for that and AD's bandwidth bill).

Best,

D

EliRabett said...

What we can say that greenhouse gas warming increased the sea surface temperature in the Gulf last year and that the increased sea surface temperature increased the strength of Katrina.

EliRabett said...

Just a follow up here on the evacuation in LA for Katrina. Approximately 1M people evacuated from NO and surrounding parishes before the storm. A relatively small number either chose to stay or could not leave. While there was major hurricane damage, it was the failure of the levees which killed the city and the surrounding parishes to the east and there was no way that the city or its residents could have stopped that, or be blamed for that failure.

The population of NO before Katrina was about 500K, that of the metro area about 1.2 M.

Blame the victim is a game that lots of people enjoy and have played with a vengence since last year. Before bloviating, how about some numbers as to the percent that stayed or evacuated and how about comparing those numbers between NO and the other parishes, particularly St. Bernard which also suffered severe flooding from the levee breaks. Clearly the self-satisfied hrumph is more fun, but what the heck.

Bill F said...

Elirabett,

The disaster in New Orleans could be blamed on alot of people. It is a disaster nearly 100 years in the making. When we decided that we thought we could outsmart mother nature with a bunch of levees without understanding all of the effects of the levee systems, we set ourselves on a collision course with a storm like Katrina. You are right...hundreds of thousands from the greater NO area left...but well over a hundred thousand stayed too. Very few of those were people who had no way to leave...most just didn't want to or didn't feel the need to. I am harsh on the people who stayed, not because I blame them for the disaster, but because the likelihood of the disaster they would face was known so far in advance and was so well publicized. Anybody who stayed and thought the levees would hold was a fool...plain and simple. My heart goes out to people who lost everything in the disaster, but they are no different than people who live within a few miles of the San Andreas fault in California. The danger posed by the fault is well known, and the likely outcome when the big one finally happens has been documented in great detail and thoroughly publicized. Yet when it happens, thousands of people will die and many thousands more will stand in the streets looking at the devastation and look for somebody to blame for it, when they should be looking in the mirror.

Rene Descartes made a very prophetic statement following a quake in Madrid that killed thousands...he said something to the effect of "We should endeavour to find out where earthquakes are likely to happen and take great care not to build cities there." He said that several hundred years ago, and despite all that mankind learned from his research and discoveries, that lesson is one that we have sadly ignored, not just with earthquakes, but with flood situations in places like New Orleans.

Somebody brought up how it would be different if it were Miami or Houston...but guess what, it isn't. I grew up in a town about 5 miles from where the largest 24 hr rainfall in US history fell...39 inches in 1979. Most of the town flooded. We didn't stand around and wait for the government to rescue us or to clean up our homes for us. We cleaned them out, used insurance money or government assistance loans to fix them ourselves, and went on with our lives. When many of the same areas were flooded in TS Allison, the government decided that rebuilding in those areas was a bad idea. Rather than go to the people and promise to build bigger and better levees, the government came to them and bought their houses or demanded that any rebuilding be done on stilts so as to avoid the next flood instead of trying to prevent it.

New Orleans is a doomed city. We can build the levees taller...and the city will keep sinking. We can rework the channels and try to build new sand bars...and the Mississippi will keep destroying them. We can rebuild birhgt and shiny new houses at government expense so as not to appear to be racists for not rebuilding the 9th ward...and the next storm like Katrina will destroy them all again. It is tragic, but we need to move on from New Orleans and find a way to salvage wha is important from the area and not repeat the same mistakes that have been made for the last 100 years. After every major NO flood in the past century, the leaders of the time have promised to rebuild the levees so that it can never happen again. And each time, it has happened again. It is time to learn the lesson Descartes was trying to teach us and learn from our own mistakes, so that we can avoid making them over and over again.

EliRabett said...

Well, let us count the cities that Bill would abandon, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, most of the Netherlands for that matter, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, probably Miami Beach. Oh yes, St. Louis, remember the New Madrid quake, then we have Tokyo, lots of Japan...How about those cities in Indonesia and Turkey subject to quakes.....London huddles behind the flood barrier.....

And, of course, in Bill world you better have your car fare ready or you are not worth his while.

Here, by the way is a comment from Norm Ornstein about the evacuation:

BUSES:
Peter Pantuso of the American Bus Association said he spent much of the day on Wednesday, Aug. 31, trying to find someone at the Federal Emergency Management Agency who could tell him how many buses were needed for an evacuation, where they should be sent and who was overseeing the effort. This is an association of bus lines (including Greyhound), charter bus companies, and the like. In other words, a group of companies that could, if asked, rapidly provide large amounts of transportation.
Instead the agency had farmed the work out to a trucking logistics firm, Landstar Express America, which in turn hired a limousine company, which in turn engaged a travel management company. Landstar Express is a subsidiary of Landstar System, a $2 billion company whose board chairman, Jeff Crowe, also was chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the nation's premier business lobbies, from June 2003 until May 2004.
Jeff Crowe owns LandStar Express that had a $100million contract with FEMA to provide emergency evacuation services. LandStar Express didn't start working on the New Orleans evacuation until TWO DAYS AFTER Katrina hit. Then they subcontracted to a limo company who subcontracted to a Virginia travel agent...
They were trying to find 300 buses.
Meanwhile Greyhound and another company(name ?) were trying to contact FEMA to offer 3500 buses at cost.
For this idiocy, LandStar's contract has been raised to $400million.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi0509230350sep23,1,10643...

Dano said...

Eli,

Let us not forget some brown paypul for Bill F to evacuate, too: the 200M or so in Bangladesh. Maybe we could move them people to Bill's neighborhood.

Best,

D

Bill F said...

Look, you guys can try to make this about federal response all you want, but this is just a simple matter of being prepared to take care of yourself. If you don't own a car and can't talk a friend into driving you away from a potentially fatal event that you have ten years of warning about, perhaps you are better off not living in a location where you could be killed by such a storm. People accept tradeoffs in choosing to live just about anywhere. I love to live in Houston because I hate cold weather, but as a tradeoff, I accept the potential for hurricanes, heat, drought, tornados, etc. People who build beach houses on west Galveston Island get a great beachfront life, but they also have to spend extra to build their homes on stilts, and they face the reality that a hurricane could destroy their home or beach erosion could force them to abandon their home. People in New Orleans got a cool funky place to live with great history and culture...but the tradeoff is that they were below sea level and VERY vulnerable to a hurricane's storm surge. But they didn't prepare themselves for it. They didn't prepare to evacuate people who had no cars. They didn't prepare to care for hospital patients if the power went out. They didn't prepare for any of the things that anybody with a brain could have told them would happen if the levees breached. People in California know that the price of the great weather and proximity to the coast and mountains is the fact that huge earthquakes are possible. Therefore, they force builders to use earthquake resistant construction techniques and many places require earthquake insurance. They are preparing for the effects of the earthquake because they cannot predict or prevent them. People in New Orleans knew they couldn't prevent what had already been predicted for a decade, but they didn't prepare for the effects. Now, after what was predicted has come to pass, we have people like Eli who want to blame Michael Brown or George Bush for not personally acting to save people who hadn't lifted a finger in the past decade to prepare for an event they KNEW was going to happen. I am not saying we should abandon any city that is prone to disasters...I am saying we should stop spending billions or even trillions of dollars trying to stop the disaster, and instead force people to make the choice between living there and paying to prepare themselves for the disaster or moving to someplace where a disaster is less likely. We don't pay for personal tornado shelters for homes in Kansas and we don't pay for earthquake insurance or reconstruction of homes in California. The history of New Orleans is that it will flood over and over again, and the reconstruction of the levees will do nothing to break that cycle. When areas flood multiple times elsewhere in the country, FEMA eventually buys out the property owner or requires that the owner take responsibility for building in such a way as to prevent future flooding. In NO, they are asking the federal government to take on all of the risk of preventing future flooding by rebuilding levees, instead of buying out the flooded homes and forcing anybody who wants to rebuild to do so on stilts.

You can make fun of my view all you want and accuse me of being insensitive or mean-spirited all you want, but the fact is that everywhere in the US except New Orleans, people are expected to prepare for the LIKELY disasters in their area for themselves. 100 years of levee failures and floods is plenty of evidence that we cannot prevent the disaster from happening there again...so we should focus instead on demanding that residents who want to live there be prepared for what they will face again.

I can't help but laugh at how this discussion has come to this point. On other posts on this blog, Eli and Dano love to spout about how certain they are that humans are causing global warming based on over 100 years of data and how foolish we are not to try to prevent the coming disaster by acting now to stop it. Yet with 100 years of evidence that New Orleans will flood regardless of how and where we build the levees, they still think the disaster was caused by something George Bush or Michael Brown did and isn't something we should expect the residents of New Orleans to have been prepared for.

EliRabett said...

Bill keeps insisting that we only have only 100 years of data on climate. That shows how much Bill knows, but Bill knows he knows.

Rebuilding NO is a given, the US is not going to because the US government is not interested in NO other than as a prop for a campaign ad. By the time there would be another government it will be too late. NO is going to be a theme park. Truth sucks.

The MS coast is being rebuilt as a giant casino. That's an improvement?

Galveston was not rebuilt and we got Houston instead. That sucks too.

But in no case was there ever enough resources to rebuild the city elsewhere, or anyone crazy enough to knock it down before the hurricane came.

The fact is that if we played by Bill and Roger Pielke Jr.'s rules half of the urban areas in the US would be bulldozed. Where they are going to come up with the money for that beats me.

As to evaculation, pulling everyone out of an urban area of 1M+ is essentially impossible, which means, that if you leave 1% behind, you still have 10K souls to worry about. A lot of them are going to be sick and disabled by the nature of the thing. Getting someone evacuated who is on a respirator is hard. You have to organize busses for people who are poor and have no cars. But, of course, in Bill world that is their fault so he does not have to worry about it.

I can't wait till an earthquake hits San Francisco and the Bill;s of the world say, well it was their fault.

Bill F said...

We evacuated well over a million from Houston a month or so after Katrina...including the ones on respirators from hospitals in Galveston. And yes, they did rebuild Galveston...mostly on stilts or behind the seawall. The government is rebuilding NO as we speak...I know, I work for a company that is making millions doing work there. Nbody is at fault when a disaster strikes the place they live. But if the disaster was predictable and they were not prepared for it, then they won't get alot of sympathy fom me. San Fran knows the big one is coming, and they have for the most part done what they can to prepare for it...unlike NO.

Bill F said...

I am not saying we only have 100 years of climate data...I am saying the trend that is causing the alarm is just over 100 years old (~130). As for NO, the levee construction started shortly after the turn of the century, hence the 100 year time frame there.

EliRabett said...

Galviston was the most important city on the Texas coast in 1900. It was not so after the hurricane.

Houston was not emptied for Rita (which missed, thank the Lord)

and so on.

Dano said...

San Fran knows the big one is coming, and they have for the most part done what they can to prepare for it...unlike NO.

Wrt flood preparedness, Bill F, can you provide an example of a city somewhere on the planet that is prepared?

Best,

D

Bill F said...

Eli,

The demise of Galveston as an important port city came about for a number of reasons (including hurricane risk), but the most important was the deepening of the Houston Ship Channel and growth of the Port of Houston that provided a shorter and easier rail and highway connection than Galveston.

Also, "Houston" didn't need to be emptied for Rita...the area between Houston and the coast did...and was for the most part. You said it was impossible to move 1+ million people out of an area, and the fact is that Houston did exactly that. Most of Houston is safe from the storm surge that even a storm as large as Rita or Katrina produced...it is the area towards the coast that was at risk, and local officials here did an excellent job starting early with mandatory evacuations and making sure that the people who were most at risk got ordered out first. The same cannot be said for New Orleans, where most of the city is below sea level and at risk of being flooded by 20+ feet of water if the levees were breached.

Dano, WRT flood preparedness, there really is no comparable city to New Orleans anywhere in the US. There are plenty of other cities at risk of coastal flooding, but they face a different type of flood than NO does. In most cases, storm surge has the potential to inundate areas for a relatively short period of time, after which it rapidly recedes, and the depth of inundation decreases rapidly with distance from the coast. For example, while large areas southeast of Houston are vulnerable to storms with large storm surge, the maximum depth of inundation they would get from a 20+ foot storm surge might be less than 10 feet. Such flooding is clearly a catastrophe in terms of property damage, but it is not lifethreatening, because you only need to get on top of something or go to the 2nd story of a building to get away from it. In the case of New Orleans, if the levees breached, HUGE areas of the city were at immediate risk for going more than 20 feet under water and it was well known that the water would not have anywhere to go away for weeks afterward. So while people in most cities may be at risk from storm surge flooding, they have more avenues for escape, can count on a short duration of inundation, and don't have to worry about being 20+ feet underwater. New Orleans on the other hand knew 10 years ago that if the levees failed, nearly the entire city could go under more than 20 feet of water in less than 24 hours, and that the water would both cut off escape routes and would likely stay that depth for many weeks afterward.

The only comparable cities I can think of are Amsterdam and Venice, and neither faces the same kind of threat of rapid inundation that NO does. Amsterdam is not contained within a bowl between levees like NO is, and they don't face storms with the capability of producing 20+ foot storm surges...big waves, yes...but big storm surges, no. Venice really isn't contined by levees either and the storm surge potential is also not as severe as what New Orleans faces. It is alot harder to fill a broad flat area 20+ feet deep with water than it is to fill up a small contained bowl like NO, and the predictions a decade ago made that fact perfectly clear to the leaders of NO and Louisiana. They apparently had good plans for how to get people out, they just didn't execute them...they waited too long to order the evacuation and then didn't implement any plan to assist people who needed help despite having clear directions for how to do so in the plan.

EliRabett said...

What I said was that it is impossible to move ALL of the people out of a major metro area. More than 1M people left metro NO. The problem was with 1-2% who were not moved. Please pay attention. Arguing with your own strawmen is ugly.

EliRabett said...

Oh yeah, Amsterdam.. Think what would happen if a north sea storm (and it gets really wild out there sometimes) broke the dyke sealing the Ijsselmeer from the sea.

Venice, on the otherhand, is in an earthquake zone and sits at the top of the Adriatic. Amusing tsunami potential there as well as a direct hit from the earthquake.

Bill F said...

Here is what you said...

"As to evaculation, pulling everyone out of an urban area of 1M+ is essentially impossible"

Whose strawman are you attacking? First you say over a million left NO. Then you say it is impossible to evacuate a million people. Then when I point out that it was done in Houston, you claim I am creating a straw man to attack and that over a million left NO? And you talk about how Dr. J is confusing to argue with?

Here is what Mayor Nagin had to say about the numbers...

"Nagin called for a total evacuation of New Orleans, saying the city had become uninhabitable for the 50,000 to 100,000 who remained behind after the city of nearly a half-million people was ordered cleared out over the weekend"

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/9/1/113308.shtml

So out of about 450,000 people in NO, as many as a quarter stayed behind? 50,000-100,000 people in NO had no car, no friends, and no way out? I am sorry, I just don't believe that.

Also, you are ignoring several things with your comments about Amsterdam and Venice. First, a 20 foot storm surge in the North Sea would be about double the storm surge seen in the event considered the worst flood in the Netherlands (and the one that prompted the construction of the Delta Works). The 1953 Flood had a surge of about 3.36 meters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sea_flood_of_1953

Second, Amsterdam went much further with their protection systems and actually sealed off several inlets from the sea. To do the same, New Orleans would have to be able to seal off the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain from the Gulf of Mexico. Also, in Amsterdam, the network of levees is much more intricate, such that breeching a single levee would not result in flooding a significant portion of the entire city.

Finally, Amsterdam and the Netherlands have governments that have taken their duty seriously when it comes to building protective barriers. In Louisiana, the "levee boards" are political good ol boy clubs where money gets spent to scratch each other's backs. Studies performed after Katrina showed that the list of "priorities" submitted to the Corps of Engineers for funding from the levee boards routinely included economic development projects such as new marina dredging and construction and statues for "beautification" listed far above urgent maintenance items needed to insure the proper function of the levees. When the local government doesn't take the task of securing the city against flooding seriously, why should anybody else who doesn't live there?

As for tsunamis in Venice, that is a red herring and hopefully you know it. While the 2004 tsunami showed us that virtually no coastline in the world is safe from a tsunami from a large enough source, there is little historical precedent for the types of seismic events that create destructive tsunamis in the northern adriatic sea. While Venice has significant potential flood risks, a tsunami is among the least likely.

See below for some historical evaluation of Northern Adriatic tsunami risk:

http://library.lanl.gov/tsunami/00394735.pdf