Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lafayette & Hurricane Katrina

If our logs and emails are any indication Lafayette Pro Fiber has a significant minority of its readers from outside our area who've become interested in and supportive of Lafayette. I've had some inquiries from friends who are watching national TV and are understandably concerned about those in Louisiana for whom they've developed some sympathy. This post is a rarity among posts at this site: it is directed at our friends beyond the our region. (The original draft of the following post was in response to one of those queries.)

Hi all,

Thanks for your thoughts. Lafayette was very, very lucky. We caught only the western edge of the hurricane. High wind and some rain. But we were far enough away from the eye--and shielded by much of the state--that our highest winds didn't get much above 60 mph. By our standards that's not bad. (Hurricanes circulate counter clockwise, so winds had rotated over half the state before the circulation brought the weather down to us--our winds came from the north.) Hurricane Lily two years ago was much worse in our locale.

We do have a lot of refugees, Lafayette makes a good stop at the intersection of two interstates and we had people sleeping in parking lots and churches all over town. Hopefully we can help out. The refugee problem is going to be much greater than any in our country in our lifetime.

The levee break in New Orleans is the realization of a nightmare. New Orleans almost squeaked by again but then in the early morning a levee at an industrial canal gave way flooding much of the protected and lowest parts of the city. I am not sure that the national reporters really understand the magnitude of the problem when they compare it to losing the first several hundred yards of Biloxi's casinos. The area flooded comprises much of the core of one of America's major cities and much of its blue-collar and poorer residential neighborhoods. Getting the breach sealed is what should be the biggest task and the most reported right now. Something dramatic needs to be done desperately. You'll see people hacking their way out of attics in which there were trapped on CNN but that is merely the most dramatic visuals. Gas leaks and oil leaks, a tanker aground, salt water sitting on the old wood-frame homes and undermining the foundations. More accidents are inevitable; they are not now reporting a death count but I am very fearful that it will be substantial... (Some geology: The city of New Orleans sits on a drained swamp and most of the city is beneath sea level. It is kept dry only by dint of continual pumping. One of the signature scenes of the city is huge a pumping station with numerous 4-6 foot in diameter pipes rising out of the ground and going into a large, squat brick building. This is seldom on tourist checklists. :-) But they are impossible to miss. The pumps were recently hardened and updated and their capacity was increased.)

New Orleans is the place to which to direct your care and sympathy. It is very bad and still getting worse. I am not sure that the city, much less its people, has the capacity to recover from this magnitude of infrastructure damage.

Gratefully and sorrowfully, John

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