Re-Thinking The Unthinkable

Every August, I watch a couple specials on Discovery, History, The Weather Channel, or whatever about Hurricane Katrina. It’s always funny to me which ones are merely sensational disaster shows and which ones actually have people making them know something.

There’s one easy way to tell. When they use phrases like “Unimaginable devastation” or “unthinkable damage” or something along those lines.

Let’s just consider what “unimaginable devastation and unthinkable damage entails:

– hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water pouring over the levees into an area averaging 5 feet below sea level with no natural means of drainage.
The water will flood the lakefront, filling up low-lying areas first, and continue its march south toward the river. There would be no stopping or slowing it; pumping systems would be overwhelmed and submerged in a matter of hours.

– the city and the east bank of Jefferson Parish into a lake as much as 30 feet deep, fouled with chemicals and waste from ruined septic systems, businesses and homes.

– Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn’t be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins.

– some part of the levee would fail… erosion occurs, and as levees broke, the break will get wider and wider. The water will flow through the city

– Mobilized by FEMA, search and rescue teams from across the nation will converge on the city. Volunteer teams of doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians that were pre-positioned in Monroe or Shreveport before the storm will move to the area…. But just getting into the city will be a problem for rescuers. Approaches by road may be washed out.

– In a place where cars may be useless, small boats and helicopters will be used to move survivors to central pickup areas, where they can be moved out of the city.

– A variety of creatures — rats, mice and nutria, poisonous snakes and alligators, fire ants, mosquitoes and abandoned cats and dogs — will be searching for the same dry accommodations that people are using.

– Contaminated food or water used for bathing, drinking and cooking could cause illnesses including salmonella, botulism, typhoid and hepatitis.

– the city uninhabitable for six months or more.

Yeah, that’s pretty insane list of things that happened in New Orleans that was definitely damage and devastation.

However, it’s difficult to call those “unimaginable” or “unthinkable” when they are, in fact, direct quotes from the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper’s five-part series about the massive hurricane that devastated New Orleans… published June 23-27, 2002.

Katrina wasn’t “unimaginable,” or “unthinkable.” There were plenty of people who thought about it every day. EVERYONE saw this coming. The Times-Pic subhead to the series said in big bold letters “It’s only a matter of time before South Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane.”

The Weather Channel’s “It Could Happen Tomorrow” series’ original idea was on “Huge Hurricane hits New Orleans.” They filmed it and were working on the rest of season one, so Katrina hit before they could air it.

Unimaginable or unthinkable would be the specials on the same channels two weeks later: The September 11specials. Very, very few people could imagine the twin towers collapsing.

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