If I lived in southern Florida, I wouldn’t be saying this, but Hurricane Katrina just snuck up on me. Last I heard it was barely a hurricane and was heading for the east coast of Florida next week. Now it will be only the fourth Category 5 hurricane to hit the US in recorded history.
I remember reading an article in National Geographic, I think, a few years ago talking about the potential devastation if New Orleans was directly hit by a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane. Well, it looks like we’re going to see it firsthand tomorrow. Consider the following from Rod Dreher, a native of Louisiana.
I hope y’all will take the time to read this story from a couple of years ago about the potential for the greatest natural disaster by far this country will ever have to face: a Category 5 hurricane barreling down on New Orleans:
As you know, by this time tomorrow New Orleans will be well into a category 5 strike. Only three C5 hurricanes have ever hit the US since they begin keeping records—the last one was Andrew, and the one before that was Camille, which hit the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf coasts in 1969, I think. I was too young to remember that one, though I very, very vaguely remember watching the primitive radar image on my folks’ old black and white set on the night the hurricane hit. People still talk from time to time about how devastating Camille was.
But Camille didn’t hit New Orleans directly. Katrina will.
My family lives just north of Baton Rouge, about 90 minutes north of New Orleans. Their parish is on high enough ground where flooding won’t be a problem, though they’ll get a hell of a lot of rain. New Orleans, though—well, just read that story. There is a very strong chance that the levees on the Mississippi, or (more likely) the Lake Pontchartrain seawall, will give way. Because N.O. is below sea level, the swamps will drain into the city, and the levee system will keep it from draining out. Water will be up to the rooftops in the French Quarter. The city will literally be obliterated. Between 40,000 and 100,000 people are forecast to die in such a scenario. The city will be a soupbowl filled with alligators and water moccasins from the swamp, plus, if there are any breaches in the petrochemical processing facilities along the Mississippi north of the city, N.O. could be the world’s largest toxic waste dump.
All within the next 24 hours. Please, please pray. I lit candles in church this morning to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the city’s patroness, who was invoked for protection against the Great Fire of 1812, and again in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.