A few lessons from Hurricane Isaac

My sister and her boyfriend live just west of the Tulane University campus, a few blocks just this side of the Carrollton streetcar line. They kept power all day on Tuesday as Isaac slowly approached, but it went out at 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.

They’re fine, but they still don’t have power back, about 55 hours later, and it looks like some folks are going to have a long long wait.

Electric provider Entergy has over half a million customers (homes and businesses) without power right now. The do have a great outage tracking map, however. The red areas are those without power as of 8:45 CDT, Friday, Aug. 31:

Meanwhile, the inevitable first fatalities have been found: a middle-aged man and woman floating in the kitchen of their flooded house in Plaquemines Parish, to the southeast of New Orleans. Expect more of those.

And expect a long recovery process from some areas that flooded — and in some cases still are flooded.

Obvious lessons, especially for a coastal community like Savannah:

  • Even a Category 1 hurricane, especially a slow-moving one, can have devastating, deadly effects.
  • A storm surge of over 13 feet is possible even in a relatively week hurricane. The folks who stayed at home in Plaquemines surely didn’t think they were risking their lives, but they were. That was obvious by Sunday afternoon, when one looked at the sheer breadth, the slow speed, and the direction. How can we communicate the danger more effectively?
  • Many of those evacuated from Plaquemines had pets with them. If the reluctance to leave had to do with concern about pets, then maybe there are public policy responses worth considering to reassure owners that it’s possible for them to leave with their pets.

There’s some good news from the storm too. The storm surge was only a couple of feet lower than that of Katrina, yet the levee system around New Orleans held.