Hurricane Katrina Heads for New Orleans

Update, 8/30/2005: What they feared would happen came true a day late: levees have broken and water is rising. Large portions of New Orleans are underwater and getting worse. The mayor has ordered a mass evacuation of the entire city.

Update on Katrina’s aftermath here.

Update, 8/28/2005: Katrina has weakened to a Category 4 and veered slightly east, sparing NOLA a direct hit. This will still be a catastrophic storm, but no longer the ultimate doomsday scenario that was previously predicted. New Orleans is spared becoming New Atlantis for now, hopefully.

Weather news from the South is looking pretty scary: Hurricane Katrina, plowing north as it is fed by warm Gulf waters, is now a Category 5, aimed straight at New Orleans. Large parts of the city and surrounding areas are several feet below sea level, protected from flooding only by levees which would be ineffectual against the massive storm surge of a Category 5 hurricane. Current predictions have Katrina hitting New Orleans just after high tide, with surge submerging some places as deep as 28 feet. The whole city is being evacuated. All of you New Orleaners, I hope you’re getting out okay, and take care. You have our prayers from here up North.

Category 5 is no joke. (That’s on the Saffir Simpson Scale, and is comparable to Signal #4 on the Philippine Signal Scale.)

The hurricane may exact an economic and environmental toll as well as a human one: New Orleans is a major port, and that area is responsible for a significant portion of our oil import and production. Refineries and plants may spike the floodwaters with all sorts of toxic chemicals, not to mention the danger of floating fire ant balls.

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