Last night, the levee appeared to be holding, and it appeared New Orleans had survived. Then the levee broke. 80% of New Orleans is underwater; the water supply is destroyed. The public infrastructure is essentially gone; here’s one example:
In New Orleans’ central business district, Karen Troyer Caraway, vice president of Tulane University Hospital, said water at the facility was initially rising at the rate of a foot an hour and had already reached the top of the first floor.
“It’s dumping all the lake water in Orleans Parish,” Caraway said. “It’s essentially running down Canal Street. We have whitecaps on Canal Street.”
“We now are completely surrounded by 6 feet of water, and are about to get on the phone with FEMA to start talking about evacuation plans,” Caraway said. “The water is rising so fast, I can’t even begin to describe how fast it is rising.”
Caraway said she didn’t know whether any pumps had been turned on to pump the water, but said, “they’re not going to be able to compete with Lake Pontchartrain.”
Tulane hospital has moved its emergency room to the second floor, Caraway said. It has been on emergency generator power for the last 24 hours, but if water continued rising rapidly, that power will be lost, swamping the power source.
Those medical personnel are heroic. Unfortunately, heroism can only do so much against utter catastrophe:
Nagin said both both New Orleans airports are underwater and there would be no electricity in the city for four to six weeks. Natural gas leaks have been reported throughout town, he said.
“Now is not the time to return to the city,” Nagin said to those who had evacuated ahead of Katrina, saying they would have to wait weeks, if not months.
Gilliard was right, this is like a nuclear bomb without the firestorm or fallout.