Sunday, February 12, 2017

Selwyn Milborrow writes

dancing with katrina 

when the cloud fist marched forth from the sea
and closed in around orleans
sky and cnn’s cameras followed
the tidal waves through the streets
of a pre-earth marshland,

man, you started to plunder and rape
your values exposed to the bone
because everywhere you carry with you
a seed of hate and death

man, will it ever get through to you
what an urgent message I want to bring to you?

humanity, will you ever learn to respect me?
look, I am the great equalizer mother nature is my name.
 The Flood -- David Bates



  1. Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in US history, with property damage at $108 billion. At least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods. Federal disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles (230,000 sq km), an area almost as large as the United Kingdom, and 3 million people were left without electricity. Much of the coastal highway infrastructure was destroyed, 30 oil drilling platforms were damaged or destroyed and 9 refineries were closed, and over 7 million US gallons (26,000 cubic m) of oil spilled from 44 facilities in southeastern Louisiana; the total shut-in oil production from the Gulf of Mexico in the six-month period following Katrina was approximately 24% of the annual production, and the shut-in gas production for the same period was about 18%. In Mississippi, 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2) of forest land was destroyed, and the forestry industry as a whole lost about $5 billion. Before the storm the standard mortality rate for the area's trees was 1.9%, but this interval increased to 20.5% by the end of 2006., and delayed mortality as an effect of the storm continued with rates up to 5% until 2011; this loss in biomass caused greater decay and an increase in carbon emissions: by 2006 the decreased biomass in bottomland hardwood forests contributed an amount of carbon which equated to roughly 140% of the net annual U.S. carbon sink in forest trees.

  2. The 53 breaches in New Orleans's hurricane surge protection on August 29, 2005, which submerged 80% of the city, were the cause of the majority of the death and destruction, mainly because the US Army Corps of Engineers had used shorter steel sheet pilings in an effort to save money when it built the levee system. The storm surge in parishes surrounding Lake Pontchartrain reached 13–16 feet (4.0–4.9 m), not including wave action. At landfall, hurricane-force winds extended outward 120 miles (190 km) from the center and the storm's central pressure was 920 mbar (27 inHg); 80% of New Orleans and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks. The eastern part of Louisiana had 8–10 inches (200–250 mm) of rain, and around Slidell, the rainfall was 15 inches (380 mm), resulting in major flooding from Lake Pontchartrain. It took 43 days to complete the process of pumping flood waters (with a mix of raw sewage, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, toxic chemicals, and oil) from the city into Lake Pontchartrain. The storm caused severe destruction along the Gulf of Mexio from central Florida to Texas. Severe property damage occurred in coastal areas such as Mississippi beachfront towns (over 90% of these were flooded). Boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland; water reached 6–12 miles (10–19 km) from the beach. Overall, about 20% of the local marshes were permanently overrun by water as a result of the storm, and Breton National Wildlife Refuge lost half its area.

  3. President George W. Bush had declared a state of emergency in selected regions of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi on August 27, which did not include the coastal parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemines, despite governor Kathleen Blanco's request for assistance for all the southeastern parishes. Louisiana's Emergency Operations Plan had called for the use of school and other public buses for evacuations, not enough bus drivers were available to drive them since Blanco did not sign an emergency waiver to allow all licensed drivers to transport evacuees on school buses. Nevertheless, 80% of the 1.3 million residents of the greater New Orleans metropolitan area managed to get out; over one million people from the central Gulf coast were displaced, the largest diaspora in US history. By late January 2006, about 200,000 people were once again living in New Orleans, less than half of the pre-storm population. After the storm hit, large portions of the I-10 Twin Span Bridge traveling eastbound collapsed, leaving the westbound Crescent City Connection and the Huey P. Long Bridge the only routes out of the city; the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and the Crescent City Connection carried only emergency traffic. On August 28, shortly after Katrina was upgraded to a Category 5 storm, the highest on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS), New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the city, but this was only 19 hours before landfall, leading to hundreds of deaths of people who could not find any way out of the city; Nagin also established several "refuges of last resort" for citizens who could not leave the city, including the massive Louisiana Superdome, which sheltered approximately 26,000 people and provided them with food and water for several days as the storm came ashore, though two sections of the Superdome's roof were compromised and the dome's waterproof membrane was essentially been peeled off. Over 700 bodies were recovered in the city by 23 October 23, many of which were left in the water or sun for days before being collected; survivors reported seeing dead bodies lying in city streets and floating in still-flooded sections, especially in the east of the city. An estimated 215 bodies were found in nursing homes and hospitals, and 200 patients at the Charity Hospital were not evacuated until 2 September, having been without power or fresh water for five days. Hundreds of prisoners were registered as "unaccounted for;" many had been abandoned in their cells during the storm, while the guards sought shelter. Shortly after the hurricane moved away on 30 August, some residents began looting stores, and there were reports of carjackings, murders, thefts, and rapes. A temporary jail was constructed of chain link cages in the city's main train station. Five police officers later plead guilty to killing two unarmed civilians and seriously injuring others on Danziger Bridge.


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