In the months after Katrina, there was ongoing discussion between myself and the program director at the radio station carrying my weekly program (shameless plug: WGSO 990AM, the same station that now carries my Dine, Wine and Spirits Show every day from 3-5 p.m.) about when to put the program back on the air.
I did not feel right, with all that our community was experiencing, to put a program about something as frivolous as wine back in the programming schedule when basic necessities of life were tenuous at best. Just about all of us left our homes with the idea that we would be returning in two days, three at the most. So we did not pack enough clothes. We did not worry about our computers. As for toiletries, only brought the bare necessities. And whatever else we took for granted was taken from us in a moment.
As we piece-by-piece put our lives back together, talking about wine and spirits on the radio was not a high priority of mine and, I assumed, the community felt the same way. We all were sure drinking more of those beverages than before August 29, but analyzing them, talking about them, spreading the word about new “finds,” well, that was not the deal.
I feel the same way now, on the 10th anniversary of the landfall of Katrina, as I did back then, so if you will indulge me, let me share with you a story not at all connected to adult beverages.
I came across the other day, in my files, the warning from the National Weather Service issued Sunday morning, August 28. And I’m posting it here for a variety of reasons.
URGENT — WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28, 2005
…DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED…
HURRICANE KATRINA…A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED
STRENGTH… RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.
MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT
LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL
FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY
DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.
THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL.
PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD
FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE
BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME
WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.
HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A
FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.
AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH
AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES
AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE
ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE
WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.
POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN
AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING
INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.
THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY
THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW
CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE
AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR
HURRICANE FORCE…OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE…ARE
CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.
ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET…DO NOT VENTURE
Most of us went to bed that Saturday night aware of the storm, but during the night, Katrina mushroomed into a destructive force beyond what we all imagined, or could imagine.
The Weather Service had, for a long time, considered issuing bulletins that communicated not just the science of certain situations, but also the emotion. The Service felt that, more often than not, citizens and communities were not responsive to what they, the Weather Service, could see unfolding. This was particularly true of destructive events like tornadoes, heavy rainstorms, wind storms and hurricanes.
The Sunday morning bulletin outlining the possibilities of Katrina’s tempest was historic in that it was the first of such harshly-worded, dire warnings that have now become standard practice. It was according to the Weather Service, “the most chilling ever issued.”
And the author, Robert Ricks, knew exactly of what he spoke. He could see the storm’s intensity and its direction. Ricks was a native of the Ninth Ward, basing much of his knowledge on the effects of Hurricanes Betsy and Camille, personally experienced.