LISTENING TO KATRINA
PAGES IN THIS BLOG ARE RATED 'R' AND DO CONTAIN
PROFANITY, VULGARITY, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, NUDITY,
SCENES OF HUMAN EMOTION, DEATH, DESTRUCTION, MAYHEM, AND VARIOUS
EVENT - SHTF
Timeline: Monday, August 29, 2005, 12:00 NOON CDT
Location: Hurricane Katrina Impact Zone
Let's take a moment and review, shall we? (Watch the video.)
Hurricane Katrina in less than 60 seconds.
The Impact Zone
The bomb has gone off, and now the metaphoric mushroom cloud is beginning to dissipate. Unfortunately, this is where my skill as a writer fails me. How do you describe the aftermath of a nuclear bomb that explodes over the course of six hours? I have few words to paint such a picture. If you think my nuclear bomb metaphor is ridiculous, see the pictures below.
Find the dot on the map west of New Orleans that is Laplace, Louisiana. Everything west of there is mostly OK. Find the red dot on the map that is Pensacola, Florida. Everything east of there is mostly OK. Pensacola and Laplace both experienced wind speeds of 90 MPH. Everything between New Orleans and Mobile for 25 miles inland or more is pretty much fracked. It's not in the dictionary, but I think 'fracked' is the right word.
Bay St. Louis, just east of the immediate impact site of Katrina, is all but erased. Erased is the right word. As we move east from Bay St. Louis, other coastal areas are also erased. Pass Christian? Erased. Pictures are worth more than these words. Pick a house in the picture below. Imagine that it is your house. Now scroll down to see how your house fared.
Pass Christian, before:
Pass Christian, after:
Long Beach, MS? Erased. Gulfport MS? Judge for yourself. Before:
After: (The surge line is very clearly visible in this one.)
Biloxi, MS? Before:
Conditions surrounding these areas is best described by the word 'devastated'. As you work outward in a circle centered on Gulfport, Mississippi, you find mile after mile of 'destruction'.
The impact on property and buildings isn't the only story. Resources have been consumed by the fleeing masses. I evacuated to the west 24 hours before impact, and experienced no fuel shortages. People who left less than 12 hours before impact were not so fortunate. There is no fuel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There is no fuel in Pensacola, Florida. There is no fuel in Jackson, Mississippi. (Just off the top of the map.) Fuel supplies are completely exhausted in a 125 mile radius around Gulfport, Mississippi and local shortages surround major roadways for much greater than that distance.
Many people who waited too long to evacuate from the immediate impact area along the coast found themselves stranded without fuel. Local radio stations broadcast that if people are left on the highway they will be killed by the storm. Strangers pick up strangers.
Don O'Neil made it to Hattiesburg, Mississippi with a gallon of fuel in his Suburban. No fuel was readily available. He paid $1,000 dollars for a tank of fuel to get out of Hattiesburg.
Losses to infrastructure could best be described as 'astonishing'.
The 504 area code is no longer on the network. Neither is area code 228. Major portions of 985, 601, and 251 are down. Power and communication outages will continue for weeks and months. Entire power grids in these areas are also off line. Water service, gas service, sewer service, cellular telephone service, and every other critical service is off line. You name it, and it was off line - not to mention that you can't order a pizza.
Police, Fire, EMS, as well as all other government and private entities have lost nearly 100% of their communications capacity. In many areas government is off line. The technical term for that is 'the government has lost continuity'. In normal English, that means that the government has collapsed. Most people in the impact zone have lost homes and offices - and that includes most people in Government service too.
Hospitals go into emergency mode with limited service - and no way to easily reach them in flooded areas.
The entire regional port system from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the Mississippi river is completely shut down.
The entire US petroleum industry in the Gulf of Mexico produces exactly zero barrels of oil today.
The human impact at this point can be described as 'tragic'. Many people have already died from the impact of the storm, and more will die. Some are trapped in attics. Some are trapped on rooftops. A woman calls into WWL radio on her cell phone. She is trapped in the attic with her children. The water is rising. There is no way for them to get out. We'll visit with some of these people on later pages. In some cases we will hear their stories. In other cases we will see their corpses.
If the human impact is 'tragic', the impact on flora and fauna in the region is nothing less than a holocaust.
If you circumscribe an area 80 miles in every direction from Gulfport, Mississippi you end up with an area of 20,105 square miles - an area the size of West Virginia.
Inside that area is only one phrase to universally describe the conditions there:
THE SHIT HAS HIT THE FAN!
Everyone inside a 350 mile radius from Gulfport, Mississippi is directly impacted in some way by the storm or by the influx of refugees into their area. 'Refugee' is the right word. We'll call that a cool 380,000 square miles - although some of that is in the Gulf of Mexico - which is larger than the state of Texas.
There is a common word that I heard - and said - over and over again. It is the most common word you encounter when you contemplate it, see pictures of it, drive through it, and experience it directly. It's such a little word for such a big idea, but over and over again all you can say is, "Wow!"
In many ways, this is where the real story begins. This is where the story gets interesting. Everyone wants to hear about the juicy parts, but I'd like you to stop here for a moment and really think about it. I want you to scroll back up and look at those pictures carefully again. The before and after shots are the exact same areas. Each of those homes was a home like yours. Each of those towns was a town like yours. Each of the people we are going to meet all along the way are people just like you. Just like me.
On an earlier page I told you to stay close to me in all of this and come along for the ride. The roller-coaster ride starts here. Everything up to this point was just the slow climb to the top of the first drop.
Ready? OK, everybody hold your hands over your head and start screaming.