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October 19, 2005


For a believer, attempting to keep God from winning would seem something of a sucker's bet.

Meanwhile there are the underpinnings of the entire Midwestern and central Southern economies to consider. Plus oil and natural gas. If we're simply considering the bottom line.

If that's not the entirety of it, and it shouldn't be, a few moments reflection on the phrase, "There but for the grace of God go I" might prove beneficial.

For a believer, attempting to keep God from winning would seem something of a sucker's bet.

And on that note, Wilma's been upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to hit Cat5 by the morning. Stay safe, south Florida, 'cause you could be in for one hell of a ride.

Actually they should rebuild and start building the next port, which will probably become mandatory in the next twenty years. No business would ever do that unless their existing infrastructure was completely destroyed; so that would mean higher taxes, which means everyone is only going to look at the immediate crisis lest they see something they don't like.

Well, there are a few options. I doubt if any of them are even on the table, but:

1) Make New Orleans into a sort of Venice of the New World. Put all the buildings up on pilings, and have gondolas and walkways for transportation, instead of the streetcars.

2) Bring in several million Jesus-loads of crushed rock and gravel and bring the city up above sea level. Build on that.

3) Move New Orleans to a different location.

4) Just bag it.

I kind of lean toward #1, myself. Of course, passing out in the gutters could be fatal, but people will just have to adapt.

Of course, passing out in the gutters could be fatal, but people will just have to adapt.

Lifevests to go along with the beads.

"Bring in several million Jesus-loads of crushed rock and gravel..."

So how much gravel can one Jesus hold? And how many angels can dance on that many pieces of gravel?

Well, so much for Farrakhan's little theory.

I'm all for a Venice in the Delta approach.

I'm already considering what type of gondola to buy for my Soho Apartment, expecting global warming to drown the first two floors of my building, leaving me with a nice waterfront home.

Charles, could be that the Minister's views and the civil engineering report detailing the soil structure failure can both be substaniated.
I like Slarti's options and think we (the people) are with his/her choice of #1. (Maybe #2 if those Jesus trucks can be found).
That is, we are in denial. We are in denial about GM and Iraq and... It is sometimes a good recovery strategy: "What problem?" allows you to atleast get to your feet before the real depth of the disaster hits you right between the eyes.

Jesus-load was, as far as I know, first used by Spider Robinson in Time Pressure, if memory serves. Googling jesus-load yields some interesting, informative and occasionally tragically funny results.

U B right, my transgression: Jesus-load sized trucks rather than the lighter Jesus trucks.

I'm sorry to rain on the parade of bipartisan daydreaming here, but isn't the original Venice slowly sinking into its lagoon, requiring constant salvaging operations? I can't imagine that such fragility would do very well in a hurricane zone.

I'm voting for the Jesus-loads.

1 metric Jesusload is 1/1000th of the volume of the Dead Sea.

This suggests that the kind of strengthening of the the levees being talked about before and immediately after Katrina may have been inadequate to protect New Orleans.

No -- this inference is almost certainly wrong. The fact that older structures fail is not a good basis for infering that they cannot be made safer, or that modern designs cannot avoid the pitfalls of older structures.

Its dull to talk about, but this type of failure of a dam or levee structure (hydrosatic pressure causing failure) is not surprising, and is well understood.

It is one of the more common causes of levee failure, rather than due to erosion from being overtopped. The pressure undermines the original foundational soils rather than the levee material itself. And it is difficult during construction to calculate the strength of the underlying soils which, by definition, cannot be known with certainty.

The better assumption is that they can engineer adequate levees even in the difficult soils of the Mississippi River basin -- its all a matter of cost. (The levee at St. Louis withstood a 52 foot flood stage in the Great Flood of 1993). And that the old levees are trouble-prone because they were built inadequately when the engineering knowledge was inadequate, just as with older buildings that lacked adequate protection from earthquakes.

Just ask the Dutch, who have built superb levees that withstand far more strain than that imposed on those in New Orleans. It can be done -- whether its worth it is another story.

And more revelations about New Orleans, via Jeanne at Body and Soul.

BE&K landed a subcontract to help rebuild the naval air station, it turned to Knight for electricians -- he says 75, BE&K says 59 at the peak of work.

BE&K was working for Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., Vice President Cheney's former company.

When BE&K came to him, Knight said he was told his work would run well into the millions of dollars and stretch out as long as 20 months. His men would be paid the prevailing union wage of $22.09 an hour, plus health benefits.

After three weeks, the initial work was 60 percent completed. Then, on Friday, Knight received a letter informing him that BE&K workers -- largely from out of state and, according to Knight, earning $14 to $15 an hour without benefits -- could take over from there. link

Just like Iraq, isn't it?

Please don't confuse the Mississippi River levees, which in every instance held, even when they were overtopped by the storm surge (not in New Orleans, but much further downstream near Venice, LA) and the Lake Ponchatrain and canal levees which failed in New Orleans (along with the marsh side levees which failed in lower Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes and caused the massive flooding there). They are two entirely different things designed for two entirely different events.

When you live in New Orleans, as I do, most of the rules of the rest of the world, even the very laws of nature, are suspended. The highest point in New Orleans is the Mississippi River levees which are 20 to 22 feet above sea levee. Most of the time the river itself is higher than the city. After living here a while you get used to seeing ocean-going ships going along the river above you. Since the sewage treatment plant is in high spot in the city on the river bank, shit literally flows uphill in New Orleans. Directions are meaningless, the "West Bank" is alternately east, south, and west of New Orleans; The "North Shore" is not only north, but also east of the city. New Orleans is already the American Venice. It has more canals than Venice, it's just that most of them are buried, but its network of pumps and canals push water into Lake Ponchatrain 24 hours a day to keep the city dry.

The flood threat from the Mississippi is well contained and is mostly an upstream threat. Upstream of New Orleans there is a diversion canal that can be opened to divert floodwaters from the Mississippi into Lake Ponchatrain so they don't have to blow up the Levees south of the city like they did in 1927. The threat of a storm surge on the Mississippi River side of New Orleans is minimal because New Orleans is 120 miles from the mouth of the Mississipi River (get your map out).

No the real nemisis of New Orleans is Lake Ponchatrain and the levees that protect the city from the storm surge coming from the lake. Lake Pontchartrain is about 5 feet above sea level and the lakeside levees are supposed to be at a consistent 17 feet. Even if they were properly built and maintained (which everyone knew they were not), the levees were inadequate to protect against a direct hit by a Cat 4 storm or even a slow moving Cat 3. When President Bush said no one anticipated a levee breach he was either lying or incredibly ignorant. You can decide which is worse.

There are many ways to restore New Orleans, protect it against a Cat 5 storm, maintain shipping, restore the wetlands in Southern Louisiana, and do it all in an environmmentally senstive way. All it takes is a little imagination, the political will, and the resources. It won't be cheap, but it will be a hell of a lot less expensive than the 100s of billions of dollars that we will spend recovering from Katrina and it won't kill over 1000 people to achieve it.

The disaster in New Orleans was 100% avoidable for an investment of somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 billion (and a lot of this cost is to correct the mistakes the Corps has made over the last 80 years). We just lacked the political will to do it.

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