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calendar   Thursday - September 01, 2005

The Lost City

For two years, from October of 2001 to October of 2003, I used to wake up every weekday morning and leave my apartment complex on the way to work. The apartment complex was Arbor Station Apartments in Long Beach, Mississippi. The complex sits right on Highway 90 on the beach. I could literally walk out of my apartment, down the main driveway about 100 yards, walk across highway 90 and be in the water. I used my GPS during one of the hurricanes there in 2002 to get my location and height above sea level. It was not encouraging to see the readout showing my ground floor apartment was only 6.3 feet above sea level.

The drive into work was one of the most pleasant “rush-hour” drives I have ever had the pleasure to endure. I worked for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the NASA Stennis Space Center. I would leave my apartment, turn right onto Highway 90 and cruise silently along the four-lane highway never more than thirty feet from the Gulf Of Mexico.

Beautiful islands dotted the ocean about a mile offshore like small emeralds in the distance. On the other side were hundred-year-old homes sitting in laid-back Southern relaxing style among the live oaks, draped with Spanish moss. In the spring and summer, the air was heavily perfumed with the thick scent of magnolia blossoms.

About every mile or two was a marina, off to the left, filled with fishing and shrimping boats of all kinds and sizes. Continuing along Highway 90 the road eventually takes a slow right turn inland and passes over railroad tracks below. Just beyond is the long bridge across St. Louis Bay, a beautiful span with a mid-section that raises and closes to allow boats to pass through into the bay. Off to the right, across the bay sits Diamond Head with some of the most beautiful golf courses I have ever seen (or played on). Sometimes you have to sit and wait while a large yacht or barge passes through. I spent many an afternoon coming home from work just sitting on that bridge daydreaming while fishing boats darted through.

After passing over the bridge I would find myself in Pass Christian, a city that looks like it belongs in the 19th century, which is when most of it was built. Almost without interruption, Pass Chistian blends into the city of Bay St. Louis. Old ante-bellum homes are intersperced with Wal-Mart stores and Holiday Inns. You can almost sense the slowed down pace of life in the very air. Nothing and no one moves very fast around these parts. Life is slow and easy.

The last sign of civilization on down Highway 90 is the city of Waveland. It’s a kind of redneck little town of only about 7,000 population. Juke joints, gun shops and yes, a Wal-Mart, dot the landscape. Hotels like the Hotel Texas and the Hotel Key West, which were built in the early 1900’s, give the little town a persona like no other.

The rest of my morning drive was a boring cruise through woodlands on Highway 607 for another five miles, across I-10, to the Space Center. After a long eight or more hours at my desk maintaining weather data in NOAA’s massive databases, I was ready for the return trip. Every day was neatly bookended by these trips back and forth to work. It is the most pleasant drive you could ever enjoy.

Quoth the Raven, ”Nevermore.”

I just got the shock of my life when I read this news story that just came in over the AP wire. The town of Waveland was literally wiped off the map. There is nothing there. Nada. Zip. It is the Lost City.

WAVELAND, Mississippi (AP)—Hurricane Katrina seemed to take a particular vengeance out on Waveland, Mississippi. The storm virtually wiped Waveland off the map, prompting state officials to say it took a harder hit from the wind and water than any other town along the coast.

Rescue workers there Wednesday found shell-shocked survivors scavenging what they could from homes and businesses that were completely washed away. The air smelled of natural gas, lumber and rotting flesh.

“Total devastation. There’s nothing left,” said Brian Mollere, a resident who was left cut and bruised. Katrina tore his clothes off and he had to dig in the debris for shorts and a T-shirt.

Katrina dragged away nearly every home and business within a half mile of the beach, leaving driveways and walkways to nowhere. The water scattered random reminders of what had been normal, quiet lives: family photos, Barbie dolls, jazz records, whiskey bottles.

The town of 7,000 about 35 miles east of New Orleans has been partially cut off because the U.S. 90 bridge over the Bay of St. Louis was destroyed. There is no power, no phones, no way out—and nowhere to go.

State officials would not confirm a death toll in the town, but Mayor Tommy Longo estimated that at least 50 residents died, The Clarion-Ledger reported. City Hall is gone, with nothing but a knee-high mural of a beach scene still standing.

Mollere had set up camp on the wreckage where his family’s two-story home and jewelry store once stood. A couple of chairs and a sheet of plastic protected him and his dog from the sun and spits of rain.

My friends, words alone cannot express how heartbroken I am at this moment. I knew those people. I worked with them, shopped with them and lived in what used to be a tiny paradise. I am having a great deal of trouble holding back the tears. I’m sorry.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 09/01/2005 at 02:01 PM   
Filed Under: • Personal •  
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Hurricanes: Here Comes The Science

Global warming, my aching butt! Hurricanes come in thirty year cycles and we’re just in the middle of the current peak. In ten years, it will taper off. No one knows why. It just happens. Period. Now put away your tinfoil-global-warming hat.

(US NEWS)—Measured by the dollar value of the damage they caused, 2004 was the worst hurricane season on record, and the 10 most costly hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland have all occurred since 1992. But only one of those makes the list of the 10 strongest hurricanes in American history. Much of the increased damage, it turns out, is a result of booming coastal development rather than worsening storms.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there has been a steep uptick in the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic over the past decade. From 1970 to 1994, there were an average of 8.6 tropical storms, 5 hurricanes, and 1.5 major hurricanes per year in the Atlantic; from 1995 onward, those numbers have jumped to 13.6 storms, 7.8 hurricanes, and 3.8 major hurricanes.

Most scientists agree that the increased frequencies are part of a natural cycle. For all the destructive power of a fully formed hurricane, a nascent tropical cyclone is a fairly fussy thing, requiring just the right conditions in the sea and the air to develop. No one is quite sure why, but every two or three decades, the tropical Atlantic seems to swing back and forth between conditions that favor hurricane development–warm surface temperatures that give the storms more energy, for example–and conditions that tend to impede them, such as strong crosswinds that disrupt the forming cyclones. We’ve been in a hurricane-friendly period since about 1995, and there’s no telling whether we’re halfway through it, or only a third.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 09/01/2005 at 12:24 PM   
Filed Under: • Science-Technology •  
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Shoot To Kill

There are always human vermin who will prey on the weak and suffering. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is no exception. I remember back in 1969 when Hurricane Camille tore through Mobile and the Gulf Coast. Our house was destroyed as were the houses of thousands of others. The vermin descended on us almost immediately. The bastards came flooding in from all over, selling ice for $10 per bag and water for $5 per gallon. Yes, there was some looting but everyone was too stunned to take advantage of any “five-finger discounts”. The worst criminals were the jerks taking advantage of our misery. There were laws passed after Camille to make it illegal to do those kind of ripoffs again.

Nowadays, the only ripoffs are coming from the oil companies. The price of gas here in St. Louis jacked up to $3.09 per gallon yesterday and it’s only going to get worse. Meanwhile, in the devastated areas a new breed of “survivor” is running around New Orleans, armed with guns and grabbing everything that’s not nailed down ....

imageimageNEW ORLEANS (AP)—National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured into New Orleans on Thursday to curb the growing lawlessness as Mississippi’s governor vowed to deal with looters in the neighboring state as “ruthlessly as we can get our hands on them.” An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the Gulf Coast to shore up security, rescue and relief operations. The new units brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the largest military response to a natural disaster.

“The truth is, a terrible tragedy like this brings out the best in most people, brings out the worst in some people,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on NBC’s “Today” show. “We’re trying to deal with looters as ruthlessly as we can get our hands on them.” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin also ordered virtually the entire police force to abandon search-and-rescue efforts and stop thieves who were becoming increasingly hostile.

“They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas—hotels, hospitals, and we’re going to stop it right now,” Nagin said. President Bush said Thursday the federal government has launched the most massive relief effort in history to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, pledging to reach thousands of victims that still needed to be rescued. With more than a thousand people feared dead, some refugees that had been staying in increasingly deteriorating conditions at the Louisiana Superdome began arriving by bus at a new, more comfortable home at the Astrodome in Houston.

Conditions at the Superdome had become horrendous: There was no air conditioning, the toilets were backed up, and the stench was so bad that medical workers wore masks as they walked around. The first of 500 busloads of people arrived early Thursday at the Astrodome. Bush expressed sympathy for those who were still suffering but also said there should be “zero tolerance” for breaking the law during an emergency situation.

In a sign of growing lawlessness, Tenet HealthCare Corp. asked authorities late Wednesday to help evacuate a fully functioning hospital in Gretna after a supply truck carrying food, water and medical supplies was held up at gunpoint. “There are physical threats to safety from roving bands of armed individuals with weapons who are threatening the safety of the hospital,” said spokesman Steven Campanini. He estimated there were about 350 employees in the hospital and between 125 to 150 patients.

Tempers were starting to flare across the devastated region. Police said a man in Hattiesburg, Miss., fatally shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice. Dozens of carjackings were reported, including a nursing home bus. One officer was shot in the head and a looter was wounded in a shootout. Both were expected to survive.

I saw on Fox News last night an interview with a Gulfport policeman who admitted that what he wanted to do when he saw looters was “shoot them in the head and hang a sign on the corpse that says ‘LOOTER’”. I approve.



Update: Property owners and ordinary citizens are taking up arms to stop looters in New Orleans ....

imageimage(NY TIMES)—In a city shut down for business, the Rite Aid at Oak and South Carrollton was wide open on Wednesday. Someone had stolen a forklift, driven it four blocks, peeled up the security gate and smashed through the front door. The young and the old walked in empty-handed and walked out with armfuls of candy, sunglasses, notebooks, soda and whatever else they could need or find. No one tried to stop them.

Across New Orleans, the rule of law, like the city’s levees, could not hold out after Hurricane Katrina. The desperate and the opportunistic took advantage of an overwhelmed police force and helped themselves to anything that could be carried, wheeled or floated away, including food, water, shoes, television sets, sporting goods and firearms. Many people with property brought out their own shotguns and sidearms. Many without brought out shopping carts. The two groups have moved warily in and out of each other’s paths for the last three days, and the rising danger has kept even some rescue efforts from proceeding.

Some frightened homeowners took security into their own hands. John Carolan was sitting on his porch in the thick, humid darkness just before midnight Tuesday when three or four young men, one with a knife and another with a machete, stopped in front of his fence and pointed to the generator humming in the front yard, he said.

One said, “We want that generator,” he recalled.

“I fired a couple of rounds over their heads with a .357 Magnum,” Mr. Carolan recounted Wednesday. “They scattered.”

He smiled and added, “You’ve heard of law west of the Pecos. This is law west of Canal Street.”


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 09/01/2005 at 11:18 AM   
Filed Under: • Crime •  
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The Wind Blows And The Price Of Gas Sucks

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John Trever, New Mexico, The Albuquerque Journal


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 09/01/2005 at 11:11 AM   
Filed Under: • Humor •  
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Before and After

I’m sure there will be more of these as time goes by, but the great folks at the Earth Observatory have some satellite images of New Orleans area before and after the hurricane.

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Here are links to the full versions of these images:
Before
After

In these false color images, water is black or dark blue, vegetation is green, and clouds are light blue and white. Land that has been flooded is a deep green in the top image. Outside of New Orleans, the floods are most severe on the east side of Lake Pontchartrain. The land separating the lake from Lake Borgne is either saturated or completely covered with water. A wedge of the northeast shore of Lake Pontchartrain is also underwater.



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Links to the large versions:
Before
After

Although the Mississippi River undulates across the bottom of these images virtually unchanged, big changes are visible within the city of New Orleans on August 30, 2005 (top image), compared to April 26, 2000 (bottom.). In 2000, the urban landscape appears in lavender (developed areas) and pale green (springtime vegetation). The city neatly separates the blue ribbon of the Mississippi from Lake Pontchartrain to the north, although several narrow canals are visible as straight blue lines, such as the ones surrounding City Park. In the wake of Katrina, standing water creates a blue, bruised appearance to large sections of the city, especially the eastern part.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 09/01/2005 at 11:06 AM   
Filed Under: • Environment •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
  1. Keep a firm grasp of Right and Wrong
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It's been a long strange trip without you Skipper, but thanks for pointing us in the right direction and giving us a swift kick in the behind to get us going. Keep lookin' down on us, will ya? Thanks.

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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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