I've Been to New Orleans
...and if I were a religious man, I'd be praying hard for any safety the people in that area can get.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city Sunday morning, saying Katrina would be "an unprecedented event in the history of the city of New Orleans, and we want everybody to get out."
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee was more blunt.
"You have an obligation to yourself and your family to haul ass and get out of here," he said, "and I'm telling you to get out now."
Scientists predicted Katrina could easily overtake that levee system, swamping the city under a 30-feet cesspool of toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins that could leave more than 1 million people homeless.
"All indications are that this is absolutely worst-case scenario," Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, said Sunday afternoon.
Because gasoline floats on water, "we could end up with some pretty severe and large -- area-wise -- fires."
"So, we're looking at a bowl full of highly contaminated water with contaminated air flowing around and, literally, very few places for anybody to go where they'll be safe."
[Ivor van Heerden] went further.
"So, imagine you're the poor person who decides not to evacuate: Your house will disintegrate around you. The best you'll be able to do is hang on to a light pole, and while you're hanging on, the fire ants from all the mounds -- of which there is two per yard on average -- will clamber up that same pole. And, eventually, the fire ants will win."
Rick Luettich, a professor at the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences, compared Katrina's expected impact on areas far up the Mississippi to "grabbing the end of the bed cover and giving it a hard snap."
That snap will push "probably in excess of 10 feet" of floodwater up the river, he predicted. "It will propagate up the river like a wave," past Baton Rouge, more than 70 miles away, he said.
It won't be easy to sleep tonight. This is going to affect a lot of folks.