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Hurricane Katrina – some thoughts

Reports about Hurricane Katrina make for grim reading. Not just the immediate human and physical toll, which is the worst of all. Also worrying must be the financial impact, both in terms of the likely huge insurance payouts and the rising price of oil – although high oil prices may eventually trigger a supply response, if the market works as it should.

More than 90 percent of the Gulf of Mexico oil production has been shut down and for how long, is as yet unclear. Crude oil is now over $70 a barrel and could even march higher, particularly if another hurricane takes hold, or if political and military affairs take another bad turn in the Middle East, or for that matter other places such as Nigeria and Indonesia. The black stuff is getting ever more expensive and of course, makes a mockery of the sort of anti-SUV posturing of the sort I mentioned a few days ago here. As the price rises, people will not change their motoring habits to please non-drivers like Andrew Sullivan, but because it makes plain common sense. Alternative energy sources, even those once branded too offbeat, starting to attract more venture capital and support.

Britain’s Channel 4 news had an item on the hurricane in which the general gist of the commentary went like this, to paraphrase a bit: “Is America getting the payback in weather for being the world’s largest carbon polluter?” The broadcasters may mean well but it came across as almost gloating in tone. I hope that was not the intention.

62 comments to Hurricane Katrina – some thoughts

  • John Steele

    Well, we all certainly expect our stalwart European friends to use this disaster to hammer us about their favorite new-age religion, Global Warming.

    But for the information of the BBC and Der Spiegel, one of the world’s foremost experts on hurricanes, Dr. William Gray at Colorado State, says this is all basically “Nonsense”.

  • Matra

    The broadcasters may mean well

    You don’t actually believe that do you? Channel 4 has always been as bad as the Beeb when it comes to its shrill anti-Americanism. Virtually every disaster is now exploited by the left to further their agenda. I’m only surprised the media haven’t used the suffering black majority in New Orleans to play the race card. Don’t laugh, I’m sure they’ll come up with something: “If white middle class people were in similar danger wouldn’t more have been done to evacuate…”etc

    I’ve been following the Canadian press coverage of Katrina and so far they have not used it to talk about Kyoto and the Americans getting what they deserve. Of course, our version of the BBC – the CBC – is out on strike. I’m sure when the strike ends they’ll waste no time getting caught up.

  • fFreddy

    Bah. Channel 4 News used to be quite good, as such things go (which isn’t far). Nowadays, John bloody Snow has fallen hook, line and sinker for this AGW tosh.
    The surprise was King, the Chief Scientific Advisor, sounding relatively restrained on the subject.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    I don’t know how up-to-date your info is (the BBC’s little bit of info on this is not current), but the effects of this hurricane are COLLOSSAL. In the words of the governors and the mayor, “bigger than anyone can even begin to comprehend” (not a direct quote, but close). This is going to have massive ramifications.

    For instance, see this blog.

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people trapped on rooftops that have to be gotten by helicopter or flat-bottomed boat. The houses in Biloxi are just gone, completely down to the foundations. New Orleans is still filling up from multiple levee breaches, and it will probably take them close to a week to stop it, and then two weeks at least to pump out the water. There are over 10,000 people in the Superdome and the water is 3 feet deep around it and still rising. Part of one of the parishes in NO is, in the words of the President of the parish, “just gone”–as in swallowed by the Mississippi.

    Emergency crews and the National Guard haven’t been able to get most places because there are so many downed trees and so much debris that they are using bulldozers to clear paths. Or there is too much water.

    New Orleans itself will become one huge (literal) cesspool, with standing water for weeks loaded with sewage, dead bodies, chemicals, and mosquito larvae.

    This is shaping up to be very, very bad. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

  • Castillon

    We could use some mutual aid along the Gulf Coast. Its terrible, horrible. Keep those donations coming.

  • Edward

    Brace yourself for the inevitable dog-and-pony show as our beloved leaders rush to tour disaster areas and promise boatloads of other people’s money for reconstruction.

    FEMA is a vote-buying machine that actually slows recovery by crowding out private action. See, for example, this.

  • Whatmeworry

    Given the scale of the disater recounted by Alfred E, isn’t it disgraceful that the likes of Snow rush to the GW angle?
    Snow writes in today’s “snowmail”

    ” How ironic that the world’s number one polluter is now reaping the ‘rewards’ that so many have warned would flow… “

  • cirby

    Oddly enough, a lot of folks have noticed that oil consumption will probably drop over the next couple of months, beyond the normal post-summer drop.

    When you lose 8% to 12% of your gasoline refining capacity all at once, and it won’t come back for a month or more (as they’re saying now), supply and demand takes over.

    Meanwhile, regular unleaded gas at the store by my house went from $2.54 a gallon to $2.76 a gallon some time last night…

  • Out of curiosity, *is* the US even the biggest polluter anymore? I remember reading an article this spring about using satellite technology to track pollutants, and the surprising result that the smog in many national parks actually came from China.

  • Robert Alderson

    The main thing that strikes me about this (and other) disasters in the US is how well prepared the population and government are. There is an emergency broadcast network, a national guard to handle the rescue work and, most importantly, proper planning. Can you imagine the UK authorities being able to completely evacuate, say, Liverpool inside 24 hours.

  • Susan

    A hurricane that hit Galveston Texas in the 1920s killed more than 20,000 people.

    Long before most people in the US even owned cars.

    How does Snow explain that?

  • Keith

    To our American friends,
    our sympathy, prayers and best wishes are with you. I for one still have vivid memories of the U.S. Air Force transports lined up in Darwin after the tsunami disaster, among the first with aid.

  • Julian Morrison

    For all that it sucks, it could have been a lot worse. Katrina slowed right down before hitting N.O. – if it had hit at full speed, it wouldn’t just have been one blown levee, but many, and the flood would have been murderously fast.

    Whose bright idea was it anyway, to build a city below sea level and right next to the sea?

  • Susan

    Whose bright idea was it anyway, to build a city below sea level and right next to the sea?

    The French.

  • Channel Four are complete idiots, along with any other snobby, obnoxious Europeans who have wet dreams about climate change causing harm to the United States. If only. They remind me of the freakshows that took place after 9/11 featuring left-wing assholes gloating in the fact that America had finally met a product of its foreign policy.

  • Verity

    Julian Morrison – gosh, maybe no one’s “bright idea”. Maybe NO was a settlement a couple of hundred years ago that just grew . Duh.

    Susan, and in the 1920s, the population of Galveston (which I cannot find without devoting an hour to research) would have been very tiny and sparse. Guesstimate, 75,000 absolute max. So around 1/4 of the population dead. Before “global warming”.

    Robert Alderson – Yes, the Americans are wondrously well-organised. And so open-hearted it brings tears to one’s eyes. All the thousands of refugees who made it to Houston, even though camped on living room floors of friends and family, are being offered free meals in Houston restaurants and free admission to things that cost money for everyone else.

    I thought the governor of LA and the mayor of NO stood up very well, knowing what was about to happen to their city and state and trying to maintain calm and order and give clear a clear sense of leadership. They will both be sick tonight that there was absolutely nothing they could have done to change the course of events, but I think they were both good leaders.

    It was either the police chief or the sheriff (LA has a different system) who said looters will be shot which was nice and direct. Un-bel-iev-able that people were stealing dozens of jeans while people were dying and others were losing all they possessed.

  • I live in uptown New Orleans, and my wife and I evac’d Saturday morning- but as reports of the levees breaking and the cities poor looting (I’ve heard reports they are looting on my street) I don’t expect to have much of anything left when I get home.

    This global warming bullshit is ridiculous, and despite the amount of aid the US provided to the tsunami victims, I still expect the global community will pretend to care while choking back a smirk.

    As for FEMA, despite my libertarian leanings, I will be standing in line for whatever I can get. My belongings are insured, but my insurance company won’t payoff on the policy until an adjuster can go in and look at the damage- which could be months.

    We escaped with little more than a suitcase full of clothes, and it will be nearly impossible to function for the months it might take to get any resolution to all of this.

    It is really surreal. Its hard to think that we are homeless refugees, but that pretty much sums up our situation.

  • The hurricane that hit Galveston hit in 1900, and the casualties are estimated at somewhere between 6,000-8,000. Some estimations run to 10,000. They might not have had cars, but they also had practically no warning. The town was built on a sandbar, with a lagoon between it and the mainland. Afterwards, the city fathers went on an extended building program, with a sea-wall, and a huge project to actually raise the city about fifteen feet higher.
    According to the book “Isaac’s Storm”, the winds were measured at about 150MPH before the wind guage was torn away, but may have gotten to 200 MPH. Much of the destruction was from a long moraine of debris pushed by the storm surge that became a battering ram against structures that might have otherwise survived.
    If anyone ever has an urge to stick out a hurricane, I reccomment that book as a cure for it.

  • The broadcasters may mean well but it came across as almost gloating in tone. I hope that was not the intention.

    I heard Jon Snow at the Edinburgh Book Festival. He was probably more ant-American than George Galloway.

  • guy herbert

    What Sgt. Mom said: Galveston’s casualties in 1900 are not relevant to the climate change debate.

    However, comparing the situation 100 years ago with now can cast some light on it. … Or perhaps “cast some dark” would be a better way of putting it. Both sides of the argument would like this to be a simple yes/no question. But it isn’t.

    Modern communications, strong materials, transport, and meterology have made a lot of difference to how survivable storms are–particularly but not exclusively in rich countries–and this is very largely to do with prediction and preparation. Warnings were very limited until realtime satellite imaging was available, before that we had radar (though only on the necessary scale for a couple of decades), before that nothing.

    And once the storm has happened there is virtually nowhere in the world that is out of communication. Even in 1974 it took about 12 hours for the Australian Government to be informed of the seriousness of Cyclone Tracy for the city of Darwin, and nearly 3 days for significant outside help to arrive.

    But the other effect is relevant to the narrative of human-driven climate change. The claim that there is a secular trend for storm to become stronger and more frequent depends on measures of strength and frequency whose scope is steadily widening. We hear about big storms now wherever they are, and we have accurate measures of them–though even now they are uncertain, Katrina being downgraded at the last moment from its predicted intensity.

    In former times we’d only really know about the damage afterwards… if there were commentaries from survivors important enough to history. We know little about Typhone Cobra in December 1944, but if the US Fleet had not been in the middle of it, it might have been little recorded and little noted, however many Pacific islanders it killed. The Great Storm memorialised by De Foe was evidently huge, but can it reliably be compared to recent ones? The really bad ones will have been, as now, in the tropics, and may have left little trace in the records because bare survival does not leave much scope for journalism. The people hit, unless subjects of some imperial bureaucracy, and perhaps even then, may simply have vanished from the records.

    Whenever you hear a weather superlative: “the worst since records began,” you need to remember that records when they began were extremely patchy and have really only very recently become comparable (though converging since 1861). The consistent well-callibrated data over long periods are preserved in sources such as tree rings and ice-cores, and they give us a pretty abstract picture.

    Contemporary readings have much more detail than ever before, and extremes are naturally just that, statistical freaks: if you have more statistics you may expect more freaks. (Is Mark Taylor as good a batsman as Bradman, because their highest test innings are equal?) An English temperature record set in Croydon now, perhaps doesn’t tell us all that much if records began in England in 1680 but regular measurements weren’t made in Croydon until 1945, and Croydon is an ashphalt island of a sort that didn’t exist before the 60s.

  • KCB

    I’m safe and dry in beautiful (drought stricken but no locust yet) Colorado. We have relatives in some of the hard hit areas but everyone is ok.

    I am not a victim of anything at the moment. I could be! I am a woman…and there’s a drought…nevermind. Even though I’m not officially suffering I think I have a right to pose some questions concerning the hurricane:

    #1 How many insurance companies will go bankrupt?

    #2 I think, in these areas that are prone to hurricanes and flooding, insurance companies are forced by the government to provide FLOOD (and or hurricane?) insurance and homeowners are required to have it. That relieves the taxpayers a little bit when rebuilding etc. though we still pay for the brunt of it AND seem to do it every 2 or 3 years. Is there something wrong with this?

    #3 I saw news snippets of the looting. The BBC (on line) video clip caught a bit of looting. The announcer said something to the effect that since they lost everything, can they be blamed for trying to survive? Oddly, a lot of these guys were carrying TVs, DVD players and other INEDIBLE items. Do you think there will be anymore “videos” showing looting? Probably not much.

    #4 Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama (all beautiful and lovely to visit) are among the the states that pay the least amount of taxes. I don’t know what Floridians contribute but it seems we are always “rebuilding their lives” and will continue to do so every other summer, along with hearing complaints of price gouging and not being able to get enough emergency supplies. Are they stupid, insipidley lazy because they know the government (tax payers) will bail them out or am I a mean, heartless bitch who knows nothing about suffering?

    #5 Why is Europe SO SLOW on delivering humanitarian aid? The greedy bastards!!… OK, that was just a joke.

    It may seem that I’m uncaring and insensitive. I’m not. I DO have a heart. It’s awful and I’m sad to see this devastation. It’s life wrecking to lose loved ones, I know this. I love New Orleans. I love Mississippi and I remember the beautiful white beaches of Biloxy (before the casinos), but I’m pissed off at the looters, the blame “evil American polluters” crowd and the sappy TV AND internet reporting. It was an awful thing and Americans will “get it together” as we usually do.

    Thanks for allowing me to rant.


  • Julian, I might be wrong, but NO may have not actually been under the sea level when it was founded. There has been a tremendous soil erosion in the Missisiipi delta over the years.

  • Jon Snow was not the only one being anti-American cretin at the moment; some pinhead on LBC thought Texas “deserved” it more than LA. Of course, they may be taking their lead from German politicians who are doing the same.

  • whatmeworry

    I heard Jon Snow at the Edinburgh Book Festival. He was probably more ant-American than George Galloway.

    No more anti-American than any of his fellow vacationers on Cape Cod.

  • Midwesterner

    Some background on the delta. In order to reduce flooding and improve water depths for shipping (60 percent of our farm products exit the Mississippi) the river was placed between levees. One unanticipated consequence of this is that all of the river silt necessary to form the sediment that maintained the delta, now all goes out to sea where it settles out in deep water.

    Deprived of its steady supply of sediment, the delta has been settling and shrinking at a frightening rate. Experiments have been underway to divert water out of the levees to rebuild the delta. IIRC they have demonstrated some success in these experiments.

    In the meantime, huge coastal portions of Louisiana are missing. Over ONE THOUSAND SQUARE MILES between 1932 and 1990, 58 years. The data shown stops in 1990 so who knows whats happened in the fifteen years since then. Gas field pipelines that were buried underground are now laying in shallow water far (even miles?) from shore. Dial-ups, beware of this link http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/of00-417/ofr00-417.pdf (Link),it’s 5Meg

    Julian, not only did Katrina drop from a 5 to a 4, it tracked about 30 miles east of forecast. Might not sound like much for a 400 mile diameter cyclonic storm, but as I look at the map, it appears to have been enough to make the winds over the extremely vulnerable river delta be off-shore. The storm surge also moved east and hit as near as Biloxi and unconfirmed early reports describe a 30 foot wall of water than ran 1 mile inland. And as best I could tell from the scattered miscellaneous news reports, it wasn’t the storm surge that broke the levees in New Orleans. It was overflow from Lake Ponchartrain, probably rain fall flooding. At least one report said they were able to open the gates and let water out of the river into the gulf during the storm. Had the surge hit the delta, …?

    Talk about water, almost nine hundred miles after it came ashore, what’s left of Katrina is forecast to drop up to 5 inches of rain almost nine hundred miles later on parts of the Ohio river valley and eastern great lakes water shed.

    We will be learning and correcting for a long time, but hopefully this explains some of why a category five(Link) in the delta is our text book worst case. But for a small course change and a slight reduction in power, New Orleans and the delta would probably be mostly gone.

  • Verity

    “I am not a victim of anything at the moment. I could be! I am a woman…” I read this just as I was having my first cup of coffee and almost threw up.

    Why is Europe so slow in sending aid? I am trying to figure out what this means. The US has millions of tonnes of food stored for emergencies. They have thousands of military helicopters and every state has its National Reserve helicopters and its trained Reserves. People are being distributed all over the vast continent of N America, where everyone (well, almost everyone) speaks English. The US is the best organised and best prepared nation in the world. What do you think Britain or the inefficient, America-hating “European” liberals could do that the Americans haven’t already got covered, more efficiently and more generously?

    Maybe you could write to President Bush expressing your mean-spirited concerns that the three states pay lower taxes than some of the much richer states, like Texas. Personally, I don’t think they need any help at all. They’re already getting away with too much.

  • John Steele


    I’ve heard this argument recently again about why should the rest of the country pay to rebuild for people to live in coastal areas. But ask yourself why should those of us in Florida pay to rebuild parts of Los Angeles after an earthquake? Why should I pay to rebuild lower Manahattan after 9/11? Or some town in Kansas after a F5 tornado?

    It’s part of the social compact of a nation and its people.

  • Midwesterner

    For those of you who read this sort of thing http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=3787&sequence=3(Link), it discusses disasters and how the market responds.

  • I suppose the watermelons (green outside, red inside) like Snow will see Katrina as condign punishment inflicted upon the evil polluting US for its sins against Gaia. And the war in Itaq. Likewise, the turban-and-beard crowd will see it as Allah’s reminder that we keep forgetting to convert to Islam. No doubt Pat Robertson will agree with the latter in principle, while differing in the details of what we did to deserve it.

    There has never been a shortage of self-satisfied bigots, and there is no event that they cannot recruit to their own purposes. They don’t deserve our attention.

  • sesquipedalian


    Very few insurance companies will go bankrupt as
    the risk is well spread out amongst the reinsurers (including the one I work for).
    The insurance loss is still less than WTC though it is cool 26 billion dollars 1st estimate which tops hurricane Andrew. Quite alot of insurers will suffer credit downgrades though and premium rates may go up again especially for ‘acts of god’.

    If an insurance company is forced to provide coverage at no/little cost then it is essentially a tax for which the consumers eventually pay. There are no freebies in this sense.

    Coverage will be available but the price may be less affordable but not as extreme as, say, san francisco earthquake insurance.

  • I strongly suspect you’ll begin to see steep rater differentiations based on home construction… it’d be a real surprise to me if ferrocrete and other similarly-hardened structures didn’t become more common in comparison to stick-frame houses..

  • People need to start riding bikes or walking in protest of skyrocketing gas prices–no, to save the planet!

  • Verity

    Jessica “protest of skrocketing gas prices”. What’s to protest? The market?

  • I wonder if the French will send their aircraft carrier to help mount a relief effort.

    Ha ha ha.

    No I don’t. I don’t wonder at all.

    But I do wonder if they are firing off AK-47’s in Gaza in celebration of it.

  • Millard Foolmore

    Deleted: Somewhat off-topic but deleted as poster was previously banned (your proxy aint as good as you thought, eh?).

  • Millard

    Millard, maybe you should look at the competition the Republicans have before spouting off. Pelosi? Reid? Kerry? Kennedy? Heh, the GOP will be just fine in 06 and 08.

    Folks like you have been getting your rear ends handed to you by Bush & co for years.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Millard, stick to the topic please and respect the comment etiquette of this blog.

  • Julian Morrison

    Anarchy begins to create anarchic order: http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2005-08/19224710.jpg


    John Allen sits guard at the A. J. Produce Company in New Orleans.
    (Irwin Thompson / AP)
    August 30, 2005

  • Kristopher

    I wonder if the French will send their aircraft carrier to help mount a relief effort

    It doesn’t run, from what I hear. I suppose they could tow it to one of the dike breaches and sink it there to block some of the flooding. The leaking reactor would add atmosphere to the french quarter, you betcha.

    As for global warming … it looks like they are on to us. We will be sending Hurricanes at our enemies now, throught the carefully coordinated use of American SUVs.

  • GCooper

    I’d just like to extend my sympathy to Ben Jarrell, who posted earlier, and whose personal testimony has gone unremarked.

    It’s impossible to imagine what it must be like for you and your family unless one has been in a similar situation which, mercifully, I have not. But it sounds pretty close to a perfect nightmare.

    Good luck and, if there is one, God bless you.

  • Verity

    Thank you, G Cooper, for drawing attention to Ben Jarrell’s post. I missed it the first time.

    His post highlights some of the tragic knock-on effects of this. After the fiercesome impact of the storm, and all the damage that we can see on our TVs and the internet, there are now around just over a million human beings whose life has been ripped away from them as surely as their roof was ripped off their house.

    People who a week ago were driving home from work into their driveway now have no work and no home. Hundreds of thousands of jobs – gone. No possessions. As Mr Jarrell said – refugees. Some will be lucky enough to have families who can take them in for what may be months. Some will have a bed in a public shelter. Children no longer have a school, a classroom, a teacher.

    I understand from a friend in Houston that on the highways into Houston, there are people sleeping at the side of the road. The hotels are choc-a-bloc. Restaurants in Houston are giving free meals to refugees.

    God! What a mess!

  • rosignol

    #4 Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama (all beautiful and lovely to visit) are among the the states that pay the least amount of taxes. I don’t know what Floridians contribute but it seems we are always “rebuilding their lives” and will continue to do so every other summer, along with hearing complaints of price gouging and not being able to get enough emergency supplies. Are they stupid, insipidley lazy because they know the government (tax payers) will bail them out or am I a mean, heartless bitch who knows nothing about suffering?

    Florida, as states go, is fairly wealthy- it’s one of the places well-to-do old farts retire to, a tourist destination (Disneyworld), has glorious beaches, etc. It may need some disaster relief from time to time, but most of the time it’s a net contributor.

    Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama are an entirely different story. For American states, they’re fairly poor and the economy is largely dependent on resource extraction, agriculture, and that kind of thing. They don’t pay as much in taxes because the average income is lower.

    Julian, I might be wrong, but NO may have not actually been under the sea level when it was founded. There has been a tremendous soil erosion in the Missisiipi delta over the years.

    The French Quarter is above sea level… the rest of the place, well…

    New Orleans has grown a lot since we bought it from Napoleon, and one of the ways they’ve tried to get more buildable land is by draining the swamps around New Orleans…. the surface dired out enough to build on long ago, but the dirt below the surface is still drying, and as it dries, it’s subsiding. That’s why so much of it is below sea level… it hasn’t always been that way.

    Personally, I’m quite happy to leave Extreme Land Reclamation™ to the Dutch.

  • John Ellis

    I’ve heard this argument recently again about why should the rest of the country pay to rebuild for people to live in coastal areas. But ask yourself why should those of us in Florida pay to rebuild parts of Los Angeles after an earthquake? Why should I pay to rebuild lower Manahattan after 9/11? Or some town in Kansas after a F5 tornado?

    It’s part of the social compact of a nation and its people.

    John, interesting thoughts to see on a Libertarian site. Are you a Libertarian yourself?

    I happen to agree with you, but such a comment clashes with the avowedly enlightened-self-interested-market-oriented-individualist ethos here…

  • Robert Alderson

    Insurance is a market mechanism by which people in Kansas bear the costs of hurricanes in Florida etc.. In fact, because it is a market mechanism it extracts payment from people outside the country; some of the costs of Katrina will probably be borne by Lloyds names in the UK.

  • John Rippengal

    One thing has always puzzled me is that building standards and utility distribution systems in the US never seem to take into account hurricane force winds,
    even in the areas like Florida and the Gulf where such winds are likely.

    In comparison, in Hong Kong where I certainly experienced some massive Typhoons with winds up to 200 mph (not 150) in the 60s virtually ALL buildings were pretty well undamaged and the utility systems power, water, telephone functioned well apart from a few outages soon repaired. I hasten to add that of course there was no question of water inundation or flooding because the geography is very different and of course huge damage can come from this as well as the wind. Nevertheless building regulations decreed standards that in fact stood up to the gigantic winds.

    ALL utilities had to be underground including very high voltage main power distribution. (I must add that some of the areas where illegal immigrants from China had set up shanty towns there was regrettably considerable damage.)

    This is in complete contrast to the US where most houses are pretty flimsy and the utilities strung up on pretty poor rather scruffy overhead systems.

    Because of the 100 percent survival of buildings under typhoon condions especially high rise buildings the civil engineering faculty of Hong Kong under Professor Sean Mackey initiated a study to determine if the regulations were over engineering them and forcing unnecessary costs on to owners!!

  • John Rippengal

    Oh I forgot the main bit. You have to allow a little for senility.
    Is is a GOOD THING to be regulated so that you cannot build a house that might fall down in a high wind and kill you and what’s more bits of your house flying around might kill some others too?
    Or should we be at LIBERTY to build just as we wish?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    John Rippenghal, very interesting comments about Hong Kong. There is so much valuable real estate there that the locals can see the point of building to withstand the damage.

    One would have thought that a history of hurricanes, flooding, sea levels and so forth would have stimulated the good folk of New Orleans to raise their defences, build homes on raised foundations and so on. Yet it hasn’t happened. It may suggest that the insurance premia paid have not been high enough to stimulate a genuine demand for better architecture and civil engineering.

  • Kristopher

    Flood insurance in the US has been nationalized by FEMA. Enough said.

  • What the Beeb fails to tell everyone is that Louisiana is the most currupt state in the US. The levees were supposed to be able to handle a cat 3 hurricane. What hit N.O. was a cat 3 hurricane and they failed. There is a problem there.

    They say N.O. is currently in a “third world state”. How is this different from normal? N.O. is very violent place not some sort of freaking 19th century Disney World.

    Heads should roll after this disaster and they should roll very close to home.

  • Sarah Crews

    Why isn’t the military dropping food & water by helicopter for the people still left behind?

    Our country did it for Iraq and Afghanistan. Why can’t we do it for our own people?

  • Verity

    IAD – whose heads? I’d be interested in your comments because I think this has been tragic, of course, but the levies and the pumps failing is dereliction of duty. It’s incredible that such a vulnerable city had pumps that could fail at such a time, and levies that simply were not strong enough.

    They weren’t high enough either, but that was minor. Some surges a foot higher than the levies would not have been important. But to build dykes that could be breached so easily, and install pumps which were inadequate to the job is astounding. Who was in office when the pumps were purchased and the levies built?

    It is the failure of the infrastructure that has caused all these awful knock-on effects – including, at last count – 250,000 people who made it to Houston because they lost everything and will never go back.

  • Midwesterner

    Andrew and Verity,

    Agreed on the pumps. Pumps that can’t work during flooding!!

    As for the levees, another story. For whatever reason, a “cost/benefit” analysis done (IIRC) by the Army Corp of Engineers, who is responsible for them, determined that Cat 3 was the optimum choice.

    I don’t think that, given that standard, it’s against those standards to have failed.

    Wikipedia already has an amazingly thorough Katrina entry.


    It’s number four on the all time North Atlantic hurricane list, and number three on the all time US land fall hurricane list as measured by barometric pressure.

    Only Camille in 1969 and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane were worse.

    The Saffir-Simpson scale isn’t a perfect measurement.

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  • Julian Taylor

    Wow Paige, that’s really big of you to be offering a free month’s rental to Katrina victims – do you also knock off your commission as well on that?

    Don’t perchance know anyone in the real estate business in Sri Lanka, Thailand or Indonesia as well do you?

  • rosignol

    In comparison, in Hong Kong where I certainly experienced some massive Typhoons with winds up to 200 mph (not 150) in the 60s virtually ALL buildings were pretty well undamaged and the utility systems power, water, telephone functioned well apart from a few outages soon repaired.

    Are you sure you aren’t getting metric and imperial measures mixed up?

  • Verity

    Paige – Where have you been? It is currently estimated by the Houston media that there are an 250,000 refugees from LA and there are more on the way, although it’s now just a trickle. Houston traffic is gridlocked, because most of these people made it in their cars. That was yesterday. Houston is the first big city after NO, 350 miles away.

    As it happens, a lot of the people who have made it all the way to Houston were employed in the service industries in New Orleans, and Houston has a huge service industry sector. So the chances of people with good work experience finding immediate work are quite good. The schools are already coping with registering hundreds of extra children. They’ve got 20,000 refugees from the Superdome housed in the Astrodome and the city government is opening a new shelter per day. Americans are superb at mobilising to cope with things like this. They’re also superb at picking themselves up and getting on with carving out a new life.

  • Devilman

    Really, Americans are ‘superb at mobilising to cope with things like this’?. Strange, from the stories shown on the news channels (European and American) it looks like they’re making a complete mess of it. Obviously, you might expect that from the European channels but when even the pathetically tame CNN can’t dress something up to look like an all american triumph you know it’s bad. At this rate you’ll be giving the Sri Lankan govenment competition in the ‘inept disaster management’ stakes, thing is Sri Lanka is a third world nation whilst the USA is (as you’re all so fond of reminding us) the world’s only superpower.

  • Julian Taylor

    One thing that really annoys me is the surge of anti-Americanism following Katrina. I do hope to God that someone in the USA is taking names of these sorry people for when they need help – in particular I hope someone at the State Department has read this little masterpiece from a Kuwaiti minister, Muhammad Yousef Al-Mulaifi. A swift memo to a member of the al-Sabah family might be in order, along the lines of ‘next time you get invaded ask someone else to pull your ass out of the fire’.

  • Verity

    Devilman – The ineptitude and weakness of the Louisiana governor and the Mayor of New Orleans have nothing to do with the massive Federal mobilisation currently underway. A convoy of 40 military vehicles carrying food, water and medicines for those stranded is already in NO at the Superdome.

    It is not the fault of the Federal government but of the NO administration that gangs are marauding hospitals and shooting doctors and overturning ambulances. This is the job of the NO police to control. I know the conditions they’re working under are nightmareish and they are under many of the same privations as the rest of the citizenry, but they are sworn to protect and they didn’t do it. And their mayor was hopeless. He didn’t know what he was doing from one minute to the next.

    One thing I guarantee you, this chaos would never have happened in Texas.

  • John Rippengal

    I am certainly not getting my units mixed up. When I say 200 mph I mean miles per hour, not knots and not KM/H. The company I worked for provided services for the Hong Kong Royal Observatory which provided all the meterorological servces, typhoon warnings etc. and I knew the director and his staff well. I have seen the anemometer recordings of the winds in Typhoon Wanda, Rose and Mary. I have also flown aeroplanes.

    The point I was making was that it was known there would certainly be huge typhoons and legislation was enacted and implemented which ensured the colony was able to withstand them with minimal damage.

    I don’t know the Gulf coast apart from the panhandle of Florida but that together with the Atlantic coast of Florida has housing and other buildings plus utility distribution which is quite obviously totally inadequate to withstand high winds.

    To discuss why brings up some interesting political considerations. A democratic government might well have problems passing legislation which would increase housing and utility costs at least initially. The fact that the extra security would ultimately save a lot might not penetrate the usual electorate. In the case of the Hong Kong colonial government they probably had an easier ride being unelected; not that they had a free hand. They could get away with very little being overseen by the UK parliament and a vociferous and free local press plus many local political groups.
    However a typhoon proof city and rural surroundings, a flat rate tax of 15 percent, no customs duties or import/export restrictions, no tax on share dividends, a superb transport and utility infrastructure (all private except water) and a massive budget surplus can’t be all that bad. Makes one think doesn’t it.

  • Divine Mercy


    That was a gem. As an American who was a civilian in Kuwait during the entire Iraqi invasion and War, I found that masterpiece appalling to say the least. Reference to the Kuwait Ministry Director’s comments.

    Here’s a live brief on the 1990-91 Gulf War:

    We had NO Government help since they left, and we had to survive on our own devices. Please note, the few people who remained did what you do in an unexpected act of God, or act of Man—we collectively helped each other.
    In the end, we all know who was in Kuwait liberating the country from the cruel Saddam.

    So much for condolences and prayers. Moving along.

    As for Hurricane Katrina, same scenario–unexpected tragedy.
    America will survive. Not from donations, not from the Government, from the “conscience of the people” who by small acts of kindness for their fellow man join forces.
    America is not to be pitied, as it will do what it always does when confronted with a crisis: Survive.
    As for the article, that was posted originally in the Al-Seyassah newspaper, Kuwait. The english paper, same Editor, can be written for comments regarding this totally insensitive article.


    I feel it should have never been printed. And, speaking of winds, what did they call the Iraqi invasion? Very strong winds?
    Meanwhile, the arab country of Qatar has pledged a generous 100 million to the relief fund.
    So, let’s not take such unkind remarks as the voice of all the Middle East.

    Individuals in the U.S. have done more than their share, as they either donate money, or time to help these victims.
    I have faith in our people, they will survive and each crisis brings either good, or bad. I prefer to see the good.

    This is America taking care of their own:


  • Chasity

    I just want to say that the Hurricane was a tragedy and the people in New Orleans and all the other places do nee d help. For everyone who is insensitive, and thinks that New Orleans doesnt need help for whatever reason, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Its the selfish people of the world that make things bad. And several of the people who posted comments are very selfish. Just like the guy who lives in Colorado but has relatives that live in the hard hit areas, i am in the same boat. My whole family is from the New Orelans area. I just think that people need to have a heart at a time like this, and give a little bit, even if its just a little bit of time, or a 6 pack of drinking water, it would only cost 2 dollars, who cant afford 2 dollars to contribute? I mean come on, why do people have to be so selfish? Come on people, have a heart, seriously. People are hurting right now, why cant the selfishness just stop? Is it really that hard for people to not think only of themselves at a time like this? God bless the GOOD people of the world, who care and want to help, even if they cant help, as long as they have the heart.