Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Like Nobody's Business

The day before the hurricane struck, Shephard Smith of Fox News Channel was down on The French Quarter of downtown New Orleans, and was amazed that as many as 100 or more people were there, casualy walking down the street, listening to music, drinking. It seemed to be a party atmosphere. He walked up to a man walking his dogs, and asked him what he was doing.

The minute the guy said "I'm walking my dogs" I knew from his tone of voice he wasn't taking kindly to the intrusion. Smith is a seasoned enough journalist he should have known better than to continue, but he did anyway, asking the guy what he was still doing there.

"None of your fucking business", the guy said.

I could have answered the question for him, that he wasn't about to go off and leave his home and possessions to be looted and raided over a huricane like, as was the case of so many false alarms, probably wasn't going to amount to much more than a typical tropical storm from New Orleans perspective. And sure enough, for a while it looked like this was ging to be the case here as well. But something happenned on Katrina's trip up the Tennessee and Ohio River Valeys. The category one (by then) hurricane, and then the tropical storm, and then the tropical depression, continually filed the Mississippi River and others with excessive rainwater, which eventully emptied into lake Ponchartraine-which was all ready overflowing with water dumped into it by the storm directly-which of course caused it to spill over the New Orleans levees-which had all ready been breached and broken in places-and as a result new Orleans is now flooded.

How this is worse in it's own way than even the disaster in Gulfport and Biloxi, is that this water isn't going anywhere for some time to go, maybe not for weeks or months. New Orleans is buildt on top of the Gulf, in fact, and is surrounded by levees which hold back boththe waters of lake Ponchartraine and the Gulf. New Orleans in fact sits below sea level, right at the sea. It is in effect like a big bowl, and there is nor can be no draiage system to speak of. It relies on pumps to keep it dry in ordinary circumstances, but these pumps, like the levees, have also failed for the time being.

So New Orleans is gradually filing up with more and more water. You have to wonder what the hell the french were thinking when they buildt this port, and why. It was doubtless never meant to be a permanent home for anybody. In fact, this would be in keeping with their traditional colonial poicy as regards America. They never intended to establish widespread colonies or permanent settlements, all they wanted to do was engage in fur and other trade with the Indians, maybe establish a few mines here and there. That and harass the British and make sure they didn't dominate the continent. It may be one of the great ironies in that New Orleans was actually cosidered a safer locale for a trading post than anyplace else along the Gulf Coast, if only not for the annoying inconvenience of being nothing there but water to have to build it over.

Whatever they were thinking, they obviously were more than happy to sell the place to Thomas Jefferson as part of the Louisiana Purchase, and little did the unsuspecting Americans know just how tenous their position was. Thus, it became one of the better loved spots in America over the years. And one of the premiere cities, with it's own unique culture, it's arts, cuisine, music, and an award winning newspaper in the Times Picayunne. Will there be a Mardi Gras this next year? Watch and see if that won't be the stated goal for rebuilding, which of course it couldn't possibly be rebuilt in it's entirety by then. But the inner city, and the French quarter especially, might be. The overall rebuilding of the entire place will take some time.

Hopefully, as it is done, it wil be accomplished with this event in mind, and contingencies will be put into place to ensure that a repeat episode will be far less likely to have this widespread and tragic consequence.

After all, the insurance bill for this entire event will top 25 billion dollars, probably appreciably more than this when you total in the entire area of the disaster. Like it or not, the insurance companies will figure out a way to pass this cost on to the genral public. They shouldn't be allowed to do that, but it is unlikely that anything will be done to prevent it. So everybody can count on paying a higher insurance bill, maybe not only on their hoimes and businesses, but on their automobiles, and life and health as well. It is tantamount, therefore, that when thee areas are rebuilt, they are rebuilt to withstand as much as is possible any ther encroaching disaster.

In other words, it is everybody's "fucking business".