(Fri Sept 23 10:15am) Well, despite my complaining about anthropomorphising the storm, I've chosen to do just that with the title of this post -- which is where I'll continue to post about Hurricane Rita and its aftermath.
(Fri 10:20am): CNN is reporting The Army Corps of Engineeers is reporting that the levee at the Industrial Canal is being overtopped, causing some flooding in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. The structure is still intact, but flooding this early is unexepected. ... And now (10:40) there's a breach in another levee, in the Chantilly area. A CNN photographer said the water overtopping the Industrial Canal levee came in very quickly, 5 - 10 inches in the course of a minute. He's also reporting that it's definitely a breach and not an overtopping -- the water is gushing in.
The Lower 9th Ward was, of course, one of the first areas to flood during Katrina, when a loose barge battered down a flood wall containing the canal.
(Fri 11:00am): CNN has conflicting reports: is it a breach or an overtopping? Seems to depend on who you ask.
On the Weather Channel, they're reporting that in Port Arthur, at this point the city most likely to get the worst of the storm, they're putting people with special needs in buses, and driving those buses onto C-130 cargo planes, then flying them to their destinatons, avoiding completely any traffic snarls on the ground.
Great idea, but I wonder where they got the cargo planes from? Port Arthur is a big oil refining center, do they use them regularly, or did they borrow them from the military via someone with a lot of pull?
Meanwhile, the NHC says that Rita's intensity has gone down a little -- it's now barely a Category 4 (135 mph), and will probably come ashore as a Category 3, weaker than Katrina. They haven't change the forecast track, and still expect it to land between Galveston and the Louisiana border -- and they're still calling for it to stall and dump large amounts of rain wherever it stops.
(Fri 11:20am): It's a breach -- Weather Channel had footage, CNN still doesn't know what it is. MSNBC is saying there's three breaches, but it still referring to overtopping. Fox is calling it "seeping", but the pictures they're showing is clearly a breach. Everyone agrees that the water is rising quickly in the Lower 9th Ward.
(Fri 5:15pm): Breach, overtopping, no one's sure -- but there's a lot of water in New Orleans again.
Rita is now a Category 3, and it looks as if that's how it will make landfall -- but look at the current NHC 5-day tracking forecast. Although Rita comes onshore late Frday night or early Saturday, they've got it sticking around Northeastern Texas, as a tropical storm and then a tropical depression, until Wednesday! That's 4 or 5 days of major storm rain levels. Dallas better watch out, and everyone along the path of the rivers which drain into the Gulf. The flooding of Texas due to a stalled storm -- just like Tropical Storm Allison of 2001 -- may be the major story that comes out of Rita.
(Fri 9:26pm): Just waiting for the storm to land. Beaumont, Texas, in the direct path of the storm, is no stranger to hurricanes:
Hurricanes have left their mark on Beaumont as well. In 1957 Hurricane Audrey, a strong category 4 hurricane (borderline category 5 at times) came onshore straight up the Texas/Louisiana border causing massive flooding and wind damage. Sadly, 390 people lost their lives (other estimates show over 500), most in Louisiana due to drowning.
In 1961 Hurricane Carla, the largest storm in terms of size, affected the entire Texas coast line from Jefferson County down to Brownsville. Carla caused millions of dollars in damage and still remains the strongest storm to strike the Texas coast. Beaumont suffered massive flooding due to poor drainage at the time and tornadoes. Some portions of the Golden Triangle never recovered but most parts grew back and prospered fully.
Beaumont lived without a strong hurricane until one fateful day on June 23, 1986. On that day Hurricane Bonnie roared through the region with maximum winds at 90 miles per hour (gusts to 125 mph) creating a havoc on local roadways because of the massive amounts of rain dumped on the area. Some regions received upwards of 10-15 inches in some places, flooding homes and businesses. Many mobile home parks were destroyed, people were displaced and some businesses in the area never recovered. 3 people lost their lives in Bonnie. Beaumont showed the hometown spirit and quickly recovered and got back on the track.
The region had some hits and misses but none more so than in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew threatened the area. Beaumont was under a hurricane warning and evacuation procedures took place. It was rough going for the evacs. But when all was said and done, the evacuation was the largest peacetime evacuation in the United States since Hurricane Carla in 1961. Andrew would totally miss the Beaumont area, but it was a scare that still haunts the area today.
More recently Beaumonters dealt with Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Although Beaumont and the vicinity did not get the damage and destruction that Houston got, marks were still left and some are still being felt today. Homes are still abandoned due to massive flooding that took place because of the non stop 5 day rainfall. Total rainfall amounts associated with Allison reached the 20 inch mark in most towns and cities in Southeast Texas.
Hurricane Lili threatened the area in 2002 as a category 4 hurricane, and prompted another "Andrew-Style" evacuation. Though large, it went relatively smoothly and didn't mirror the 1992 evacuation. Beaumont and the surrounding cities were left as a ghost town, only to return to the same thing. Lili veered north into central Louisiana and did not affect the region significantly. Hurricane Rita threatened the city in 2005. [Edited for formatting -- Ed]
(Fri 10:30pm): The National Hurricane Center hasn't changed its forecast tracking appreciably, but looking at the current satellite radar loop, it looks very much like Rita might hit slightly to the right (east) of Port Arthur and Beaumont, which is good news (if true) because it would put them on the less severe side of the storm. My visual inspection of the radar image makes me think it's going to come onshore right on the Texas/Lousiana border.
(CNN is now also saying that the bad side of the eye is going to avoid both Port Arthus and Beaumont: the eye is going to pass almost directly over Port Arthur, with the right front of the eye going through the western edge of Louisiana.)
(Sun Sept 25 3:30am): Unless I'm reading this data wrong, the Mississippi River at New Orleans received 43.06 inches of rain in the 72 hours before 11pm Saturday night. Since other rain gauges in the area don't seem to record nearly as much rain, could this be the result of this one being inundated by flood water from New Orleans?
(Sun Sept 25 2:30pm): Looking at the river gages of the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, it doesn't look so far as if Rita's aftereffects is going to include a lot of river flooding.
I'm surprised that Rita lost its coherence as a storm so quickly -- Katrina hung in quite a bit longer. Snce it was headed (according to some of the forecasts, anyway) into territory that got hit, if not smashed, by Katrina, that's a good thing.
Watching a report on CNN about the preparations that Houston hospitals are making to get ready for Rita, I was struck (as the reporter intended me to be) by the extent of the planning and how well-thought out they appeared to be, compared with the apparent state of the hospitals in New Orleans during Katrina. Of course, Houston has the advantage of learning from New Orleans' mistakes, but that doesn't explain the expensive equipment and infrastructure shown in the report. Houston also, presumably, learned from the extensive flooding following Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, and some of the stuff I saw could have been the result of post-planning after that.
But there's something deeper, I think, a reason why Houston hospitals can afford to put in huge water-tight walls and locate their generators and hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel to run them on upper floors, and New Orleans hospitals couldn't, or didn't -- and the reason is that, comparatively speaking, Houston is a richer city than New Orleans:
The median income for a household in the city was $27,133, and the median income for a family was $32,338. Males had a median income of $30,862 versus $23,768 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,258. 27.9% of the population and 23.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 40.3% of those under the age of 18 and 19.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
The median income for a household in the city is $36,616, and the median income for a family is $40,443. Males have a median income of $32,084 versus $27,371 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,101. 19.2% of the population and 16.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 26.1% of those under the age of 18 and 14.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Addenda: Note that, despite its many advantages, and the object lesson of Katrina, the Texas authorities managed to screw-up the evacuation plan.
We're about 50+ hours from the eye of Rita making landfall somewhere near Galveston on Saturday morning, but hurricane force winds will start hitting sometime Friday night. It's currently a Category 5 storm with 175 mph winds, the third strongest strongest hurricane (in terms of pressure) ever recorded, just ahead of Katrina, but wind speeds should be somewhat lower when it hits land (whether it'll be a Cat 4 or a Cat 3 then depends on the model used, but there's still a distinct possibility it'll still be Cat 5 when it hits Galveston -- which sits on a barrier island and which, of course, was completely wiped out by the Hurricane of 1900, with at least 6,000 people killed.
When Katrina was about 52 hours from landfall, the official National Hurricane center forecast track was substantially correct about where it would make landfall, and six hours later they had it precisely right -- so, at least from that record, it looks like Galveston landfall would be a good bet.
And right behind Galveston, 50 miles inland, is Houston, with its history of flooding problems.
(Thurs 1:45am): How vulnerable is Galveston?
By the reckoning of public officials who safeguard the island, Galveston residents would have only one defense from a storm like Katrina: evacuation. Such a storm, said Eliot Jennings, Galveston County's emergency management coordinator, would do a "whole lot of damage."
The island city's mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas, went further.
"I think the island would be destroyed, wiped out," she said. "There wouldn't be anything left. I do think Galvestonians are paying attention to what happened, and people who thought they might not evacuate will now think twice before they decide whether to leave the island."
While New Orleans counted on its levee system, Galveston's sense of security comes from a 15-foot wall. After the great storm of 1900, which killed 8,000, Galveston's leaders constructed a seawall along much of the island's eastern end. They also raised the city directly behind it from a peak of 8 feet above sea level to about 15 feet.
The island now reaches its highest point at the seawall, gently sloping back to sea level at bayside.
A Katrina-size storm would not destroy the seawall, and indeed the wall would absorb much energy from the biggest, crashing waves. But Katrina's storm surge crested at 22 feet, enough height to easily clear the seawall. And the city has no protection from bayside waters.
"The island would be completely underwater," said Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at UH. "And it's less protected from winds than New Orleans. The only good thing is that, once the rain and winds went away, water would begin to recede." [Houston Chronicle (9/8/2005)]
(Thurs 2:00am): Although New Orleans is out of the path of the storm, the current NHC advisory is calling for it to receive 2- 4 inches of rain. The Army Corps of Engineers says that the city can handle 6 inches, and storm surge of 10-12 feet.
(Thurs 5:00am): I begin with the tradition disclaimer: IANAM (I am not a meterologist). From what I understand, the raw fuel that powers the hurricane engine is warm water. Now, Rita just grew from a Category 1 storm to a Category 5 in what seemed like an incredibly short time -- and yet, from the evidence of the map below, it seems as if it's just about to move into an area where the sea surface temperatures are even warmer (if only by a degree):
[Important note: The image you see below is not the image that I originally posted here on 9/22. The image connected to this URL is updated regularly, and I have been unable to locate where the images are archived so that I can fix the URL to point to the correct image. I'm leaving this here so that you can see at least the type of image I was referring to. For other images related to sea surface temperature, see further below in this post. -- Ed (10/17/05)]
It also looks like the water just off the coast of Texas is warmer still. I'm not doubting the forecast at all, just wondering what other factors are inhibiting the growth of the storm if water temperature continues to feed it.
(Note that I write this with full understanding that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.)
(Thurs 5:30am): And continuing to reveal my ignorance, I note that as of the 4am (central) advisory the NHC has given up saying that Rita is going to pick up speed. It had been moving at 13 - 14 mph, but then slowed down to 9 mph, and they kept expecting it to pick up again. Now, they're saying that it will keep the slower speed for the next 24 hours.
I assume this slowdown means that there's a chance it will hit farther to the north and east then was expected, and a little later as well. The current NHC Discussion seems to verify at least part of that:
THE TRACK GUIDANCE IS NOW CLUSTERED AROUND A LANDFALL BETWEEN THE SABINE RIVER AND MATAGORDA TEXAS IN 48-60 HR ... WITH A NET EASTWARD SHIFT OF THE GUIDANCE SINCE THE LAST PACKAGE. THE NEW FORECAST TRACK IS ALSO SHIFTED EASTWARD ABOUT 30 N MI ... CALLING FOR LANDFALL NEAR THE BOLIVAR PENINSULA AND GALVESTON BAY.
("Track guidance" means, I think, the computer models that you can see here, or in by the second map in the "Rita Watch" sidebar.)
I believe this new forecast landfall means that the storm would go to the right of Galveston instead of the left, putting on the "cleaner" side of the storm, with (I believe) less of a storm surge.
I note that the new track forecast has put New Orleans a little closer to the penumbra of the 5-day cone, which is worrisome. I was concerned about the storm hitting the city from the Gulf, and it looks like it won't do that, but I failed to consider the possbility that it mght take a right turn after hitting the Texas coast and pass over New Orleans that way. Of course if it does, I suppose it will be a less intense storm, but still...
As for the question I asked above, about the water temperature in the Gulf determining intensity, here's what the NHC says about the storm's intensity:
THE INTENSITY FORECAST REMAINS SOMEWHAT PROBLEMATIC. FIRST ... THE MORE NORTHERLY TRACK WILL LIKELY KEEP RITA OVER THE LOOP CURRENT LONGER THAN PREVIOUSLY EXPECTED ... SO THE EFFECT OF LOWER OCEAN HEAT CONTENT MAY BE SOMEWHAT LESS THAN PREVIOUSLY EXPECTED IN THE FIRST 24 HR OR SO. SECOND ... THE GFS AND SHIP MODELS FORECAST SIGNIFICANT SHEAR OVER RITA AFTER 24 HR ... WHICH RESULTS IN SHIPS CALLING FOR SIGNIFICANT WEAKENING. SHEAR ANALYSES FROM CIMSS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SHOW ABOUT 12 KT OF SOUTHERLY SHEAR CAUSED BY AN UPPER-LEVEL ANTICYCLONE EAST OF RITA ... AND THE LARGE-SCALE MODELS SUGGEST THIS PATTERN WILL CONTINUE UNTIL LANDFALL. HOWEVER ... THE GFS AND SHIPS MAY BE OVERDOING THE SHEAR. FINALLY ... THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE AND POSSIBLE MORE CONCENTRIC EYEWALL CYCLES BEFORE LANDFALL. THE INTENSITY FORECAST IS BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT SHEAR AND REDUCED OUTFLOW WILL CAUSE A GRADUAL WEAKENING ... ESPECIALLY AFTER RITA MOVES WEST OF THE LOOP CURRENT IN 24-36 HR. SUPERIMPOSED ON TOP OF THIS WILL BE FLUCTUATIONS CAUSED BY CONCENTRIC EYEWALL CYCLES. THE NEW INTENSITY FORECAST IS AN UPDATE OF THE PREVIOUS FORECAST...CALLING FOR SLOW OVERALL WEAKENING BUT NOT AS MUCH AS SHOWN BY SHIPS.
Since I understood about 1% of that, I should probably keep my thoughts to myself. Obviously, the intensity of the storm is complexly determined.
(Thurs 3:30pm): The computer models have shifted landfall to the east. Three still show it near Galveston, but one has it at the Texas/Louisiana border, and the fifth has it in western Louisiana. I'd expect the NHC official forecast track to move its landfall position eastwards as well in the next advisory, probably to the border, putting the storm closer to New Orleans. NOLA is now in the 5-10% band for experiencing hurricane force winds, the first time that's happened for this storm -- and its chance of getting tropical force winds is about 50%. (For the rest of the Katrina-damaged Gulf Coast, the chances are between 2%0 and 40%.)
So, despite my relief last night, it seems as if New Orleans is not out of the woods.
(Thurs 5:45pm): Further on the possibility of the storm strengthening because of high water temperatures:
RITA IS CURRENTLY MOVING OVER THE EDGE OF A COLD SST EDDY. THIS COULD HAVE ENHANCED THE WEAKENING TODAY. THE HURRICANE IS FORECAST TO MOVE OVER ANOTHER WARM EDDY DURING THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS AND THERE IS SOME CHANCE THAT RITA COULD REGAIN SOME INTENSITY. BECAUSE THE SHEAR IS FORECAST TO INCREASE ... THIS MAY COMPENSATE FOR THE STRENGTHENING THAT MAY BE CAUSED BY THE EFFECTS OF THE HIGH HEAT CONTENT.
So wind shear is the countervailing force that I was looking for which counters the effect of warmer water.
New Orleans is now under a Tropical Storm Warning, but
ANY TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS IN THE NEW ORLEANS AREA ARE EXPECTED TO BE CONFINED TO A FEW SQUALLS ASSOCIATED WITH QUICKLY MOVING RAINBANDS
which is good news. I saw a piece on CNN in which the Corps of Engineers was quoted as saying that the flood control system there in its current state can only deal with 3 inches of rain, but
RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA INCLUDING NEW ORLEANS
TIDES ARE CURRENTLY RUNNING ABOUT 2 FEET ABOVE NORMAL ALONG THE LOUISIANA ... MISSISSIPPI AND ALABAMA COASTS IN THE AREAS AFFECTED BY KATRINA. TIDES IN THOSE AREAS WILL INCREASE TO 3 TO 5 FEET AND BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE WAVES
So it seems clear that things could get bad in Katrina-land at the same time that Rita makes new devastation.
(Thurs 9:15pm): Uh-oh, one of the computer tracking models (GFS) shows Rita hitting the coast between Galveston and the Louisiana border, and then looping around to the right and hanging out for a while near Baton Rouge. I'll have to wait for the 11pm NHC discussion to see if they explain what that's about. I'm also still looking for them to move the forecast landfall farther east (it's currently about two-thirds of the way from Galveston to Port Arthur [population 58,000], in an area that looks like it doesn't have much in it in the way of population or industry).
The more I think about it, this might be among the better places for Rita to come ashore, if it wasn't going to go to the "dead zone" between Corpus Christi and Brownsville. Going to the west of Galveston and Houston is best for those cities, putting them on the better side of the storm, and it might be far enough away from New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport so that they don't get kneed in the groin again.
(Thurs 10:45pm): I neglected to mention that while one model (GFS [AVN]) has Rita turning to the right after landfall, two of the others (BAM Medium and NOGAPS) have it turning to the left, so there's substantial disagreement between the models about what will happen once the storm comes ashore.
Also, the CNN meterologist just pointed at a change in the storm's direction, to the west. If it's just a temporary wobble, that's one thing, but if it's a permanent change, that might put landfall once again closer to Galveston/Houston -- so there still seems to be a fair amount of uncertainty about Rita's track.
Oh, let me mention here again how annoying I find the impulse to over-anthropomorphize the storm. Headline writers, both print and in the electronic media, are most prone to this. Storms have "fury," "wrath," and so on, which is entirely untrue. A hurricane is a natural process of the earth's weather, it has no emotions or intentions, it just goes where it's determined to go by the forces which created it and control it. When it gets there, it causes damage, but the damage is made possible by the actions of men and women, who build communities on barrier islands, or below sea level, or who try to control river flooding and as a result destroy wetlands which suck up a storm's power. It's people who pump out the water from the aquifers and cause the land to subside, making it prone to flooding, or who suck up oil with offshore rigs and refine it into substances that make things go.
None of that has anything to do with the storm itself, it just goes where it goes, we've put ourselves in harm's way -- and then blame the storm.
(Thurs 11:15pm): It looks like the NHC didn't move their landfall very far. I don't have the mapping software to be absolutely certain, but it looks as if it moved a but eastward, closer to Port Arthur, which now has the distinction of being the major community lying on the stronger side of the storm (the right front, or the northeast quadrant in this case). [Note: I was wrong about the projected landfall moving to the east -- when they published the most recent Discussion, it indicated that no change had been made to the project track.]
On CNN, Max Mayfield of the NHC just said that the shift in the storm's track is just a "wobble" and not significant.
(Fri Sept 23 12:15am): Here's another interesting image:
If I understand correctly, sea surface height is an indication of how much warm water is stored below the surface -- so the dark red bubble in the northwest Gulf is a much warmer patch of water. It is this, I think, that Rita is about to pass through, and which may cause it to intensify once more, if the intensity is not held back by increasing wind shear.
(Fri 12:30am) This is interesting -- after landfall
RITA IS FORECAST TO THEN ESSENTIALLY STALL IN ABOUT THREE DAYS IN THE AREA OF NORTHEASTERN TEXAS WHERE STEERING CURRENTS ARE FORECAST TO BECOME VERY WEAK. THIS SCENARIO POSES A GREAT RISK OF VERY HEAVY RAINFALL WELL INLAND AND FOR MANY DAYS AFTER LANDFALL.
So, depending on where it stalls, there may be flooding problems pretty far inland, or in the flood plains of the rivers that drain those areas.
(Fri 2:45am): There's some concern that once Rita makes landfall and moves inland, it could stall over northeastern Texas and dump perhaps 30 inches of rain there. It's happened before:
One of the state's worst floods in recent memory occurred June 30, 2002, when a massive storm system stalled over South Texas for eight days. More than 35 inches of rain fell.
Runoff from the storms caused record flooding downstream on the Medina, San Antonio, Sabinal and Nueces rivers. For the first time since it filled in 1968, Canyon Lake near New Braunfels poured over its spillway, adding to the flooding in the Guadalupe River. Residents along the Guadalupe in Cuero and Victoria suffered extensive damage as the river rose out of its banks for several miles.
Twelve people died in the storm, and more than 48,000 homes were destroyed in 80 Texas counties. Total damage was estimated at more than $1 billion.
The destruction Rita will cause depends on where the storm lands and how it moves inland – whether it quickly dissipates or stalls over South Central Texas like the 2002 storm.
"Wherever Rita lands, the east side of the storm will get more rain and more risk of flooding," said Robert Blodgett, a geologist at Austin Community College.
"Fortunately, much of Central Texas is dry, and the ground can soak up a lot of excess moisture. If the storm dumps a lot of rain very quickly, however, it could produce flash flooding along stream beds and paved areas, such as urban streets and parking lots." [Dallas Morning News]
So that would be the Texas Trifecta for Rita: wash out Galeveston, swamp Houston, and deluge Dallas. Fortunately, it still looks like it'll pass to the east of Galveston/Houston (sorry, Port Arthur), but the NHC people interviewed on TV are being cagey about this one, they keep talking about how it could shift at any time.
(Fri 5:45am): Here's an image I've been looking for since seeing it on CNN. It's basically the same image as above, but with Rita's track superimposed, and contour lines indicated the temperature gradient:
This sea surface height map of the Gulf of Mexico, with the Florida peninsula on the right and the Texas-Mexico Gulf Coast on the left, is based on altimeter data from four satellites including NASA’s Topex/Poseidon and Jason. Red indicates a strong circulation of much warmer waters, which can feed energy to a hurricane. This area stands 35 to 60 centimeters (about 13 to 23 inches) higher than the surrounding waters of the Gulf. The actual track of a hurricane is primarily dependent upon steering winds, which are forecasted through the use of atmospheric models. However, the interaction of the hurricane with the upper ocean is the primary source of energy for the storm. Hurricane intensity is therefore greatly affected by the upper ocean temperature structure and can exhibit explosive growth over warm ocean currents and eddies. Eddies are currents of water that run contrary to the direction of the main current. According to the forecasted track through the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Rita will continue crossing the warm waters of a Gulf of Mexico circulation feature called the Loop Current and then pass near a warm-water eddy called the Eddy Vortex, located in the north central Gulf, south of Louisiana. [More here.]
Image: NASA/JPL/University of Colorado
(Fri 10:00am): It should be noted that despite having the advantage of the object lesson of what happened in New Orleans with Katrina, the authorities in Texas haven't done all that well so far. They did put together an evacuation plan, but, judging from the evidence of the massive traffic jams, the implementation of it was clearly less than ideal.
I wonder if the people who were so quick to jump down the back of the Lousiana and New Orleans authorities are going to be as willing to criticize the authorities in Texas and Houston?
They shouldn't because, in my opinion, both criticisms are unfair. The job FEMA has to do -- organize and bring in relief -- is massive and complex, but at least many of the people they deal with are professionals, military personnel or highly trained civilians, many of them volunteers who actively want to be where they going and to do whata they're doing. Local authorities have a completely different kind of person to deal with: ordinary citizens who don't want to evacuate, aren't trained in what to do to evacuate, and are generally annoyed or pissed off that they've been forced to interrupt their normal lives. Dealing with massive numbers of that kind of person (at once essentially random, like the movement of molecules in a gas or the flow of a liqud, and at the same time strongly willful and demanding) is a lot more difficult and problematic than dealing with FEMA's professionals, soldiers and volunteers.
That's why when FMEA screwed up, it was a major thing, and they, and Bush, received only the criticism they deserved, whereas the criticism of the local authorities was overblown (and n large part highly partisan), because it didn't take into account the much harder circumstances and conditons they labored under.
So, just as I was willing to give Nagin and Blanco a break, so I'm not jumping down the throat of Governor Perry of Texas or Mayor Bill White of Houston.
Still, there's no denying that the evacuation could be going more smoothly.
(Fri 10:15am): I'm closing this post out, and will continue to post about Hurricane Rita and its aftermath at Rita comes ashore.
Guess what city a 1998 survey cited as having the worst flood control problems, second only to New Orleans? Now, what city is currently forecast to be on the "dirty" side of a category 5 hurricane packing winds of 165 mph?
A 1998 National Wildlife Federation study entitled "Higher Ground" ranked Houston and Harris County third and fourth of the top 200 repetitive flood loss communities in the United States. The only communities ranked higher are Jefferson Parish and New Orleans, both of which are below sea level.
And our flooding problem is getting worse. Uncontrolled development (i.e. urbanization) results in more water flowing off of property, and at a faster rate, into our many ditches, creeks and bayous, which are unable to handle the excess water, resulting in flooding. Even though our government officials contend that there are adequate controls on development to prevent additional flooding, the fact is flooding and flood damages are on the rise in Houston and Harris County.
There are three primary natural reasons for Houston's flooding, over which we have no control - heavy rains, flat topography, and numerous bayous.
However, there are three other reasons that such natural flooding becomes a problem - inappropriate and/or misplaced development, an un-informed or misled public, and irresponsible or ineffective government action, all of which we are in control, if we so choose.
Being close to the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is exposed to heavy rains, whether they be from thunderstorms, tropical storms or hurricanes. Rainfall on the order of 10, 20 and even 30 inches in less than a day is not uncommon in this area. It is something we all learn to live with being near the Gulf Coast, along with the humidity and warm weather.
It is also something that should come as no surprise to those who are designing and constructing residential and commercial buildings in this area, those who should be designing sufficient safeguards to make sure that these buildings are safe from being flooded during these heavy rains. Obviously, they are not.
Also, being along the Gulf, the land is fairly flat, and rainwater does not move away very quickly. Likewise, the natural forces that created the original streams and bayous in our coastal region provided a channel that only had the capacity to handle the runoff from small storms. . During larger storms, our creeks or bayous overflow, and floodwaters spread out over this flat area. As a result, our floodplains are fairly wide. Because we have a lot of creeks and bayous, we also have a lot of fairly wide flood plains, or flood-prone areas, most of which cross through the heart of the city. A large percentage of Harris County was once covered by floodplains long before anyone dreamed of building a city here. Flooding is natural.
Topography in the Houston metropolitan area is predominately flat and low relative to sea level. Land-surface altitude ranges from about sea level upward to about 360 feet. Approximately 25 percent of the Houston metropolitan area lies within the 100-year flood plain...[Emphasis added -- Ed]
So, while Houston is not New Orleans, below sea level and in a bowl created by the topography and the flood control system, it clearly has its own problems with flooding. Two years ago, these recommendations were made. I wonder how many have been implemented?
Some days ago, I noticed that Tropical Depression 18 was starting to look (at least superficially) a lot like Katrina in the path it was taking. Obviously, this is of great interest to people in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast, and those of us concerned about them. TD18 has now turned into Tropical Storm Rita, and will soon be a hurricane.
I've continued to update that original post, which has the title "Not Again!?", with more information about the storm's path. There's also a "Rita Watch" box I've added to the sidebar.
Please note that I'm not a meterologist, not even an amateur one.
About 2 1/2 weeks ago, I posted about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 in which thousands of people died. (Popular accounts put the number at 6000, but NOAA puts it at 8000-12000.) At the time I was keeping my fingers crossed that Katrina's death toll would be nowhere near as high, and it looks as if that will turn out to be true, since it's currently just inching closer to 1000 confirmed dead. (See here for the latest open source breakdown.)
And, of course, it'll probably turn out to be the most expensive hurricane ever. (Although that's a rather suspect statistic, snce most of the time they don't correct for the changing value of the dollar, and increasing development of the coastlines means that the dollar amounts of hurricane damage automatically go up each year.)
Look, I don't blame the Republicans for race-baiting like crazy [to] protect Dear Leader. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Republican pundits gotta cast around for large, diverse groups of relatively powerless people to blame and stereotype in order to distract attention from the fact that their leaders are flushing this country down the toilet.
If Cheney had his way, there wouldn't be any government left to disinvent -- just a service desk for the pipeline companies to call when they need to get the power back on. And Halliburton could easily handle that.
Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" pushing the slogan of the very liberal Children's Defense Fund as one of his signature issues (No Child Left Behind.) He's always used liberal rhetoric and programmatic boilerplate to sell himself as a "new kinda Republican." It's just that being kinder and gentler has been out of fashion since he donned the codpiece after 9/11. There is nothing new in this. And it is in no sense some sort of capitulation. Republicans have been stealing liberal rhetoric for some time now, particularly when it comes to pretending to care about people they really don't care about. Gingrich showed that hard edged conservative rhetoric is deeply unpopular. People want to hear their leaders pretend to care, even if they don't. Karl Rove knows what works --- and they know that the dipshit pundits love it when a Republican says it because anything counter-intuitive becomes "bold" and "politically courageous."
And, I thought we all understood by now that there is no relationship between what the Republicans say and what they do.
I cannot believe that any liberal in the country would take George W Bush's word about anything at this point, but apparently we all haven't learned our lesson yet. I'm not sure what it will take, to tell you the truth. But for those of you who believe he has somehow capitulated to liberal ideals, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine from an African nation whose funds have been frozen ....
Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history. Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. These figures come from the libertarian Cato Institute's excellent report "The Grand Old Spending Party," which explains that "throughout the past 40 years, most presidents have cut or restrained lower-priority spending to make room for higher-priority spending. What is driving George W. Bush's budget bloat is a reversal of that trend." To govern is to choose. And Bush has decided not to choose. He wants guns and butter and tax cuts.
Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest. So we shovel out billions on "Homeland Security" to stave off nonexistent threats to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana while New York and Los Angeles remain unprotected. We mismanage crises with a crazy-quilt patchwork of federal, local and state authorities—and sing paeans to federalism to explain our incompetence. We denounce sensible leadership and pragmatism because they mean compromise and loss of ideological purity. Better to be right than to get Iraq right.
Hurricane Katrina is a wake-up call. It is time to get serious. We need to secure the homeland, fight terrorism and have an effective foreign policy to advance our interests and our ideals. We also need a world-class education system, a great infrastructure and advancement in science and technology.
For all its virtues, the private sector cannot accomplish all this. Wal-Mart and Federal Express cannot devise a national energy policy for the United States. For that and for much else, we need government. We already pay for it. Can somebody help us get our money's worth?
His frequent public pronouncements notwithstanding, [FEMA Director Michael] Brown clearly saw himself in a supporting role in the disaster drama. He issued a directive to FEMA employees Monday not to respond to hurricane-ravaged areas "without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities."
The directive revealed an allegiance to bureaucratic processes that proved maddening to some as FEMA demanded written requests for food, troops and fuel. A Florida congressman said the agency turned down an offer for flat-bottomed air boats because it didn't want to sign a contract with the supplier.
Save for the Coast Guard's dramatic air rescues, a detached, legalistic approach set the tone for the federal government's response. Brown is a lawyer as is his boss, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. And the founding document of U.S. disaster planning reads like a legal brief.
The National Response Plan is chock full of legalese, case law and statutes, but it doesn't clearly spell out something as basic as who is responsible for getting food and water to flood victims. The 426-page plan was supposed to have remedied the command-and-control problems that plagued the response to the terrorist attacks in New York City. But it's hardly a model of clarity. Its authors thought it necessary to attach an 11-page glossary of "key terms" and a three-page explanation of acronyms. On the seminal question - Who's in charge? - the Federal Response Plan is murky.
It says incidents are "typically" managed at the lowest levels of government. On the same page, however, it says that "Incidents of National Significance" put the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in charge. The next page seems to reverse course again. It says that "Incidents of National Significance," emergencies declared by the president, puts the federal government in a supporting role to protect state sovereignty. That is, unless the president decides he wants to be in charge, in which case the governor is secondary. Under those circumstances, the plan says, the president will consult with the governor, "if practicable."
So, again, this is what you get when people who don't trust the national government try to make local authorities take on more of a burden than they're able to bear in a time of crisis. It' the direct opposite of the nanny state: the stern father state, making you do things for your own good, because it will make a man out of you.
There's a fetishistic aspect to the way they respond to things, evident still in their nascent plans to use New Orleans as a proving ground for every conservative social engineering program that's ever emanated from the Heritage Foundation. They're the proverbial men with hammers, to whom everything looks like a nail.
Addenda (2:00pm): Maureen Dowd has the skinny on the lengths the White House production team went to make Bush look good for his speech in New Orleans.
In a ruined city - still largely without power, stinking with piles of garbage and still 40 percent submerged; where people are foraging in the miasma and muck for food, corpses and the sentimental detritus of their lives; and where unbearably sad stories continue to spill out about hordes of evacuees who lost their homes and patients who died in hospitals without either electricity or rescuers - isn't it rather tasteless, not to mention a waste of energy, to haul in White House generators just to give the president a burnished skin tone and a prettified background?
The slick White House TV production team was trying to salvage W.'s "High Noon" snap with some snazzy Hollywood-style lighting [...] As Elisabeth Bumiller, the White House reporter for The Times, noted in a pool report, the image wizards had put up a large swath of military camouflage netting, held in place by bags of rocks and strung on poles, to hide the president from the deserted and desolate streets of the French Quarter ghost town.
Bill O'Reilly apparently feels that allowing gays to marry will lead to... duck orgies. Not good, wholesome duck-on-duck sex, you understand, but filthy, rotten, saucy people-on-duck stuff.
Add to this Rick Santorum's deep concern (I bet it still keeps him up nights, tossing and turning in his jammies, soaked in a cold sweat) that societal acceptance of homosexuality will somehow lead to the legalization of man-on-dog sex, and we start to see a bt of a pattern with the right-wing.
Do these fears of animal sex ran through their nightmares and wet dreams? In their nocturnal fevers, do they run endlessly up the slick sides of slippery slopes, trying desperately to avoid falling into a rancid pit populated with chickens in garter belts and transvestite racoons in stiletto heels? Were they perhaps just a little bit too turned on by the Pepe LePew cartoons they watched when they were kids?
(America wants to know: in Bill's duck sex fantasies, are the ducks more like Daffy -- black and sassy -- or Donald -- stressed out and incomprehensible?)
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.