KATRINA….Ken Ringle writes in the Washington Post that Katrina truly is the Big One that could destroy New Orleans. But it has to hit just right for that to happen:
For a true New Orleans doomsday scenario, the storm’s eye and strongest winds will have to thread a fairly precise path that carries its deadly northeast quadrant just east of the city. The real vulnerability of the city is not just that it’s 10 to 15 feet below sea level, laced with more drainage canals than Venice, and must pump for its life around the clock in even the driest weather.
….The real nightmare has always been the prospect of a Wagnerian hurricane like Katrina coming ashore so that its strongest winds push the Gulf of Mexico into the eastern-facing entrance to Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city’s northern edge. The lake is both unusually shallow ? rarely more than 20 feet deep ? and unusually large ? more than half the size of the state of Rhode Island. A 20-foot storm surge arriving in concert with both high tide and 20-inch rains could overwhelm the city’s more vulnerable lakeside levees and then flow downhill all the way to the French Quarter. Many of the city’s massive drainage pumps are located closer to the lake. Were they to be flooded out, the city would not only be helplessly inundated while the hurricane is overhead ? it would remain so for weeks if not months.
By the time I wake up in the morning, we’ll all know if this has really happened ? or if New Orleans has dodged a bullet once again. To all my readers in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, I hope you avoid the worst. Good luck.