Monday, September 05, 2005

Ego-stroking time: Mirror, mirror...who's the humblest of us all?

Mostly for vanity I need to make a note of this.
Last Thursday as the magnitude of the aftermath of the hurricane became more evident, I wrote in the "running diary"

The real tragedy is that what we see is not what could have been the worst. Had the eye of that storm landed a few degrees to the West, say about New Iberia instead of Slidell, the resulting tide would have dumped itself right into the New Orleans "bowl." We would not be looking at the roofs of houses and sending a cavalcade of busses to ship Superdome City to Houston's Astrodome for Thanksgiving. Instead we would be filling up body bags as rapidly as possible to avert a loss of life and property of biblical proportions...just like the predictions have advertised. No, this was still not the Big One.

It looked like a case of common sense to me, but I didn't find too much to make me feel right or wrong...too much tragedy to worry about that at the time. In fact, as soon as I wrote it I came acrocc the Winds of Change piece that disagreed.

Well it seems that blogger-weather-nerd Brendan Loy, watching from Indiana, was one of the few people who was serious, accurate and alarmed about the impending storm. His story, (H/T Donald Sensing) now in the NY Times and excerpted by Glenn Reynolds, is another Cassandra study.
As horrible as the catastrophe has been, please realize that it actually could have been far worse. What occurred was not the long-feared "worst-case scenario," which involved not a levee breach equalizing the water level in Lake Ponchartrain and "Lake New Orleans," but rather a storm surge over-topping the levees and causing the water level in "Lake New Orleans," hemmed in by the still-intact levees, to rise substantially higher than the water level in the lake. If the storm had wobbled a meteorologically insignificant 20 or 30 miles to the west, and/or had not weakened from a Category 5 to a Category 4 at the last minute, that scenario would have occurred, and instead of a slowly developing 10-20 foot flood, New Orleans would have suffered a rapidly developing 30-40 foot flood. (Jackson Square would have been underwater, whereas in the real-world scenario it remained high and dry.) The whole thing would have happened Monday morning, and at the same time as the city was rapidly and massively flooding, the devastating winds that demolished theMississippi coastline would have been tearing New Orleans apart instead. All of those attics where people took shelter would have been either submerged or shattered to bits. The French Quarter would have been swamped, instead of mostly surviving the flood. Second-floor generators in hospitals might well have drowned. Bottom line, there would be a lot fewer refugees and a lot more corpses.

I rest my case.
(Cassandra LINK here, also)

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