The worst hurricane in decades is about to slam into New Orleans. When even the director of the National Hurricane Center says it's really scary, it's a serious situation. Thousands of people are staying in the Superdome, which can fit some 72,000 people for a football game (though they've fit more than 80,000 in for non-sporting events). Here's what's wrong: The city only has levees up to 23', but the storm surge alone is expected to be 28' or higher. The walls just aren't high enough. This is the worst-case scenario that people have been trying to forecast for years. Unfortunately, almost nothing in New Orleans is up to hurricane-standard building codes, and even the worst-case scenarios they've previously tested only went up to Category 3 or Category 4. This one's a 5. Not to mention that much of the damage could come from floodwaters contaminated by chemicals and fuel. The potential damage from a floating diesel slick that somehow caught fire could be catastrophic.
A mandatory evacuation order is in place, and people are being asked to evacuate using both lanes of the Interstates, but one estimate has it that 100,000 people couldn't afford to leave. In the inevitable expensive cleanup, perhaps we ought to put a few dollars into helping some of them relocate to parts of the country that don't get hit by hurricanes.
The mayor of New Orleans said the city would commandeer any property or vehicle it needed to provide shelter to people in need...probably to include the tourists who didn't get out in time. It's going to continue to be a strong storm as it tracks over the rest of the country; Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio all seem certain to get some rain as a result. Meanwhile, since the Gulf Coast is a huge oil-production area, we're all going to pay with higher oil prices.