Respect. A simple word that many do not heed. For those of us who respect nature and know the power she can wield at will we are not surprised by the events of this week. Amongst all the destruction and devastation of the once beautiful gulf cost region we need to keep one important fact in mind. Katrina was an average strength category 4 hurricane when she glanced New Orleans and barreled headlong into the Mississippi coast. Just off the cost of Louisiana her eye destabilized and began to wobble, her internal pressure rose from 98 milli-bars to just over a 100 indicating a large loss of energy. Her path was of the wrong track to deal a death blow to New Orleans, and her crossing into the shallows and cooler waters from the coast’s previous storms caused her to weaken even more before bum rushing Biloxi.
Now that an adequate amount of time has gone by and we have begun to see the full extent of the issues that lay before us I must make one small statement. Why are we shocked and surprised when mother nature decides to flick her wrist and snap her finger? Seeing what a weakening category 4 storm, which soon became a category 3 without the warm dry air of the lowlands, can do… we do not want to think of what would have happened if she had held her strength and either kept her course or do what she did at her full strength of Sunday evening?
We are not special. No matter how much engineering, building, preparing, planning, staging, etc we do, it can all be wiped off the face of the planet in one fail swoop. The ocean holds more raw power then any other force on the planet. The vortex of winds churned by up and down drafts, dry cold and moist hot air, high and low pressure systems, and the troughs of jet streams is capable of reshaping an entire cotenant. We sit by and gawk at the Grand Canyon, the lava fields of Hawaii, the Great Lakes, and numerous other natural wonders yet we seem to never contemplate the forces required to make these. Every facet of earth we see was shaped by the very forces we have lost respect for. Each time a volcano erupts, a mud slide happens, an earthquake hits, a monsoon drowns, a tornado touches down, forests burn, or a hurricane hits we sit back and ask why. Nature is in constant motion. She is always building and rebuilding. Nature’s work is never done.
In an election quote by a famous vice president, bidding for president, he made a very relevant statement; ‘Do you know what the definition of crazy is? It is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.’ Well, it seems all those along tornado and hurricane alley must be crazy. Yes I know the coast is beautify, breathtaking, paradise on our back door step. Well guess what? The gulf coast and lower eastern seaboard have numerous hurricanes each year, and the prediction of a decade long season of more and stronger storms is nothing new. It is nice to have a home and even a town next to such a nice strip of pristine white beaches. But before we become so arrogant and believe we can build a permanent settlement, and not just a summer escape of cottages and fishing villages. There is a consequence for each decision we make. Those who decided to live in a hurricane prone region and then ignore the warnings of danger have only themselves to blame. For those who heeded the warning and left, all they have to do is decide if doing the same thing again will result in a different outcome when the next hurricane comes through. Remember there is a whole other month of hurricane season to go. Of the tens of thousands who chose to stay in Katrina’s path they have learned a sobering lesson. Nature holds no favorites.
The worst part of this storm is a man made and man enabled one. New Orleans, a city situated below sea level, relying on electricity, pumps, and levees to keep the water out and covered with pavement preventing natural drainage and sprawled out devouring the natural reefs and marshes that protect the delta from the ocean was a recipe for disaster… and it finally hit. Over the years little was done to prevent what happened, not that it could have stopped what happened. We flirt with disaster and always think we can make out. We ignore the warning signs and then stand by dumfounded when the worst happens. Am I blaming the people living and working in these areas? No, but they should be aware of the risks they chose to live in. It is there choice to have stayed for all these years, so it is there bill now. The urban planners of New Orleans knew the possible dangers and it is shocking they did little to prepare fully for it. Have a modern independent pumping system, building a buffering cannel or unsightly tall retaining wall capable of withstanding a fifty foot high wall of water could have gone a long way toward saving New Orleans. So could building the city up, elevating its surface in segments to bring it above sea level. Yes this would have been expensive, and an eyesore, but isn’t the clean up and current state of the city going to cost any less?
This is a human disaster, an unprecedented catastrophe that will take a decade to correct. It will cost more money, in insurance premiums, fuel costs, building material shortages, time, and effort then any of us can imagine. More lives will be effected by this event then any other natural diaster in recent history. But it will end. Lives will be rebuilt. A colleague at work today suggested they should just abandon the city. That will never happen. New Orleans will be rebuilt and she will shine again, but it will take a very long time. The patience I have preached in my many posts will need to be practiced for the months and years to come. The only alternative is to give up. Humans do not give up. But we need to remember that this is a direct result of us wanting to live in an area that is always under threat of a return storm. In life we must always weigh the risks with the rewards. There will be some betting lightning will not strike twice, others that will say enough is enough. We must keep in mind, Mother Nature is very old, very strong, and very callous. She has taken the planet from tropics, to ice age, to temperate, and now back to tropic. She can at any time she feels the itch take any one area of the planet and wipe it clean. It is nothing we can prevent, or even try to. All we can do now is donate time, money, and resources to help those in harms way get back on there feet. Do this, lend a helping hand for it is all we can do when nature flexes her muscles.