Monday, June 26, 2006

Harry Shearer in New Orleans

Harry Shearer: A New Orleans Diary, part 4:
It's been a squint day. That is to say, one of those days when, if you squint sufficiently, it's easy to convince yourself that New Orleans is back to normal. The first big convention is in town, the librarians, and a couple of my author friends are in town for the occasion. I, being an upcoming author (novel coming out in the fall, details to follow), bought a badge for $25, and wandered the floor looking for librarians who might want to buy a funny novel. And, no squinting required, we were in the Convention Center, and, after that first moment when your mind reruns That Footage, you forget anything but the fact that Google seems to have the biggest display space at the library convention.

Speaking of rerunning footage, the head of the local convention and visitors' bureau has complained more than once that, when he pitches convention organizers on coming back to NO, he frequently gets this response: 'But isn't your city still under water?' My friend John chooses to assign that response to the file summed up by the classic NO t-shirt slogan, 'It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.'
(Link added.) See also parts 1, 2, 3, and 5.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Librarians descend on New Orleans, read, unpack, blog

Making Light: Notes from New Orleans 1 (Patrick Nielsen Hayden):
I’m in a high-rise hotel on Canal Street. I’ve been to New Orleans three times before, in 1988, 1993, and 1994. Things down here look largely as I remember them, that peculiarly New Orleanean blend of comfortable wear, piss-smelling grunginess, heart-stabbing beauty, and civic boosterism. There are some large buildings visibly out of commission, like the medium-rise Doubletree Hotel that lost most of its windows. Despite the presence of the American Library Association (which I’m here for) and another convention or two, the French Quarter and downtown seem oddly uncrowded. This could be because the city has half the population it used to. Or it could be because it’s hot and humid enough to strike strong men down in the street.

The T-shirts for sale in French Quarter tourist shops include some interesting new flavors in the mix. Along with the usual (I GOT BOURBON-FACED ON SHIT STREET) and the predictable (KATRINA GAVE ME A BLOW JOB I’LL NEVER FORGET), there’s a distinct streak of the overtly political. A whole subgenre is devoted to mocking a certain Federal agency: FEDERAL EMERGENCY MISMANAGEMENT ASSHOLES, or, somewhat inscrutably, FIND EVERY MEXICAN AVAILABLE. But what’s striking are the overtly anti-Iraq War shirts, which seem just as prevalent: MAKE LEVEES, NOT WAR. And, more directly: SCREW IRAQ, REBUILD HERE."
Paperback Girl: American Library Association Conference in New Orleans (Iris):
11 am--Starving in New Orleans.. during the final decent, the plane is silent as everyone cranes their necks over to see if you can tell half the city is destroyed.. My middle seat doesn't afford much of a view, but the girl next to me is a Folklore major studying for test on Proverbs.. I read over her shoulder the whole flight.. yeah I'm annoying like that. [...]

HOLY CRAP ITS HOT AND HUMID. Glad I brought lots of cotton and linen.

12 pm--Doubletree. Its kinda crummier than I thought it would be, (black hair in the sink!) but they gave me a warm cookie at check-in, so I will survive. Unpack my three dresses, three skirts, seven shirts.. for three and a half days. But I have a BIG Carry-on, so it was fine. My roommate will arrive at the hotel probably around 2 am. yay.

3:52 pm--I am now at the convention center, having registered. At 4pm I will go to a YALSA event. I am sitting in the CC lobby peeking into the exhibit hall where a GIANT Google sign is winking at me through a proped door. The CC is UGLY UGLY UGLY and HUGE.. even though half of it is still being renovated.

UPDATES: 6/26: More Paperback Girl notes here.
EDIT, 6/27: dumb title changed. However, Patrick Nielsen Hayden is not a librarian, he's a science fiction editor.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Blogpulse: Katrina, New Orleans

Not surprisingly, blog posts about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans have tapered off.

December 2005 (via Bloggers Blog):

December 2005 blog posts about 'Katrina'

June 2006:

June 2006 blog posts about 'Hurricane Katrina' or 'New Orleans'

The second graph plots the percentage of all BlogPulse-censused blog posts with the phrases "Hurricane Katrina" or "New Orleans" (NO). The peak in early March was when footage of Bush's video conference with Mike Brown was made public. Click here for the current 6-month trend.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Army Corps of Engineers: Katrina Draft Final Report

Performance Evaluation of the New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Protection System
Draft Final Report of the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force
Executive Summary (Acrobat .PDF document):
Overarching Findings

The System did not perform as a system: the hurricane protection in New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana was a system in name only.
Flood protection systems are an example of a series system—if a single levee or floodwall fails, the entire area is impacted. It is important that all components have a common capability based on the character of the hazard they face. Such systems also need redundancy, an ability for a second tier of protection to help compensate for the failure of the first tier. Pumping may be the sole example of some form of redundancy; however, the pumping stations are not designed to operate in major hurricane conditions. The system’s performance was compromised by the incompleteness of the system, the inconsistency in levels of protection, and the lack of redundancy. Incomplete sections of the system resulted in sections with lower protective elevations or transitions between types and levels of protection that were weak spots. Inconsistent levels of protection were caused by differences in the quality of materials used in levees, differences in the conservativeness of floodwall designs, and variations in structure protective elevations due to subsidence and construction below the design intent due to error in interpretation of datums. The presence of closure gates such as those for the CSX railroad that must function as a part of the system, but are separately controlled, add to the inherent risk in the system. Redundancy was simply not included. Continuity of pumping could have significantly reduced at least the duration of flooding and in some areas the extent. Armoring the back sides and crests of levees and the protected side of floodwalls would have added significant redundancy and reduced breaching. Surge gates at the mouths of the outfall canals are an excellent example of providing redundancy. The combination of the surge protection for the canals and resilient levee-floodwall systems will dramatically reduce risk in Orleans East Bank.

The storm exceeded design criteria, but the performance was less than the design intent: sections of the hurricane protection system were in many ways overwhelmed by the conditions created by Hurricane Katrina. This is particularly true for the sections of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) along New Orleans East, and the levees in St. Bernard and Plaquemine Parishes where the combination of record high surge and long period waves exceeded the design conditions and devastated the levees. This devastation, however, was aided by the presence of incomplete protection, lower than authorized structures, and levee sections with erodible materials. While overtopping and extensive flooding from Katrina were inevitable, a complete system at authorized elevations would have reduced the losses incurred. The designs were developed to deal with a specific hazard level, the Standard Project Hurricane as defined in 1965; however, little consideration was given to the performance of the system if the design event or system requirements were exceeded.
(Emphases added) Via New York Times: Army Builders Accept Blame for Flooding, Harry Shearer, and Arianna Huffington (" Huffington Post")

From the full report web site:
The IPET is seeking eyewitness accounts describing the behavior of the hurricane protection system during and immediately after the passage of Hurricane Katrina (29 Aug. 2005). If you have information that you think may be useful, please click here to provide information. You may also contact us at or 1-866-502-2570, ext. 5004.

The information you provide will be combined with information from other witnesses in a general summary for our report. We are asking for your name and contact information (phone number or address) to allow us to contact you if we have additional questions about the information you provided and to credit your information to a specific location. If you provide your name and contact information it will be made available to others outside the Corps, with your statement. You do not need to provide a name or contact information to submit nformation.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

NASA image: Subsidence in New Orleans

NASA Earth Observatory
Most people know that New Orleans has been sinking, but exactly how much has it sunk? In a paper published in the journal Nature, an international team of scientists determined the subsidence (sinking) in New Orleans in the three-year period prior to Hurricane Katrina. The team used data collected by Canada’s RADARSAT satellite between April 2002 and July 2005. The researchers found that most of New Orleans subsided 8 millimeters per year relative to global mean sea level during that period. [...]

Scientists have proposed several causes for subsidence in New Orleans. These causes range from natural ones, such as settling of coastal sediments and movement of the Michoud fault, to human ones such as draining wetlands, diverting sediment-bearing floodwaters from the Mississippi River, and pumping ground water.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Democracy vs. the market in New Orleans

Stephen Griffin, at Balkinization, notes that Nagin and Landrieu appeared not to disagree with eachother about much during the New Orleans mayoral campaign, making an election about issues difficult. He writes:
Perhaps there is a deeper reason why the election seemed to stay on the surface. People in New Orleans have been led to believe that they live in a sort of populist democracy. Who will determine how New Orleans will be rebuilt? Why, the people of New Orleans. From this perspective, all of the major decisions will be determined democratically. There is no doubt that civic participation is up post-Katrina. People search everything their elected officials say for signs and portents of the future. They expect their officials to solve the problems of the city. But perhaps as a decider of the future, democracy is a relatively poor cousin of the market. Many in the New Orleans area have already voted with their feet – they moved across Lake Pontchartrain to higher ground. Home insurance is difficult to obtain – the major insurance companies are pulling back from the coast. The tourist industry is having difficulty restarting.

At this point, for every challenge there is still a solution. The full weight of the coming federal homeowner bailout, for example, will not be felt until late summer or the fall. People will of course feel more confident about the future if no hurricane troubles the city by November. But the market will eventually make its own judgment on New Orleans, perhaps to the deep disappointment of many residents.

Video of the Devestation

Scout has set some of her NOLA video footage to music. As I watched it, I caught myself growing restless because the scenary is unchanging. It's a unchanging survey of disaster that lasts nearly five minutes.

The video opens with the following stats:

Over 200,000 homes destroyed by Katrina.
Over 184,000 apartments destroyed.
Katrina Dead: 1531 to date.
Katrina missing: 1502
Additionally an unknown number were washed out to sea.