Katrina and the Waves
What delivers a storm's fury? A wind-lashed television reporter doing a stand-up by the sea? Or a lone blogger typing while there's still power.
Katrina and the Waves
"The wind is really picking up now and I hear the roof above me wobble," wrote John Strain, a psychiatric social worker as Katrina bore down on Covington, La., yesterday. "The sound is like a waterfall or rushing river. It is a fine noise. It is a powerful noise. It is a noise that reminds me how small I am and how big God is."
Have spent the day reading blogs and mainstream sites, while watching TV - mostly with the sound down. The mediums served best when taken in tandem. Put together, a picture emerged of a double-wide disaster.
There were reports of floor-to-ceiling water in some coastal Louisiana homes. In Gulfport, Miss., roofs were hurtling through the streets, boats crashing into buildings. Hundreds of thousands of properties lost power.
The hurricane peeled away part of the protective covering over the Superdome, where about 10,000 New Orleans residents are hoping to wait out the hurricane. Water is leaking through at least two holes. Civil engineers inside the building say there is no structural damage. WDSU's blog has it covered.
Reporters from the Times-Picayune have been blogging the beast from their un-air-conditioned offices and shooting pictures from the rooftop of their building. A recent entry: "Reports of widespread flooding now, although not at the doomsday scenario levels. But we've got several hours to go before we've seen the worst past. Scanner traffic is busy with calls of rising water, including 18 inches and rising against the levee in the French Quarter."
This image of Katrina, which was a category-five storm at its fury, is straight out of The Day After Tomorrow. By mid-morning the hurricane was reclassified as category-four, with winds at 125 mph.
The picture moved Raymond P. Ward, who writes the Minor Wisdom blog in New Orleans, to summon two great muses Sunday evening - the Clash (he asks, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?") and humorist Roy Blount Jr. Blount warrants some room:
New Orleans is nobody's oyster. It is situated, however, like a served-up oysterthe half-shell being the levees that keep Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River from engulfing the city. New Orleans lies several feet below river and lake level, and it sinks a little farther every year. When the big hurricane hitsand it will, New Orleanians assure you, with what suffices locally for civic pridethe waters will finally rise over the shell and inundate the town, killing tens of thousands.
Some hope arrived for New Orleans as the hurricane made landfall this morning. It looked like Katrina, slightly weakened, had turned eastward, and the brunt of its 150 mph winds would not hit the city directly. The western eyewall was due to batter the city. "It's not as bad as the eastern side," a National Hurricane Center official told AP. "It'll be plenty bad enough."
By turning eastward, Katrina headed toward Biloxi, Miss. The Biloxi Sun Herald is keeping a storm blog, called Eyes on Katrina. It's working without electricity. A morning excerpt from Hancock County, via a civil defense official:
"It's getting ugly over there. They've got 9 feet of water in Waveland. She thinks they've lost part of the back of the courthouse over there. There are houses in Bay St. Louis that don't normally flood that have water up to the doorknobs."
A blog called Fighting Against Making the Pie Higher bottled the angst as Katrina approached the Big Easy:
"I dont want to lose New Orleans ... I love this city, and it scares me that many places that i accepted would exist long after im dead may be destroyed in a matter of hours in my lifetime. The other scary fact is that a lot of people evacuating are still trapped on the interstate, and the winds are beginning to pick up. I cannot comprehend why anyone would have headed east on I-10, if they have had any previous experience with hurricanes, but they did. The real death toll might wind up being on the roads. The footage of the evacuees at the Superdome is still making me wince at the possibility at how monstrous this could be. I doubt if that structure is as safe as they are estimating it is."
Metroblogging New Orleans is shaping up as an essential communal destination to read about the storm.
There, Craig Giesecke wrote of his decision to flee:
This house has been here since 1853 and I'm sure it will be here when we return. But, given the amount of loose debris in this old city, I'm not going to remain inside as a potential target for whatever is flying around. Katrina is a living reminder that Mother Nature always bats last. Good luck for those of you choosing to brave it. I'll be looking forward to hearing your stories and I'll be adding my own from the evacuation and recovery. But I've reached the point in life where safety trumps adrenalin.
Follow the storm with New Orleans television meteorologist Bob Breck of WVUE.
Also, this hurricane page, which includes Dr. Jeff Masters's prediction: "I recommend that if you are trapped in New Orleans tomorrow, that you wear a life jacket and a helmet if you have them. High rise buildings may offer good refuge, but Katrina has the potential to knock down a high-rise building."
The BBC has an animated page that shows how hurricanes form.
Following the storm from the safety of Philadelphia, bloggers weighed in with links to first-hand accounts and a Red Cross site that channels donations to Hurricane victims. Some wondered whether global warming could be blamed.
I was not alone in wondering what so many reporters were trying to prove by doing their storm-tossed two-ways. They might have had more to add if they'd logged into a computer.