A dominant childhood memory growing up in New Orleans was a TV meteorologist named Nash Roberts. He was famous for accurate hurricane forecasts and for years he drew possible storm tracks and informed viewers of their potential impact. One particular track, he said, would flood the entire city. It had never happened.
At one point during the party I noticed that the updated Weather Channel storm track prediction for a rapidly intensifying Hurricane Katrina showed that exact path. The rest of the party is a blur because I immediately called my sister to learn where and when she was evacuating. There was no question that she had already followed our family's traditional hurricane planning; my question was about timing. She said she planned to go to her friend's house 50 miles north of the city on Sunday. I urged her to leave immediately, Saturday night, and to avoid getting caught up in the inevitable traffic jams. She wasn't sure how to find her friend's place after dark. Fortunately they hadn't left yet and my sister was able to follow them there that night.
Over the next twelve hours Katrina grew to a category five storm, the strongest rating, with winds of 175 miles per hour. That eerie line on the forecast map hadn't changed in hours, which meant the weather people were confident with their predictions. The rest is history. The mayor issued a mandatory evacuation order Sunday morning. That is the only smart thing that man did; another story for another time. Sunday evening the National Hurricane Center described Katrina as a "potentially catastrophic" hurricane. The storm did veer a little and weakened a bit before making landfall just east of the eastern edge of New Orleans on Monday morning. But the storm surge and breaks in the poorly maintained levees resulted in flooding that eventually had 80% of the city under water. Nash Roberts was right and my sister was smart to follow her brother's advice.
|Aerial view: before & after|
|Ruined belonging awaiting removal|
The city is recovering, the levees and drainage systems are better and disaster preparation planning is improved, but there are still vacant lots, minimized services, businesses that never reopened and a population more than 90,000 smaller than it was eleven years ago.
For some people Katrina is just an hour-long Weather Channel special during 'hurricane week'. For me and my family, it is a life-altering, never-to-be-forgotten event that we acknowledge this week every year.