Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ever notice how nothing gets fixed until the worst happens?

The Philadelphia Inquirer (via Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service), Oct 10, 2004
"New Orleans in danger of drowning."
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2004 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Byline: Paul Nussbaum

NEW ORLEANS _ From a helicopter above the Gulf of Mexico, Col. Peter Rowan could see that his first line of defense had been breached.

Where Breton and the Chandeleur Islands had been, only pale green water now sparkled in the sun. Hurricane Ivan had pummeled the sand and grass barriers two weeks earlier, washing away much of them _ and the hurricane protection they provide for New Orleans.

"It looks like it's pretty much all gone," said Rowan, commander of the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The second line of defense is vanishing, too. Wetlands, which absorb much of the storm surge of approaching hurricanes, are disappearing at the rate of 28,000 acres a year, bringing the sea that much closer to the city.

So New Orleans, tucked below sea level between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, is in growing danger of drowning. A direct hit by a very powerful hurricane could swamp its levees and leave as much as 20 feet of chemical-laden, snake-infested water trapped in the man-made bowl.

More than 25,000 people could die, emergency officials predict. That would make it the deadliest disaster in U.S. history, with many more fatalities than the San Francisco earthquake, the great Chicago fire, and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks combined.

"It's only a matter of time," said Terry C. Tullier, city director of emergency preparedness.

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