Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, March 06, 2006

Katrina Myths

Popular Mechanics, that universally respected pro-Bush publication (hee hee) has the entire transcript of the notorious pre-Katrina briefing posted, to accompany the mag's current cover story, "Katrina Myths."

Here's a very relevant passage, from Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center:

So let's go to Slide 500, where it says the storm surge forecast. This is the actual forecast based on the last forecast that came out about an hour ago that has the center coming over here, passing just east of the city of New Orleans, and covering the eastern side of the lake.

I really want to emphasize that, you know, and I think FEMA are staying here in southeast Louisiana, but Robert Latham and Bruce Bowman here, Mississippi and Alabama, these valleys that you see here along the Mississippi coast, those valleys are up over 20 feet. We're talking about a Camille-type storm surge here, even on the Mississippi coast. And we'll talk about Alabama here in a minute.

On the west side of the track, this is very, very complicated. You know, there's a very complex system of levies there in the New Orleans area. Some of the valleys that we see -- and I'm sure that all of these areas are already going under water out near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The colors that you see here show inundation over the land areas.

One of the valleys here in Lake Poncetrain, we've got on our forecast track, if it maintains its intensity, about 12-1/2 feet of storm surge in the lake. The big question is going to be: will that top some of the levies? And the current track and the forecast we have now suggests that there will be minimal flooding in the city of New Orleans itself, but we're -- we've always said that the storm surge model is only accurate within about 20 percent.

If that track were to deviate just a little bit to the west, it would -- it makes all the difference the world. I do expect there will be some of the levies over top even out here in the western portions here where the airport is. We've got valleys of 10 feet that can't overtop some of those levies.

The problem that we're going to have here -- remember, the winds go counterclockwise around the center of the hurricane. So if the really strong winds clip Lake Poncetrain, that's going to pile some of that water from Lake Poncetrain over on the south side of the lake. I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levies will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very grave concern.

Mayfield's forecast was right -- the levees didn't overtop, just as he predicted. Go ahead, read it again: The forecast was right, and no mention was made at all of levee failure. Yet the media hyped this up as a big story.

If you're the president and you're listening in carefully on the extension, and you hear there's just a 20 percent chance a levee might over-top, what would you do?

hat-tip: Bookworm
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