(Mourning the 10th anniversary of a natural catastrophe that turned itself into a man-engineered disaster – Hurricane Katrina)
If you like listening to bluegrass, honky tonk, dixieland or any style of funky music that has some fiddle, some violin, some keyboards, kongas, drums and lots and lots of bass and lead guitar, you will like being in New Orleans, the largest city in the American State of Louisiana, that finds itself perched precariously between the Gulf of Mexico and the Lake Pontchartrain.
The people of New Orleans are reported to be similar in temperament to the people of Montreal – fun loving by nature, steeped in music and they love to party. However, unlike Montreal, New Orleans has a large percentage of minorities. Prior to 2005, blacks, Hispanics and Asians constituted 67% of the population. White folks made up 33%.
Then something happened, a kind of naturally initiated ethnic cleansing, which saw the population of minorities drop, from the pre-2005 high of 67% to 59% in 2013. The name of the event was one word – Katrina.
During five horrendous days starting August 25, 2005 – exactly 10 years from today – a Category 5 hurricane named Katrina hit and virtually obliterated the city. So complete was the devastation that it not only brought about physical damage but even undermined the very ethos of that fun-loving city.
At the time the hurricane struck, there was this man named Michael Brown – head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who had known months in advance and was supposed to have anticipated and prepared. He did neither. It is not difficult to imagine why, in a 67%-minority city.
A decade has gone by but there’s one thing that endures for Michael Brown – folks (friend and foe alike) still call him ‘Heckuvajob Brownie’. The derision drives him nuts but he has learned to ignore it, he says.
Brown was infamously praised during a tour of New Orleans in the wake of the devastation, by another notoriously inept manager – President George W. Bush. In a press conference in New Orleans, Bush jovially told Brown as cameras rolled, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Brown took that as a compliment and preened in front of the cameras.
Frankly, if I was Michael Brown and somebody, even if he was a President, twisted my name around and called me ‘Brownie’, I would punch him in his stupid f–kin face right there and then.
Survivors – poor black men, women and children, dogs & cats, horses & hippos and just about all the rest of the world – vehemently disagree with George Dubya’s assessment that ‘Brownie’ was doing a heck of a job. As gale force winds and torrential rains lashed the city, they desperately sought shelter in the massive New Orleans Superdome, hoping to receive relief – food, water, clothing – none of which arrived, for days. Quite a few of them still don’t have a home.
Just one thing makes me stop short of calling the US a banana republic. It doesn’t grow bananas. Meanwhile, maybe we should rename Katrina – Heckuva Georgia, after George Bush. Likewise, Dick Cheney could be Heckuva Dick, Rumsfeld – Heckuva Don, Colin Powel – Heckuva Pow and Condy Rice – Heckuva Leesa.
Now living in Denver, the 60-year-old Brown hosts a daily show on 630 KHOW, his city’s radio station that is also home to shows by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and other fiery rednecks. I heard that the Ku Klux Klan even has ads on Brownie’s show, selling white bedsheets with holes in them and cross-burning kits.
On his show, Brown bitches about everybody, especially the white American rednecks’ favorite punching bag – President Obama. Recently he criticized the way Obama handled Hurricane Sandy. He was the only one who felt that way of course, given that the response to Sandy had been exemplary.
First a brief on the hurricane itself…..
All hurricanes (known in Asia as typhoons or cyclones) begin with a depression. No, they don’t have mental health issues, silly. They form in a low-pressure area of the atmosphere, caused by temperature differentials that exist between the layers of the atmosphere in the tropics and the earth’s rotation. Pressure and temperature are inter-related (Boyle’s Law, remember? You don’t? Who says you have to be as smart as I?)
Whenever that temperature differential is steep, the 1000 mph surface speed of rotation of the earth at the tropics causes a vortex to form, driving winds into a swiftly spinning whirling eddy. In the northern hemisphere, hurricanes always rotate counter-clockwise and in the southern hemisphere – clockwise and in order to be able to define a cause, this phenomenon is known as Coriolis Force.
Coriolis force works on very large scales – not such small stuff like toilets and sinks. You might have heard folks claiming that toilets and sinks swirl counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere due to this force. As cool as that may sound, I have ta bust yore bubble – the way the water swirls in a toilet has to do the shape of the bowl and the way the water enters the bowl and not Coriolis force.
There are other goofy reasons that folks attribute to the Coriolis force in the different hemispheres, such as – the way dogs circle before lying down, or the direction in which the hair surrounding the periphery of a woman’s areoli bend forward. I would like ta study this if you know anyone who will be willing ta fund my research (I’m thinking of writing to Warren Buffet). You can get more info on the Coriolis phenomenon at – Bad Coriolis.
So what is the Coriolis force? Imagine two people playing catch. They are running in a straight line, parallel to each other and tossing the ball back and forth. The ball is easy to catch because they are always directly across from each other and running at the same speed. Now, let’s make this game more complicated by making the two players circle each other, instead of running side by side. They are still across each other but when one tosses the ball at the other, it veers to the right, missing the other player completely. Yet, friends sitting and watching from the sidelines, clearly see the ball going straight.
Listen, I am really not sure what the above example has ta do with anything. Coriolis Force came up at the lunch table at work and Kenny Yuma (Rotating Structures) posited the ball-throwing shit and we just nodded. No one likes ta admit he doesn’t have a clue, okay? If you laugh at me, I’ll have ta kill you.
Hurricane Katrina too formed as tropical depression over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005. From there it grew more and more muscular as it moved toward the US mainland, becoming a hurricane just two hours before making landfall somewhere over the Florida panhandle on the morning of August 25.
Friction with land weakened Katrina just a bit but it regained its hurricane status quickly once it crossed over into the Gulf of Mexico, where it went on building up, growing into a size so big that it’s diameter nearly covered the entire eastern seaboard of the United States.
Within nine hours, Katrina had surged from a Category-3 to Category-5 hurricane, as it barrelled its way toward the Lousiana coastline. By now she was the third most devastating hurricane in US history, with winds reaching 250 mph and the pressure inside it’s eye 25% lower than normal. A 100,000 ton tanker could have been flicked off into the air like a spec of dirt, had it been around.
After making landfall once again, the hurricane began moving over southeastern Louisiana and Breton Sound, maintaining momentum well into Mississippi, finally losing hurricane strength more than 150 miles inland near Meridian. There on, it was downgraded to a tropical depression near Clarksville, Tennessee, but its remnants continued to be felt far up north in the eastern Great Lakes region around August 31, where it went into what one could term as a cyclonic curtain call, picking up momentum once again as an extra-tropical storm, moving rapidly to the northeast, affecting eastern Canada – Montreal – and finally – me. The late Bunty (my Honda Civic, RIP) became water-logged.
Katrina affected us all and especially the New Orleanians, but I hope that in time they will gather back their charms, their gaiety and their wits together. It is after all them that The Doobie Brothers immortalized in their 1974 classic Black Water –
Well, if it rains, I don’t care
Don’t make no difference to me
Just take that street car that’s goin’ up town
Yay I’d like to hear some funky and Dixieland
And dance a honky tonk
And I’ll be buyin’ ev’rybody drinks all ‘roun’
(ps: In case you’re wondering ‘why capitalism’, that’ll be in Parts -2 & 3. Have a cold shower and then maybe some sex. When you’re just about ta scream ‘I’m comin’, I’ll be back)