“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”
New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh–an area the size of Manhattan–will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die. The body bags wouldn’t go very far.
Or how about fucking FEMA.
New Orleans is sinking.
And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster.
So vulnerable, in fact, that earlier this year the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country.
The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.
That prediction was made during Bush’s presidency (2001). Bush’s response: Cut hurricane response and flood prevention funding.
That’s all fine, hindsight is 20–20, etc. Of course, I’d be scared out of my wits if I were living in San Francisco right now. FEMA’s batting 2 for 2 so far.
one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
What Bush needed to say was that, in addition to releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, individual citizens should car pool for a little while. Save gas to save lives in New Orleans. Open their houses to the displaced citizens, maybe even set up a web page to help set that up. Tell people that we’ll rebuild, that New Orleans will be the freaky capital of the country, a weird place where the things that are illegal or discouraged elsewhere are par for the course.
Tell me what I can do. Don’t tell me to give money, tell me how I can rebuild the levees. Don’t call your Cabinet “folks,” treat them like the leaders their supposed to be, and like the citizens they are, affected like we are, but with the power. Act like a human and be a man. Be more than a man, be a leader.