Hurricane Isaac is grinding against Louisiana (80MPH winds, crawling in at 8 MPH), and I’m worried that the failure to evacuate New Orleans is going to lead to a lot of avoidable deaths from flooding as the nearly stalled storm creeps through the area, dumping in excess of 20 inches of rain. It has the potential to be another Floyd.
I’ve often described New Orleans as “a hole in a swamp surrounded on three sides by water,” and that is a fairly accurate if glib description. Bordered by the Mississippi River, Lake Ponchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico, much of the city of New Orleans is a bowl, kept from flooding by a system of levees and massive pumps.
As long as the levees hold and the pumps work, the city should be able to ride out the storm. Many of the 1,800+ deaths from Hurricane Katrina were a result of the storm surge overwhelming a substandard levee system. A breach of the levees isn’t my primary concern with Issac. Issac is very slow moving, and is dumping massive amounts of rain in a compressed amount of time. No levee is going to keep out the rain falling from the sky, and if debris in the city streets flows into the pumps and jams them, or if the pumps fail for any other reason, we’re looking at the danger of significant flooding yet again.
Isaac is “merely” a Category 1 storm. That doesn’t mean it is something that should be taken lightly.