September 1st, 2005


What A Difference A Day Or Two Makes

The Roller Coaster That Is Katrina

Let's see if I've got it straight. First Katrina was taking aim on Florida, then it grazed southern Florida and rolled into the Gulf of Mexico. Where it beefed up to a Category 5 hurricane and took aim on New Orleans. Then it veered slightly to the east, and backhanded New Orleans as a Category 4, and headed up into Mississippi as a Category 3 and faded. New Orleans was evacuated and a million people moved on contraflow Interstate highways -- and breathed a sigh of relief because the levies held against the wrath of waters poised over this below sea level city. Those who couldn't leave were put up in the Superdome.

Except... the levies failed the next day. And thousands of people hadn't fled. And the Superdome's roof failed and waters lapped up against the structure.

And Gulfport and Biloxi... destroyed.

The Army Corps of Engineers dropping 15,000 pound sandbags to close the breaches in the levies.

They're busing the Superdome refugees 350 miles to the Houston Astrodome, which has cleared its schedule through December. Texas is promising to open its schools to all children who come.

And Then It Got Really Bad

Upwards of thirty feet of water, sewage, thousands of dead bodies floating, and the city water system compromised. Into this, the aftermath of a hurricane is fair skies and the temperatures have soared to 95degF, with the humidity similar in percent. One report we heard today said the air was the consistency of "fondue" -- hot, sticky, smelly.

People didn't leave in the first place, because they didn't have cars. Or the money to buy gas to go. Or nowhere to go.

The first looters were reported taking necessities as Pampers, toilet paper and bottled water. It seemed understandable at first. Not sure, when it will be months before power is restored, what one does with a new television set. National Guardsmen and police were busy with search & rescue -- some are now having to be diverted to deal with lawlessness.

Watching CNN, one sees a preponderance of black people left behind -- how long before the idiots start making an issue of that? Sigh.


Tuesday night I was flipping cable channels and saw an episode of Cops in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. "The party that never ends" seems both so distant and so wholly inappropriate as people are dying. Sigh.

Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC showed some video from a helicopter. Highway 90's pavement tiles missing all across the bay, leaving only the pylons. And there looked to be buildings -- hotels? apartment blocks? -- slid sideways off their foundations. Except they weren't buildings at all, but the huge casino gambling boats washed up on the shore. I believe I heard that all the gambling boats were destroyed -- how long before someone suggests this is God's wrath delivered upon the sinful? Sigh.

CNN and/or Headline News showed a feature about taking a 17-year-old girl back to her destroyed house. What wasn't she able to take with her? Collectible and porcelain dolls. They found a "Millennium Barbie" in the muck, and brought a few things back in a blue recycling tub. The grandmother muttered her gratitude at how wonderful the camera team was -- and of course they milked that little scene for all its self-servingness... Sigh. Then CNN started getting calls from people who had a Millennium Barbie to send to this girl. Aw, geesh -- what that family needs isn't a bunch of collectible dolls! They don't have a home to put them in! They're missing family members! Double-Sigh.

Some refugees staying in motels are about to be bounced for the previous reservations for the upcoming college football weekend.

Hints For The Future

If your community leaders suggest you evacuate in the face of a major situation -- go.

If you see The Weather Channel people put down their microphones and cameras and start slinging sandbags and boards and hammering nails as the water rises -- lend a hand.

If you see The Weather Channel people pack up and head for the bridge out of the city during a major disaster -- you might want to consider that something really bad is up. It's unlikely that the camera team and crew is just bugging out to cover some other, juicier disaster somewhere else...


There is already talk that although the National Guard rescue teams were in early, that armed National Guard troops were delayed in getting in to help restore order -- because so many Guardsman are on duty in Iraq.

The Idiots are shooting at the rescue helicopters at the Superdome? (news item heard during morning commute)

The refineries and pipelines which are down at the moment are causing some people to panic about gasoline already... my sister in Atlanta said everyone at her place of work bugged out to fill their tanks. CNN showed $5.69.9, $5.89.9 and a whopping $6.09.9 a gallon for premium at one station in Atlanta -- and the people were lined up to get it.

Gas in West Michigan was $2.99.9 Wednesday morning and $3.27.9 for regular that evening. We've slipped through the all-three-dollar barrier as if it were nothing...

C-SPAN2 Wednesday tonight -- the President of the American Petroleum Institute stated the last new oil refinery allowed to be built in the U.S. was in 1976.

"Yes, We Have No Bananas..."

Besides the price and supply of gasoline -- which I'm not obsessing over because I'm panicking, but it's the most direct effect we're going to see outside of the direct weather zone -- we will probably see an increase in grocery prices. Fact is, since we are not a nation of subsistence farmers, we depend on our grocery stores to get things trucked in. If fuel is in short supply, price will go up. Hmm... if everyone is talking about gasoline, what about the diesel fuel supply?

But the pictures we saw Wednesday night on TV, showed Dole semi-trailers smashed up. Turns out the Gulf is where the U.S. banana supply makes landfall. So are banana prices going to go way up? Will the supply disappear? What are we going to eat with our cereal every morning?

It's staggering to think that an event which wasn't even on our "radar screen of life" a week ago, is dominating both the news cycle and our senses of horror and compassion.

An Odd Thought

I used the example of a small wind-up toy mechanism in my Day 2 Physics class lecture -- and then pointed out that the Port of New Orleans runs for like fifty miles up the Mississippi and is the largest single container port in the country. It was the last day of August -- and I wondered aloud how many of those containers held Christmas inventory. Imagine all the toys for little girls and boys being taken by big bad Katrina. It could be a miserable Christmas in America this year, and please, I am not trying to make light of the real problems and suffering going on at the Gulf coast.

My wife heard that the weather service is officially retiring the name "Katrina" from the list of hurricane names -- too many people have died already.

The WMU mail room people sent around an Excel spreadsheet of ZIP codes which are being held for the moment... and they are going to empty New Orleans as uninhabitable for 3 to 4 months. Merry Christmas, indeed.

If you tried to write this, you'd be accused of writing sensationalist crap...

Dr. Phil
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