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About hurricane Katrina (2005)

Predictions of hurricane Katrina in 2001 & 2004

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hurricane damage A brief review of the Katrina hurricane of 2005 (repeated):

On 2005-AUG-25, Katrina, as a Category 1 hurricane, struck south Florida. It strengthened over the Gulf of Mexico to Category 4. It hit New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana, and Mississippi on AUG-29.

The total death toll as a direct result of Katrina is about 1,800.  Hundreds of thousands of residents were dislocated; a quarter million into Texas alone. Staff writers for the Washington Post said:

"The evacuees [from New Orleans], most of them black and poor, spoke of violence, anarchy and family members who died for lack of food, water and medical care." 1

Many had no homes, assets, or jobs to which to return. Property damage was immense.

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Predictions about New Orleans:

Many individuals and groups had predicted that a massive hurricane would devastate New Orleans, long before Katrina hit. The city is particularly vulnerable, because about 80% of the city is below sea level. This percentage is increasing over time.

Author Eric Berger wrote in the Houston Chronicle on 2001-DEC-01:

bullet "Every two miles of marsh between New Orleans and the Gulf reduces a storm surge -- which in some cases is 20 feet or higher -- by half a foot." 2 However, Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at the rate of about one acre every 33 minutes.

bullet "During routine rainfalls the city's dozens of pumps push water uphill into the lake. This, in turn, draws water from the ground, further drying the ground and sinking it deeper, a problem known as subsidence." 2

A single breech in a single levee would submerge the city under water. Only the timing was in doubt. There has been a general consensus that a hit by a Category 3 hurricane might breech the levees. Any Category 4 hurricane, like Katrina, would almost certainly have done so.

In 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) listed the three most serious potential disasters that the U.S. faced were a terrorist attack on New York City, a massive earthquake in San Francisco, and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. Their prediction about New York came true later that year on SEP-11. Their prediction about New Orleans came true four years later during 2005-AUG.

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Scientific American's prediction (2001-OCT):

In their 2001-OCT issue, Scientific American published an article by Mark Fischetti titled: "Drowning New Orleans." The abstract read:

"A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city." 2

The article itself begins:

"If a big, slow-moving hurricane crossed the Gulf of Mexico on the right track, it would drive a sea surge that would drown New Orleans under 20 feet of water. 'As the water recedes,' says Walter Maestri, a local emergency management director, 'we expect to find a lot of dead bodies'."

"New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh--an area the size of Manhattan--will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die. The body bags wouldn't go very far."

"A direct hit is inevitable. Large hurricanes come close every year. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy put parts of the city under eight feet of water. In 1992 monstrous Hurricane Andrew missed the city by only 100 miles. In 1998 Hurricane Georges veered east at the last moment but still caused billions of dollars of damage. At fault are natural processes that have been artificially accelerated by human tinkering -- levying rivers, draining wetlands, dredging channels, and cutting canals through marshes. Ironically, scientists and engineers say the only hope is more manipulation, although they don't necessarily agree on which proposed projects to pursue. Without intervention, experts at L.S.U. warn, the protective delta will be gone by 2090. The sunken city would sit directly on the sea--at best a troubled Venice, at worst a modern-day Atlantis." 3

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Houston Chronicle's prediction (2001-DEC):

Eric Berger, science writer for the Houston Chronicle, wrote an article: "KEEPING ITS HEAD ABOVE WATER: New Orleans faces doomsday scenario." 1 He wrote, in part:

"New Orleans is sinking. And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster...."

 "In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston.

Economically, the toll would be shattering. Southern Louisiana produces one-third of the country's seafood, one-fifth of its oil and one-quarter of its natural gas. The city's tourism, lifeblood of the French Quarter, would cease to exist. The Big Easy might never recover. And, given New Orleans' precarious perch, some academics wonder if it should be rebuilt at all.

It's been 36 years since Hurricane Betsy buried New Orleans 8 feet deep. Since then a deteriorating ecosystem and increased development have left the city in an ever more precarious position. Yet the problem went unaddressed for decades by a laissez-faire government, experts said.

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National Geographic's prediction (2004):

In their 2004-OCT edition, National Geographic magazine published an article by Joel K. Bourne titled: "Gone With the Water." 3 It mainly discusses the loss of wetlands that have historically protected New Orleans. The article started with a very accurate prediction of the events which occurred during Katrina's devastation of the city one year later. The author was in error in their estimate of the number of deaths. But many other points raised in this prefix to the article were deadly accurate.

"It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV 'storm teams' warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday."

"But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party."

"The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level more than eight feet below in places so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it."

"Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States."

"When did this calamity happen? It hasn't yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

" 'The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hoursâ€"coming from the worst direction,' says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast. Suhayda is sitting in a lakefront restaurant on an actual August afternoon sipping lemonade and talking about the chinks in the city's hurricane armor. 'I don't think people realize how precarious we are,'Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. 'Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make things much worse'."
The chances of such a storm hitting New Orleans in any given year are slight, but the danger is growing. Climatologists predict that powerful storms may occur more frequently this century, while rising sea level from global warming is putting low-lying coasts at greater risk. 'It's not if it will happen,' says University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland. 'It's when'." 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Manuel Roig-Franzia & Spencer Hsu, "Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting," Washington Post, 2005-SEP-04, at:
  2. Eric Berger, "The foretelling of a deadly disaster in New Orleans," Chron, 2005-SEP-02, at:
  3. Mark Fischetti, "Drowning New Orleans," Scientific American, 2001-OCT, Page 92. Online at:
  4. Joel K. Bourne, "Gone with the Water," National Geographic, 2004-OCT, Page 92. Online at:

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Copyright © 2005 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-SEP-17
Latest update: 2014-MAR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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