Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Media Schmedia

The media typically loves to focus on death and destruction. Anything that shows the plight of others is usually news worthy. Why is the media only focusing on a small portion of New Orleans? I’ve heard from some people look at name. They had a terrible disaster, didn’t complain and kept on going. The San Francisco earthquake is one I hear referenced a lot. On one side, I couldn’t agree more. On the other, explain to me what disaster affected this many and to this extent. There are currently 270,000 homes that are uninhabitable in New Orleans. How many homes were damaged to the point of being uninhabitable 3 months after the disaster in ? I don’t know of any that anyone living today can say they witnessed something like this.

As of 12/14/2005, NOPD and Orleans Criminal Sheriff buildings do not have power. Entergy, the power company, is a privately held company. If you go to New Orleans on a Sunday, you will see Entergy crews everywhere. Again, how many disasters in US history saw critical city infrastructure down for 3 months? This is not a city official or corruption issue. This is the media under reporting how widespread the damage truly is. FYI – NOPD is working out of the Royal Sonesta hotel on Bourbon Street and Orleans Criminal Sheriff has full time generator power. It isn’t anarchy, I'm just pointing out that there is way more going on here than city or state officials.

Data and phone lines are still at less than 60% up. People are buying cellular wireless cards to get internet access because they can not get their cable or phone lines up in a reasonable time.

The above data is only New Orleans. I have a DVD of some footage taken in Plaquemines Parish a week or so after the storm. These people are driving where there was 40 feet of water. There is nothing standing. Nothing. These aren’t the rooftops you see flooded in the same helicopter footage you were seeing over and over. These are home that are splintered. These are businesses that are no more. Much different to see this from the angle of a car driving by than a helicopter. Where is the media on this area.

Washington Parish – this is a small rural parish north of New Orleans. Bogalusa is the Parish seat. They eye wall passed just east of this heavily pine wooded parish. They keep cutting and cutting and cutting the pine trees that snapped. There are still areas that have no power. Bogalusa would be bankrupt had not a private citizen donated the money to keep the city afloat. Who is reporting on that human interest story?

Cudos to HDNet for having a story on HD News on Pecan Island. They focused on the fishing, primarily shrimping industry. They showed shrimpers going out and catching barely adequate hauls. When they started interviewing the owners of the boats most of which are old families and the owners of the businesses that support the fishing industry, they started asking how much insurance paid for the rebuilding. They were shocked to find out that the shrimpers had simply helped each other get their boats off the levees and docks without any help. Businesses were quoted as “we haven’t seen an insurance or FEMA person. If we waited for them we would be out of business.” When asked how they did it, they replied “we all did it ourselves”. Too bad HD News has a tiny viewer ship since you need an HD set and DirecTV to get it. That is the old gulf coast way. You don’t cry, you rebuild and move on. I guess that doesn’t make good news.

BTW, there is extensive damage in Mississippi and Texas. I see little coverage on this any more.

If It Keeps on Raining the Levee is Going to Break

There seems to be much debate over what to do with the levee system and the coastal erosion. I can not emphasize this enough. Before you pass judgment on Louisiana and the Levee system, you must educate yourself of the history of the Mississippi River, the debate that goes back to the early 1800’s of the ways to contain the Mississippi River, the rivers role in the economics of the entire US and the fact that as early as floods in 1912 people knew the levee system caused flooding levels not previously seen. This is not simply a New Orleans issues and all the problems are not solely corrupt Louisiana politics. Granted, politics as usual have not helped the situation but they are far from the only source of blame. This is partly a nature problem and partly a man made problem.

The coastal problem is an interesting one. We can argue man made and global warming but the reality is that nature has also played a large part on this. Over the last several hundred years the hurricanes and other storms have eaten away at the barrier islands on the Gulf Coast. There has been a massive call for costal restoration that has been met with little fanfare. There are some theories that the very act of putting in any levee system causes the wetlands to sink. Do your own research before judging. I’ve mentioned it before but the Rising Tide book has lots of history of the various theories of how to build the levee system and show that the politics started long before the 20th century.

Pumping issues - too many to note. The current pumps the city uses came into play in 1917. Many of these are still relied on but additions have been made. Much of the Kenner flooding has been blamed on the pumps being shut off during the hurricane because the pump operators would not be safe. I am not advocating the loss of life but something needs to be done about this. Either the pumps need to be made save to run remotely or the pump operators need some type of bunker that is flood proof and has 2 weeks of supplies. Had all the pumps in Jefferson Parish been working and much of Kenner and Metairie would not have flooded. Also, maybe it’s time to upgrade some of the century old pumps. I’m working on finding out about other areas but only have details on this part of Jefferson Parish.

Flood gates – as recently as the 1960’s the Corp of Engineers suggested flood gates that could be shut when a storm in the Gulf is on track for the mouth of the Mississippi. This would help Lake Ponchetrain from becoming flooding and having a surge hit the North Shore (parts of Slidell, Covington, Mandeville). I’m not sure what this would have saved at this time, but it is worth mentioning.

Bottom line, you need to work on the levee system and coastal rebuilding to truly solve the issue with New Orleans being hit with another hurricane. Pumps, flood gates and other options need to be explored as well.

Some rumor clarification on the piling depth of parts of the levee in New Orleans. As best I can tell there are two facts that are confirmed – the pilings for much of the levee go to 17 feet and the river in those parts was dredged to over 18 feet. Not really a good design. There is conjecture that the pilings only go down to 10 feet. This is based on some sonar tests that were done recently. I have spoken with officials in Ascension Parish which is quite a bit up river from New Orleans. They too had sonar tests done a while back and they showed that their pilings were 12-13 feet. When they pulled the pilings they were at the required 25 feet. We will need to wait and see what the piling length turns out to be but don’t be surprised if it is actually 17 feet. If they need to be 25 feet in Ascension Parish, why are they only 17 feet in New Orleans? That is a much better question to ask the Corp of Engineers.

For you people around the country who think New Orleans and South Louisiana should move. In an ideal world I agree. Now back to reality. For all the reasons that New Orleans and South LA should move so should all of Florida. I work with public officials in the Tampa area and they are scared to death of a category 4 or better hitting them. Disneyworld and Miami – you’re cut. While we are at it, I’m insisting that San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco be relocated as well. We all see the amount of damage earthquakes can do and we just can’t afford it. Hawaii – need I say more? An island that can be devastated by storms with and is built on an active volcano? What idiot would stay. Iowa or other parts of the Midwest? One word, it begins with a T and ends with ornados. Don’t get all high and mighty Pacific Northwest. Have you heard of subduction quakes? We call those city killers in the movies. The last one that happened in Alaska in the 1960’s still has the Goose population affected as far south as Southern California. When you go down, you’ll take the FEMA generator coupons just like we did. New York – look at the people dying in the ice storms. Get it? We live on earth and have to live with the weather. Deal with it. If you think moving over seas will help, ask the people who dies in the Asian earthquakes or Tsunami this year. Those numbers make Katrina look like a pimple. Oh and for the evangelists who claim God punished New Orleans for its evilness, explain why Las Vegas is still standing and then we can talk. Even Steven King destroyed Vegas.

Life goes on bra

Sorry for the lack of posts for some time. Life gets busy and in what we Louisianans now call the post-Katrina world, work and family take precedent. I do have much news to catch up on and plan on getting everyone updated. For the record, no one seems to refer to the post-Rita world even though it wiped out another part of the state. Updates will cover east and west Louisiana.