Three views of New Orleans

The American Meteorological Society's annual meeting in 2008 is going to be in New Orleans. I'm running a AI competition at the meeting, so I'm going to be going. New Orleans was, of course, hit by Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana's dysfunctional state government let the situation get totally out of hand and FEMA's tepid response didn't help any. If the same disaster had hit North Carolina or Florida, there wouldn't have been anywhere near that amount of human suffering. And one thing that got lost in the aftermath was that the weather forecast for Katrina was about as good as they come. But I digress ... I was going to make a point about three views of New Orleans.

(1) The AMS meeting has an organized tour of the levees, the damage, etc. This makes me intensely uncomfortable -- the differentiating line between that and gawking at OPS ("other people's suffering") is not that clear to me. I'm definitely not going on that tour no matter how scientific the organizing committee makes it sound:

After having watched the television coverage of this horrific event, you likely have many curiosities about the magnitude of what the disaster has done and also many unanswered questions as you struggle to comprehend the aspects of human suffering ... You will gain a greater understanding of evacuation processes, levee systems, and the city's battle with coastal erosion ... The tour will drive past an actual levee that breached and see the resulting devastation that displaced hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents. The direct connection between America's disappearing coastal wetlands, oil and gas pipelines, levee protection, and hurricane destruction will be explained. After this tour, you will have a better understanding of events pre- and post-Katrina in the "rebirth of New Orleans."

(2) The latest issue of American Airlines' flight magazine -- I flipped through it having run out of other reading material while sitting 2 hours on the runway in Dallas -- has a short travel article on New Orleans. Their website is so disorganized that I can't find it online. The gist of the article seemed to be that even though a couple of hotels downtown were still closed, there were still some really posh hotels that the traveler could stay in and that New Orleans was as much a party city as ever. Not as awful as the AMS tour of broken levees, but the very act of leaving the elephant in the room unmentioned speaks for itself ...

(3) Today's USA today (the passenger beside me had a copy) had an article on New Orleans too. "Katrina's wrath lingers for New Orleans poor " blared the headline.


  1. Lak, relax.
    New Orleans has always held a special regard for weather people.
    Go on the levees tour. (For that matter the commercial disaster tours are actually pretty good)

    Please check out a great group for more information:

    If possible please look into taking a 'Courtyards' tour, as well as a tour of the city's famous cemeteries. They are so beautiful and full of mysteries.

    But most important, engage the citizenry in a discussion of the weather, preferably an older person, preferably in a park or especially in a bar restaurant. It can be an animated story. They love talking about the weather in New Orleans.
    Ride the street car to the end of the line and back. Just ride it and enjoy the view.

    And of course get something to eat. Mother's, Joey-Ks, Gumbo Shop...Tom Fitzmoris' Food Show (AM Radio).

    Tune your computer/radio to WWOZ New Orleans Community Radio. You gotta get your New Orleans music going.

    Of course keep up with the New Orleans News Ladder.

    Thank you for coming to the city and Lassezes Le Bon Temp Roule'.
    editor / NO News Ladder

  2. hmmm ... Thanks, Bruce.

    Okay, maybe I will (take a tour). I'm definitely going to get something to eat :)

    By the way, loved this map on your site:

    One hears once in a while that the Mississippi-Missouri system drains the central United States, but the visual impact still startles.

  3. Another New Orleanian here. Take the disaster tour. EVERY American should see what New Orleans has been through. We need witnesses.