Sunday, August 28, 2005

New Orleans could be disaster area

I know this isn’t entirely UK news, but Hurricane Katrina is due to hit the city of New Orleans (which is coastal, and sits behind levees as it is 1 to 20 feet (av. 6) below sea level) within the next 24 hours.

Wikipedia says: “New Orleans is a major port city due to its location near the Gulf of Mexico and along the Mississippi River, making it a hub for goods which travel to and from Latin America. The petroleum industry is also of great importance to the New Orleans economy; many oil rigs are located in the Gulf.”

Wikipedia’s latest update also says: “The National Weather Service’s ships as of 8 AM EDT, August 28th, 2005, indicate that the system is rapidly expanding and will impact the area of New Orleans, LA at a Category five strength with maximum winds of at least 176 mph (283 km/h) sometime on August 29, 2005.”

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a scale classifying hurricanes by wind intensity, much as earthquakes are classified on the Richter Scale. A Category 5 storm is the highest on the scale:

Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.

And of course, those levees around the city could hold the water in afterwards, making any flooding worse in final effect. :o(

More useful links: coverage. Satellite Imagery. National Hurricane Center’s RSS feed for Katrina. Hurricane Center homepage. Gulf of Mexico satellite image. Radio programme (transcript online) about the potential for disaster. Webcam coverage from New Orleans. Live TV coverage online (windows media). A local blogger writes. Google News for the US.

Fingers crossed for the people of the Gulf Coast.

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