The Katrina disaster ain’t over

by Dave Schuler on August 30, 2005

Not by a long shot. As I mentioned yesterday, the winds may have died down but the real disaster will be water:

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) – Rescuers in boats and helicopters searched for survivors of Hurricane Katrina and brought victims, wet and bedraggled, to shelters Tuesday as the extent of the damage across the Gulf Coast became ever clearer. The governor said the death toll in one Mississippi county alone could be as high as 80.

“The devastation down there is just enormous,” Gov. Haley Barbour said on NBC’s “Today” show, the morning after Katrina howled ashore with winds of 145 mph and engulfed thousands of homes in one of the most punishing storms on record in the United States.

In New Orleans, meanwhile, water began rising in the streets Tuesday morning, apparently because of a break on a levee along a canal leading to Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans lies mostly below sea level and is protected by a network of pumps, canals and levees. Many of the pumps were not working Tuesday morning.

Officials planned to use helicopters to drop 3,000-pound sandbags into the breach.

[…]

In downtown New Orleans, streets that were relatively clear in the hours after the storm were filled with 1 to 1 1/2 feet of water Tuesday morning. Water was knee-deep around the Superdome. Canal Street was literally a canal. Water lapped at the edge of the French Quarter.

[…]

Forecasters said that as the storm moves north over the next few days, it could swamp the Tennessee and Ohio valleys with a potentially ruinous 8 inches or more of rain. On Monday, Katrina’s remnants spun off tornadoes and other storms in Georgia that smashed dozens of buildings and were blamed for at least one death.

According to preliminary assessments by AIR Worldwide Corp., a risk assessment company, the insurance industry faces as much as $26 billion in claims from Katrina. That would make Katrina more expensive than the previous record-setting storm, Hurricane Andrew, which caused some $21 billion in insured losses in 1992 to property in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on CBS that it will be “quite awhile” before those displaced by the hurricane can return, particularly in areas close to downtown New Orleans. In some places, “it’s going to be weeks at least before people can get back.”

And once the floodwaters go down, “it’s going to be incredibly dangerous” because of structural damage to homes, diseases from animal carcasses and chemicals in homes, Brown said.

Bloggers seem to be losing interest in this story but their lack of concern is premature.

Amba of AmbivaBlog has complained about the light-hearted coverage from some of the media. But she and others have noted that on-the-scene reporters are obviously greatly moved by what they’re seeing—an indication of the degree of the disaster. News anchor Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America was very nearly overcome with emotion as she looked at the damage to her family home in Gulfport, MS.

Baldilocks has a good list of charitable organizations that are mobilizing to assist in hurricane relief.

UPDATE: Econbloggers weigh in on the economic impact of Katrina: Calculated Risk, Steve Verdon, James Hamilton, Steve Antler, Matthew Kahn, Max Sawicky. I note that all of the commentary has been very U. S. A.-centric. But, as is oft-repeated, since oil is fungible, rising oil prices mean not just rising oil prices here but in Albania and in Zambia. And none of the China commentators have mentioned that, since economic growth is more energy intensive in China than in the U. S., rising energy prices are of greater concern to the Chinese than they are to us.

UPDATE: The Moderate Voice continues his excellent coverage of media and blogospheric commentary on Katrina.

New Orleans resident Paul of Wizbang has a quick summary of the scope of the damage there. His take: it’s not the doomsday scenario but it’s darned close.

1:00pm CDT: Truth Laid Bear has set up a Katrina page. Where I found a link to a Katrina Help Wiki.

Technorati tag: Katrina

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