Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NEW ORLEANS' NIGHTMARE

It has turned into a complete disaster in New Orleans and the situation is getting worse, not better. The hurricane may be over but the carnage and damage isn't.

At first it was thought the city was spared a catastrophe when the hurricane veered slightly east (and socked all of Mississippi as a result; Mississippi is also an incredible disaster area). But it turned out there was a break in one of the levees protecting New Orleans and water is flooding out of that levee and into the soup bowl that is the city. The city is slowly being flooded to death, with 80% of the city under waters as high as 20 ft. And the civic officials say it will soon be 100%.

Instead of wiping the city out all at once, the city is being wiped out slowly. New Orleans sits below sea level and the flood waters keep rising. It is really sad to watch.

And the situation within the city is deteriorating rapidly. People are sitting on the roofs of homes waiting to be rescued. The remaining residents are being told to evacuate the city and there is a plan in place to move the evacuees at the Superdome over to the Astrodome in Houston. Meanwhile there is mass looting in the streets, from supermarkets and stores. People are being caught on tape looting these stores. Civil order is breaking down. One police officer was shot by somebody (he's expected to live.) Basically the place is acting and looking like Baghdad, or more accurately, like a Hollywood disaster movie. And it's a tragedy.

About the only good news is that a ton of people were able to get out of town before the storm hit. Everyone knew this storm was going to hit, there was nonstop coverage from Saturday onward. The TV stations were warning everyone it was going to be Category 4 or 5 and to get out of town. So that's why the death toll isn't worse. But still, there are a lot of stories of death and destruction.

Reporters who've toughed it out through wars and other sad stories, people like Jeanne Meserve of CNN, are sobbing on the air because of what they are seeing down there. This storm has proven to be way too much for any of them to handle. They're having a difficult time emotionally, plus they are having a hard time getting their stories out because of all the damage and power outages. Guys like Anderson Cooper are sleeping in their vans. At least he still has a vehicle: I read that the big CNN "Hurricane One" van that they used to chase hurricanes all over America has been totalled. Also, Jeff Flock and the Hurricane Now webcast people basically were left stranded in New Orleans, and they can't get a stream out the last time I checked because of the mess Katrina made down there. Today they are reporting they finally got out of town and are back in Chicago.

From what I'm seeing from the New Orleans TV stations the place looks like a third-world country right now, like one of those places the tsunami hit or somewhere like that. That's where I'm getting my information, from New Orleans TV. It's odd because while the New Orleans TV stations are still broadcasting hurricane coverage, nobody in New Orleans can watch them. Nobody has any power, plus the transmitters were knocked out and in one case is completely under water. They are having to broadcast their coverage over radio stations and through streaming video on the Internet while camped out in places like Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi. WDSU the other day was streaming/broadcasting a feed from WESH in Orlando, who were on the air just to give the exhausted WDSU reporters a break. Those reporters had to drive for nine hours all the way to Jackson, plus they've gotten no sleep for days because they had to be on the air.

Most of the Mississippi stations have managed to stay on the air: WLOX in Biloxi is still broadcasting, even though their building was damaged and the station was flooded.

People have remarked that the Internet coverage of this story has been incredible, that they are beating TV to this story bigtime with the streaming and the blogs covering the storm and so on. The cable networks are doing great but some of them, from what I gathered, have been showing talk show reruns and are even still talking about missing Natalee Holloway! Who cares about Natalee Holloway today. I gotta tell you, this story is separating the real TV journalists from the fraud artists. (At least Greta is covering the hurricane damage now, so don't blame her.) Broadcast coverage has been much worse from the main networks. It basically consists of their regular news programs (Brian Williams at the Superdome, Ted Koppel on Nightline) and that's it. I can't believe broadcast TV isn't covering this story more closely. They should be doing news specials on this in prime time because what is happening to New Orleans is way worse than what happened to New York on 9/11- and what happened in New York was pretty bad. This is a major disaster on the scale of the Tsunami. I am not kidding. They should be covering this story nonstop, these broadcast networks.

Anyway that is the situation at the moment. It's a really terrible situation that is getting worse and worse and worse as the levee continues to pour water into the city and floods the whole town. They're still trying to find a way to plug the hole some way but it is not working.

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