New Orleans

This has not much to do with Iceland, actually. But the news here lately has had a lot to do with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and as a follow up to my last post, it was interesting to learn on the news this morning that a judge has granted a class action lawsuit for the families and victims affected by the tragedy. But the lawsuit cannot be against the Federal Government, or FEMA, or the State Government in regard to lacks response to the tragedy - the judge felt there was not enough evidence of neglect, and I would say it is rather more likely that those agencies, once they saw what was going on in New Orleans, did the very best they could in the face of a terrible situation, and they deserve to be thanked.

What the judge found however is that there might be enough to warrant legally persecuting the Army Corp of Engineers, for not building the levies around New Orleans well enough, and offering basically no protection, especially for the people in the 9th Ward, who were out there at the edge of town, all by themselves.

But here is where it gets really interesting. Most people assume all the damage came from Hurricane Katrina itself. Afterall, the satellite images were frightening, and all the photos of the wind and the rain made the destruction comprehensible, as if the hurricane itself was the cause of all the flooding and destruction in the 9th Ward.

Only it wasn't. What happened in the 9th Ward happened before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. All those people died because of flooding caused by a storm surge, and that storm surge had its origins in the lay of the ocean floor and the the low flat landscape of New Orleans. Like a child playing down by the beach, the 9th Ward was structurally, historically vulnerable. That the levies the Army corp of engineers made were insufficient to protect it was not Hurricane Katrina's fault. If it had just been the Hurricane, without the flooding, the destruction would have been much, much less. And the damage caused by the flooding coupled with the wind damage from the hurricane led to an unprecedented need for emergency services in several different areas.  So it was a train reaction, and although it is possible to point fingers in various directions, the ocean dynamics of the storm surge really need to be taken into consideration.

In that regard, it does remind me a bit of Iceland, where they made that harbor on the south coast that kept filling up with sand, because no one adequately understood the tides in that area. Of course, I'm not one to judge, I got stuck one-time out near Vík, when the tide suddenly came in while my uncle and I were trying to make our way out to see Reynisdrangar. Tides and ocean surges and underwater currents, it is all I think hard to comprehend.

Anyhow, President Obama had some wise words to say about the whole situation. I especially like the sentiment that the city is now finally starting to become the great city it should have always been, with quiet confidence that it can rebuild. There hasn't been a major hurricane on the mainland US in a decade now. 


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