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Talking Sense About New Orleans
Why do these people think that they are entitled to American taxpayers' wallets to build another disaster waiting to happen? Give them a grant, and tell them to move.
Instapundit has a roundup of Katrina links, including continuing myths in the press.Posted by Rand Simberg at August 31, 2007 05:42 AM
Theoretically, it's possible to keep New Orleans dry. All you have to do is surround it with levees designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
Bad theory. Before the storm, and proved during the storm, the levees are great so long as not one of them fails. If one fails, all the others work like a bowl to keep water from flowing out.
Alas, I think many have taken the advice to abandon New Orleans. Houston is still dealing with the massive influx. New Orleans cannot completely disappear, because it is a major port on a major shipping channel. But you don't need a massive city to accommodate that industry. The shipping industry will also bring in the money it needs to rebuild.Posted by Leland at August 31, 2007 06:49 AM
We can make the same argument about other coastal areas. Taxpayers are heavily subsidizing the cost of restoring eroded beaches and repairing hurricane damage.
Likewise, we should not use taxpayer money to cover damage costs along active fault lines. Or in the tornado belt. Or in areas subject to large wildfires. Or floods.
We can go on and on. If someone wants to live in an area that gets hit on a regular basis (Posted by Larry J at August 31, 2007 07:14 AM
I think the simplest solution is a buy out. If you get flooded, you can have the federal government buy you out at the pre-flood price, basically as is done now. However, it's a buy out, i.e. the federal government now owns it, and as a result it gets turned in to a national park / nature reserve / wetlands and you move somewhere else. Don't want to give it up? Pay for it yourself or get private insurance.Posted by Annoying Old Guy at August 31, 2007 07:47 AM
Buyouts are better than flood insurance but still create moral hazard. Too many people will continue to live in flood-prone areas as long as they expect the taxpayers to immunize them from future flood costs. In the long run it's much better, though obviously extremely difficult politically, to stop all govt-run insurance schemes and rebuilding subsidies.
"Bad theory. Before the storm, and proved during the storm, the levees are great so long as not one of them fails. If one fails, all the others work like a bowl to keep water from flowing out."
Nonsense. The city's already a bowl! The problem that led to the flooding wasn't even that the levees weren't Category-5 ready, it was that some of them weren't sound to begin with! Remember the video taken by firemen, that the Army CoE suppressed for a year or so, clearly showing one levee giving way early, and an after-the-fact examination showing that the river had been higher before that day? And that that levee had been known to be leaking for over a year, but nobody bothered to fix it?
Nonsense. The city's already a bowl! The problem that led to the flooding wasn't even that the levees weren't Category-5 ready, it was that some of them weren't sound to begin with!
Eh? Are you unable to comprehend what I wrote, or do you just want to pretend you are the only one who knows "the real truth".Posted by Leland at August 31, 2007 09:35 AM
As long as we're not bailing out New Orleans, can we not bail out anyone in the "home mortgage crisis"? The borrowers got to spend money that they can't afford to pay back on expensive housing and other things. They got the benefits, so why should I pay the costs? The lenders gave them that money, thinking that they'd make a profit. I wasn't going to get those profits, so why am I supposed to make them whole?Posted by Andy Freeman at August 31, 2007 09:39 AM
One solution would be to build "firewall" levees which would not have water on either side unless the outer levees failed. Compartmentalize the city like a ship. But that requires money and responsibility, and you can bet that within ten years the money being spent to maintain them will be seen as being "wasted" and diverted to other more "socially pressing" needs like midnight basketball. (More so in a place as corrupt as Louisiana is reputed to be.) So when they'd finally be needed they'd have already been pre-failed.
Also, the "abandon it" sentiment should be kept in mind when the next really big earthquake hits San Francisco, or lahars from an eruption of Mt.Rainier takes out Tacoma. (Worst hit in that latter case will be the producers of Cops, but I digress...)Posted by Raoul Ortega at August 31, 2007 09:44 AM
There's a difference between New Orleans and other disaster-prone areas, like San Francisco. No one in the other areas are demanding billions of dollars in federal aid to prevent the disaster. Demanding money to fix the levees to create a new (and bigger) potential disaster is a different category than just expecting disaster insurance.Posted by Rand Simberg at August 31, 2007 09:57 AM
Also, the "abandon it" sentiment should be kept in mind when the next really big earthquake hits San Francisco, or lahars from an eruption of Mt.Rainier takes out Tacoma. (Worst hit in that latter case will be the producers of Cops, but I digress...)
Keep in mind that volcanos are pretty predictable. And California's big quakes generally hit every few decades (or even a century or more between quakes) on a spot meaning the land is usable the rest of the time. But New Orleans can be hit year after year by hurricanes that you don't know are coming till a few days ahead of time.
But New Orleans can be hit year after year by hurricanes that you don't know are coming till a few days ahead of time.
Not to disagree, but you know that one will come sooner or later, just as you know a quake will hit San Francisco sooner or later. If you choose to live there, you should know the dangers.
No one in the other areas are demanding billions of dollars in federal aid to prevent the disaster.
That's a good point.
The problem that led to the flooding wasn't even that the levees weren't Category-5 ready
Kool-Aid alert. The Category denotes sustained wind speed. That has little to due with storm surge and rainfall totals. 'Sides, wasn't Kat a Cat-4 when she made landfall? Cat 5's making landfall are rare. Andrew, Camille, and Mitch I believe were the only actual 5s to make landfall with the eyewall.
Point being with above post. A Very slow moving Tropical Depression could drop enough rain on New Orleans to overflow and break the levies as they were pre-Katrina.Posted by Mac at August 31, 2007 10:25 AM
There's a difference between New Orleans and other disaster-prone areas, like San Francisco. No one in the other areas are demanding billions of dollars in federal aid to prevent the disaster. Demanding money to fix the levees to create a new (and bigger) potential disaster is a different category than just expecting disaster insurance.
But you can safely rest assurred that the people of San Francisco will demand billions of tax dollars to rebuild with an earthquake hits again, just like they did with the Northridge quake of 1989.Posted by Larry J at August 31, 2007 11:18 AM
Mmm...I think there's a difference between "San Francisco" and New Orleans. In the case of New Orleans, the argument can be made that it's just dumb to build houses in one particular bowl, particularly when there are other locations along the river that could function as a modern port.
But when you are talking about the risk of quake damage, you aren't just talking about San Francisco. The whole damn state of California is at risk, and pretty much equally so. There's nothing special about the Bay Area. The Big One could be in LA or its suburbs, or up north, or in the Valley, out near Palm Springs, or wherever. The only reason San Francisco is likely to have big casualties and damage is because that's where the people are. If you emptied Sodom by the Bay and moved everyone down to San Luis Obispo, then you wouldn't reduce the casualties -- you'd just move them south a bit.
You could say: don't build in this here bowl near the Mississippi anymore, or we won't bail you out. But the equivalent for earthquakes is to say don't build anywhere within 200 miles of the entire West Coast. Which is silly.Posted by Carl Pham at August 31, 2007 11:41 AM
Mac: Isn't that what basically happened with Mitch in Central America? It just sat, or moved really slow, and dumped feet of rain that wiped out decades of progress from what one of the leaders down there said.Posted by tps at August 31, 2007 01:48 PM
What I don't understand is why we bailed out New York City after 9/11. I mean, it was obvious that the place was a terrorist target and everybody living there was taking a risk. So let them suffer. It was their choice.Posted by Bill Hendricks at August 31, 2007 02:42 PM
I mean, it was obvious that the place was a terrorist target
It was? Christ, where were you on the 10th of September? Couldn't spare a dime to phone the mayor and tip him off?
Or are you being sarcastic? You think it hasn't been obvious that New Orleans is at risk for flooding during Gulf storms since Andy Jackson camped out there in the winter of '14? They just built all those dikes and stuff to...uh...erm...to make work for the Corps of Engineers, which would otherwise have to disband and give all the money back...?Posted by Carl Pham at August 31, 2007 04:08 PM
February 26, 1993.Posted by Bill Hendricks at August 31, 2007 06:34 PM
February 26, 1993.Posted by Bill Hendricks at August 31, 2007 06:34 PM
I was going to college in Cahokia, IL, not far from Valmeyer, when the flood hit in 1993. Yes, the residents took quite a loss, physically and emotionally, when their town was washed away. However, they made the wise decision to relocate the entire town. I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision but in the end they had a new town with no more flooding concerns. I recall that most folks were happy with the results.Posted by Ryan E at August 31, 2007 06:48 PM
Just don't build anything expensive in the lowest areas. French quarter was not badly hurt by Katrina afaik. (Didn't read the linked article.)
These kind of things happen (albeit not on such a massive scale) elsewhere too where there are floods: houses are built in places known to be vulnerable (sometimes with public money) and then everybody is oh so surprised when the once a decade flood comes. Clear information and clear insurance terms should be had as prevention measures.Posted by mz at August 31, 2007 07:20 PM
In the context of the worries about an asteroid collision (Don't build anything anywhere on this planet -- an asteroid could wipe it out!), a terrestrial geology Web page had a list of the five terrestrial "big ones" faced by the Continental U.S. before we worry about asteroids:
1. The "Big One" that takes out L.A. (San Andreas Fault)
2. The "Big One" that takes out Seattle (Cascade Range earthquake).
3. The "Big One" that takes out Memphis (New Madrid Fault -- because the shock waves spread so far in the Midwest, I am trying to convince my wife that here in Wisconsin we should prepare for a Northridge-level of damage and screw the bookshelves to the studs and put latches on the kitchen cabinets.)
4. The "Big One" that takes out all of East Florida in a tsunami (Canary Islands earthquake).
5. The "Big One" that buries the entire Eastern half of the United States (the Yellowstone National Park caldera).Posted by Paul Milenkovic at August 31, 2007 08:48 PM
The Commissar blogged on problems *created* by the levee system:
I'm leaning toward the "abandon it" option.Posted by Alan K. Henderson at August 31, 2007 09:14 PM
The existing residents of New Orleans will be better off elsewhere.
The ones that have already left, to start a new life, are encountering something that they have not before seen:
1. A functioning municipal government.
Obviously, the industrial and transportation facilities are important, but they don't require the population that existed, or now exists, in New Orleans.
To conclude my rant -- why so much attention to a municipality of 250,000? Doesn't Baton Rouge have more people now?Posted by MG at August 31, 2007 11:15 PM
You missed one out. The "Big One" that vapourises Manhattan Island (shipping container in the harbour).
Actually, the actuarial risks for any individual of being killed by lightning and killed by a Chicxulub-scale strike are approximately equal. The technology that would eliminate this threat would also help to eliminate the one I've just mentioned.
And also: There is damn-all that can be done to reduce the risk of any of those geological events - other than not being there when it happens. About the asteroid or the shipping container in New York harbour, however, something can be done.Posted by Fletcher Christian at September 1, 2007 05:36 AM
> But you can safely rest assurred that the people of San Francisco will demand billions of tax dollars to rebuild with an earthquake hits again, just like they did with the Northridge quake of 1989.
Northridge was in SoCal.
The last big SF area earthquake was Loma Prieta, and yes, the SF area folk milked Uncle Sucker for everything they could. As did the SoCal folks.
Actually, we should abandon automobiles if we were wanting to save the most lives. Then, we could stack all the unused vehicles around New Orleans.Posted by Josh Reiter at September 2, 2007 11:36 PM
I don't believe that terrorists will ever launch on NYC an attack whose collateral damage would pulverize UN headquarters - I suspect that the terrorists are clever enough that they would never want to deprive the US of such a thorn in its side.Posted by Alan K. Henderson at September 3, 2007 08:55 AM
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