From Bad to Worse, and Worse to Worser

Governor Kathleen Blanco is ordering everyone who didn’t evacuate from New Orleans before the storm to evacuate now; she’s sending in buses and boats, and getting everybody out.

Ranting and panic, below the fold.

The situation is continuing to deteriorate before our eyes: the Army Corps of Engineers has given up on attempting to sandbag the breached levee, and projections indicate — apparently those same projections we were looking at before the city appeared to have been spared — that the water level in New Orleans, already as high as 20 feet in some places, could rise another 15 feet.

We’re back to 30 feet of water. A city abandoned. All major services discontinued. Uncollected, unidentified, uncounted bodies floating in the flood waters.

Blanco’s asking for prayer, but the entirety of South Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast at large, needs more material help than that. If New Orleans goes under, it could easily drag the economy of the entire region with it. And while Blanco’s being quite clear about her determination that the city will rebuild, there’s something implied in that that as yet hasn’t been said: “rebuilding” is a more literal term than folks might recognize. Nothing in South Louisiana can survive weeks of standing water; the mold and mildew infestation (along with godknows what all else that water will introduce) is going to require huge parts of that city to be torn down and entirely rebuilt.

But first, how do you rebuild a city once you’ve given up on repairing the wall that keeps the damned ocean out?


  1. Earlier this morning I read that a large cause of the flooding was that emergency services were re-routed from stopping the gaps in the levee to rescue operations.

    That’s pretty amazing that could happen in America today. I surely thought maintainging commerce would have been the number one priority.

    As for the city – I know it has cultural value, but let’s be realistic — its under sea level, it’s sinking because we ‘tamed’ the river and interfered with silt deposits, and its in the middle of a hurricane region. Development should have stopped long ago. Rebuilding it would be a crime, only inviting a repeat of this.

  2. Jonathan, I’d like to respond to your comment rationally, but I simply can’t. A million people call the greater New Orleans area home. “Realism” is all well and good, but it doesn’t begin to account for the fact that they’ve lost everything — homes, jobs, businesses, and, in many cases, loved ones. To characterize their desires to salvage what they can, to restore their homes and lives to what they were, as criminal is heartless in the extreme.

    There will be a moment for a serious accounting — figuring out what can and can’t be done, and more, what should and shouldn’t. But this is not it. Everything many of these people know is gone, and what they need right now is compassion, not sanctimoniousness.

    End rant. A return to rationality at some later date.

  3. I don’t see what would be very realistic about expecting people to give up their roots. I would even say it is less realistic to expect the inhabitants of NO to be able to not want to rebuild their city, regardless of the risks of its fragile position on the coast.

    Jeez. Some people have families going back generations in the area, and even those newly transplanted to the city can have deep attachments. Disregarding these ties, and their importance, seems highly irrational to me.

    Later, once the crisis is over and rebuilding begun, by all means let’s try to find realistic solutions to protect what will be rebuilt.

  4. There’s no reason to keep the community and culture alive in a nearby, less ‘prone to destruction’ location.

    I’m not saying give up culture, roots, or communities — what I’m saying is give up the land they were built on. That specific location is a disaster area – it will perpetually sink because of the nature of the land, sea level has been shifting higher from global warming, and we’re not going to see a reduction in storms unless man learns how to play god.

    When rebuilt, NO will have another terrible disaster from flooding, more people will die, and greater damage will have been done.

    Why not avoid that?

  5. I think my problem with the idea of relocation is that this treats culture, roots and comuunities as things which are not intricately bound to a certain place. Can we really speak of “land” as a mere interchangeable substrate ? Are communities unaffected by the physical reality in which they develop ? I don’t think it would be possible to recreate a New Orleans in another spot (even nearby)–it would be something else, a new commmunity.

    I know many people from New Orleans who are very proud of their specific NO heritage, of the history of their town. Certainly one can find this sort of pride misplaced or impractical–or to lack weight versus the logic of safety–but this doesn’t change the deep meaning that place can hold for a particular person. And the pain of losing a place.

    (On top of that, any idea of relocation puts aside any problems of uprooting other people and communities to make a new place to build, but that’s a another issue entirely)

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