HURRICANE KATRINA (2005)
Predictions of hurricane
Katrina in 2001 and 2004
A brief review of the Katrina hurricane of 2005 (repeated):
On 2005-AUG-25, Katrina, as a Category 1 hurricane, struck south Florida. It
strengthened over the Gulf of Mexico to Category 4. It hit New Orleans, the rest
of Louisiana, and Mississippi on AUG-29.
As of SEP-05, the total death toll is unknown; it will probably exceed 1,000.
Hundreds of thousands of residents have been dislocated; a quarter million into Texas alone.
"The evacuees [from New Orleans], most of them black and poor, spoke of
violence, anarchy and family members who died for lack of food, water and
medical care." 1 Many have no homes, assets, or jobs to which to return.
Property damage is immense.
Predictions about New Orleans:
Many individuals and groups have predicted that a massive hurricane would
devastate New Orleans. The city is particularly vulnerable:
| "Every two miles of marsh between New Orleans and the
Gulf reduces a storm surge -- which in some cases is 20 feet or higher -- by
half a foot." 1 However,
Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at the rate of about one acre every 33
|About 80% of the city is below sea level. This percentage is increasing
|"During routine rainfalls the city's dozens of pumps push
water uphill into the lake. This, in turn, draws water from the ground,
further drying the ground and sinking it deeper, a problem known as
A single breech in a single levee would
submerge the city under water. Only the timing was in doubt. There has been a
general consensus that a hit by a Category 3 hurricane might breech the levees;
a Category 4 hurricane, like Katrina, was almost certainly have done so.
In 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) listed the
three most serious potential disasters that the U.S. faced were a terrorist attack on
New York City, a massive earthquake in San Francisco, and a hurricane strike on
Scientific American's prediction (2001-OCT):
In their 2001-OCT issue, Scientific American published an article by Mark
Fischetti titled: "Drowing New Orleans." The abstract read:
"A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water,
killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have
dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of
southeastern Louisiana can save the city." 2
The article itself begins:
"If a big, slow-moving hurricane crossed the Gulf of Mexico on the right
track, it would drive a sea surge that would drown New Orleans under 20 feet
of water. 'As the water recedes,' says Walter Maestri, a local emergency
management director, 'we expect to find a lot of dead bodies'."
"New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea
level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the
north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a
damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at
increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi
Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A
year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh--an area the size
of Manhattan--will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each
loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into
the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in
surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because
the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at
Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible
storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people
could die. The body bags wouldn't go very far."
"A direct hit is inevitable. Large hurricanes come close every year. In
1965 Hurricane Betsy put parts of the city under eight feet of water. In
1992 monstrous Hurricane Andrew missed the city by only 100 miles. In 1998
Hurricane Georges veered east at the last moment but still caused billions
of dollars of damage. At fault are natural processes that have been
artificially accelerated by human tinkering--levying rivers, draining
wetlands, dredging channels and cutting canals through marshes. Ironically,
scientists and engineers say the only hope is more manipulation, although
they don't necessarily agree on which proposed projects to pursue. Without
intervention, experts at L.S.U. warn, the protective delta will be gone by
2090. The sunken city would sit directly on the sea--at best a troubled
Venice, at worst a modern-day Atlantis." 2
Houston Chronicle's prediction (2001-DEC):
Eric Berger, science writer for the Houston Chronicle, wrote an
article: "KEEPING ITS HEAD ABOVE WATER: New Orleans faces doomsday scenario."
He wrote, in part:
"New Orleans is sinking. And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective
Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city
perilously close to disaster...."
"In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's
less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and
probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water.
Thousands of refugees could land in Houston.
Economically, the toll would be shattering. Southern Louisiana produces
one-third of the country's seafood, one-fifth of its oil and one-quarter of its
natural gas. The city's tourism, lifeblood of the French Quarter, would cease to
exist. The Big Easy might never recover. And, given New Orleans' precarious
perch, some academics wonder if it should be rebuilt at all.
It's been 36 years since Hurricane Betsy buried New Orleans 8 feet deep.
Since then a deteriorating ecosystem and increased development have left the
city in an ever more precarious position. Yet the problem went unaddressed for
decades by a laissez-faire government, experts said.
National Geographic's prediction (2004):
In their 2004-OCT edition, National Geographic magazine published an
article by Joel K. Bourne titled: "Gone With the Water."
3 It mainly
discusses the loss of wetlands that have historically protected New Orleans. The
article started with a very accurate prediction of the events which occurred
during Katrina's devastation of the city. The author was in error in their
estimate of the number of deaths. But many other points raised in this prefix to
the article were deadly accurate.
"It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big
Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they
were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man
who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV 'storm teams' warn of a
hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in
August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash
"But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As
the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people
evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however the car-less, the
homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look
for any excuse to throw a party."
"The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a
deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of
the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80
percent of New Orleans lies below sea level more than eight feet below in
places so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick
ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over
the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through
the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the
Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city,
people climbed onto roofs to escape it."
"Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage
and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished
from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two
months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a
blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were
dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United
"When did this calamity happen? It hasn't yet. But the doomsday scenario is
not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane
strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up
there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New
York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the
city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.
" 'The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three
storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours
and a Category Five at 24 hours—coming from the worst direction,' says Joe
Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has
spent 30 years studying the coast. Suhayda is sitting in a lakefront
restaurant on an actual August afternoon sipping lemonade and talking about
the chinks in the city's hurricane armor. 'I don't think people realize how
precarious we are,'Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. 'Our
technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make
things much worse'."
The chances of such a storm hitting New Orleans in any given year are
slight, but the danger is growing. Climatologists predict that powerful
storms may occur more frequently this century, while rising sea level from
global warming is putting low-lying coasts at greater risk. 'It's not if it
will happen,' says University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland. 'It's
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Eric Berger, "Keeping its head above water," Houston
Chronicle, 2001-DEC-01, at:
Joel K. Bourne, "Gone with the Water," National
Geographic, 2004-OCT, Page 92. Online at:
Mark Fischetti, "Drowning New Orleans," Scientific
American, 2001-OCT, Page 92. Online at:
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-SEP-17
Latest update: 2005-SEP-17
Author: B.A. Robinson