Big Blow in the Big Easy published on July 18, 2005 (six weeks before Katrina).
"If a hurricane comes next month," says Ivor van Heerden, director of Louisiana State University's Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes, "New Orleans could no longer exist."
A recent poll by the University of New Orleans suggests that 62 percent of greater New Orleans's 1.3 million residents would feel safe in their homes during a Category 3 storm. "We're a victim of our own good luck," says Susan Howell, the poll's director. The city's high poverty rate is another hurdle; almost 1 in 6 households has no car.
New Orleans is more vulnerable today than ever. Development and levee construction have put 500,000 acres of nearby coastal wetlands under water since 1965, eliminating buffers against the wind-fueled spikes in water levels known as storm surges. Even a Betsy-like Level 3 storm, which has winds of up to 130 mph, is now more likely to trigger storm surges in the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain that could spill over levee walls. The resulting flood could take months to drain. "You're talking about creating a refugee camp for a million homeless residents," says van Heerden.
And on September 1, 2005:
FEMA Director Michael Brown agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands."Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.
"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.
A mandatory evacuation? The word evacuation implies that there was some kind of orderly procession out of town. Not the mass exodus- running for the hills- days long traffic jam for those lucky enough to have cars to take them the hell out of Dodge.
Somebody for damned sure didn't heed the advance warnings. Hopefully, their heads are going to roll.