At the hotel Le Richelieu in New Orleans' French Quarter, the winds blew open sets of balcony doors shortly after dawn. Seventy-three-year-old Josephine Elow pressed her weight against the broken doors as a hotel employee tried to secure them.I'm wondering about the after-effects, too.
"It's not life-threatening," Mrs. Elow said as rain water dripped from her face. "God's got our back."
When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries.Ouch. I heard tale yesterday of the after effects of Agnes in 1972 or 1973 up in northeastern Pennsylvania. Bodies from cemeteries ended up rotting in trees once the water receded. Of course, in New Orleans, the water will not recede on its own; it needs to be pumped out since the city is a bowl below sea level.
"All indications are that this is absolutely worst-case scenario," Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, said Sunday afternoon.Meantime, folks are riding the storm out as it pounds the city. Even though the evacuation was mandatory, I heard a story on the way to work indicating some bars in the Quarter were still open... serving hurricanes, of course. Others are in the Superdome, opened as a refuge center.
The center's latest computer simulations indicate that by Tuesday, vast swaths of New Orleans could be under water up to 30 feet deep. In the French Quarter, the water could reach 20 feet, easily submerging the district's iconic cast-iron balconies and bars.
Estimates predict that 60 percent to 80 percent of the city's houses will be destroyed by wind. With the flood damage, most of the people who live in and around New Orleans could be homeless.
"We're talking about in essence having — in the continental United States — having a refugee camp of a million people," van Heerden said.
As Hurricane Katrina's wind howled outside, thousands of refugees waited in the Louisiana Superdome. The 77,000-seat stadium, home of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, provided few comforts but at least had bathrooms and food donated by charities.Let's hope it's not as bad as the predictions are indicating; let's pray that, indeed, God does have New Orleans' back.
"They hadn't opened up and let us in here, there'd have been a lot of people floating down river tomorrow," said Merrill Rice, 64. "If it's as bad as they say, I know my old house won't stand it."
My thoughts are with my friends and shipmates who live in NOLA, including Joy, Scott, Lani, Dave, and Todd.