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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Saying a prayer as Mad Ivan bears down on Creole country

Depending on who you listen to, there are three events that top the list of possible natural disasters in the United States: a "big one" earthquake along the Pacific coast (although an eruption of the Yellowstone caldera is coming to eclipse the prominence of that threat), another quake along the New Madrid faultline similar to what happened in 1811, and a major hurricane making landfall at or near the city of New Orleans. It has been estimated that any one of the three, should they occur, would cause destruction and loss of life beyond anything that we've been prepared for.

In a few brief hours, there may be only two disasters waiting to happen left on that list.

It's a little before 11 PM on September 15th and as I write this, the outer eyewall of Ivan is approaching Mobile, Alabama. The hurricane has enveloped the entire Gulf from west of New Orleans to Tampa Bay. Winds of 160 mph have been reported, with 30-foot waves reported crashing onto the beaches in some areas. One buoy in the Gulf has sent back recordings of 100-foot waves.

Ivan has a substantial storm surge and it's set to hit at high tide.

It doesn't help matters much that New Orleans is built into a natural bowl surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, all that water held back for centuries by a system of levees and pumps. So why did 1.5 million people end up living in a place so threatened with water that it gives no rest to even the dead, hence the above-ground cemeteries?

Because Jean Baptiste Lemoyne, Sieur de Bienville - the founder of New Orleans - conned the King of France to making all the cheap swampland that he swiped up near the mouth of the Mississippi be the new capital of French Louisiana. As New Orleans grew Bienville sold his parcels of land at outrageously higher prices than what he acquired it for. So New Orleans was a town born of a corrupt politician... and it looks like his lack of vision is going to be darn near the death of it too.

But I hope not, and will say a prayer tonight that if it's somewhere in the Lord's will, that Ivan will spare the Big Easy and those who haven't heeded the evacuation orders. I've never been there but have always wanted to visit: have heard that the food there is incredible.

New Orleans Hurricane is a drink, not a disaster. Take care and God bless y'all.