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September 05, 2005

THE NEW YORK TIMES NOTES that the blogosphere was way ahead of the authorities on Hurricane Katrina. Particularly Brendan Loy. Excerpt:

Mr. Loy's posting that Friday afternoon came three days before the hurricane struck and two days before the mayor of New Orleans, Ray C. Nagin, issued an evacuation order. Posts over the next several days, in aggregate, seem now like an eerie rewriting of the tale of Chicken Little, in which the sky does in fact fall.

In the cooperative and competitive world of blogs, Mr. Loy's has gotten some serious praise. Mickey Kaus, whose kausfiles blog is featured on Slate.com, wrote on Friday that "Loy's blog for the past week is a pretty extraordinary document," adding that "it should maybe be in the Smithsonian, if you can put a blog in the Smithsonian."

Indeed. There's another Smithsonian-worthy record here, too.

UPDATE: Loy has a follow-up post that's worth reading in its entirety, but here's an excerpt:

It is true, as some have pointed out in comments, that Katrina was not "likely" to hit New Orleans as of Saturday morning, or even Sunday morning for that matter. New Orleans was the hurricane's most likely target -- it remained in the crosshairs of the official forecast track all weekend -- but in terms of statistical strike probabilities, even the most likely target at 24-48 hours out still has a less-than-50% chance of getting hit, thanks to the uncertainties inherent in hurricane forecasting. However, given the technology that we currently have, you simply could not have a greater threat to a specific location, 48 hours before landfall, than the threat that New Orleans faced on Saturday morning. It was, as I said, a "high-confidence forecast," and one with enormously catastrophic potential. Thus, if an evacuation was not appropriate then, then it follows that an evacuation must never be appropriate at 48 hours. And that can't be, because really, 48 hours is already too late; studies have long shown that it would take 72 hours to completely empty the city of New Orleans. So unless the city's hurricane strategy was to throw up its hands and say, "there's nothing we can do," a mandatory evacuation -- school buses and all -- was most certainly called for on Saturday morning. As I wrote on Saturday afternoon, "If you knew there was a 10 percent chance terrorists were going to set off a nuclear bomb in your city on Monday, would you stick around, or would you evacuate? That's essentially equivalent to what you're dealing with here. I sure as hell would leave."

Finally, one last point. As horrible as the catastrophe has been, please realize that it actually could have been far worse. What occurred was not the long-feared "worst-case scenario," which involved not a levee breach equalizing the water level in Lake Ponchartrain and "Lake New Orleans," but rather a storm surge over-topping the levees and causing the water level in "Lake New Orleans," hemmed in by the still-intact levees, to rise substantially higher than the water level in the lake. If the storm had wobbled a meteorologically insignificant 20 or 30 miles to the west, and/or had not weakened from a Category 5 to a Category 4 at the last minute, that scenario would have occurred, and instead of a slowly developing 10-20 foot flood, New Orleans would have suffered a rapidly developing 30-40 foot flood. (Jackson Square would have been underwater, whereas in the real-world scenario it remained high and dry.) The whole thing would have happened Monday morning, and at the same time as the city was rapidly and massively flooding, the devastating winds that demolished the Mississippi coastline would have been tearing New Orleans apart instead. All of those attics where people took shelter would have been either submerged or shattered to bits. The French Quarter would have been swamped, instead of mostly surviving the flood. Second-floor generators in hospitals might well have drowned. Bottom line, there would be a lot fewer refugees and a lot more corpses.

Yes. Read the whole thing.