Displayed below are all posts from Thursday, August 11 at 8:56 PM through Tuesday, August 30 at 1:48 AM. My 15 post recent posts are on my homepage. Posts after August 30 at 1:48 AM that no longer appear on my homepage are temporarily archived here.

The worst is happening

8/30/2005 01:48:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

According to Mike, WWL is reporting that "80% of the city is underwater, up to 20 feet deep" and "both airports are under, the yacht club is gone, water is still entering, houses have broken off their foundations and are floating free."

This is all presumably because of the delayed breach of the 17th Street canal (see below). Lake Pontchartrain is entering the city and becoming Lake New Orleans. This is what we all feared. The cable news networks have not really caught on yet to what is happening.

CONFIRMED: From the WWL website: "Mayor Ray Nagin reports the Twin Span Bridge is 'totally destroyed' and that 80% of the city is underwater."

A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new ‘hurricane proof’ Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina’s fiercest winds were well north. The breach sent a churning sea of water coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east.

As night fell on a devastated region, the water was still rising in the city, and nobody was willing to predict when it would stop.
I'm not sure if they really mean "late Monday morning," or if that should read "late Monday night" or perhaps "early Tuesday morning," which would jive better with the hospital official's story (she said the water had been rising fast for about two hours). On the other hand, maybe the breach was a trickle at first and has gotten progressively worse. Either way, this is very bad.

This should be a streaming video of the mayor's comments, though it's not working for me.


8/30/2005 01:30:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There is a two-block-long breach in the Lake Pontchartrain levee, and the water in downtown New Orleans is rising at the rate of one inch every 5 minutes, according to Karen Troyer-Caraway, vice president of the Tulane University Medial Center. She said she got the information about the breach from the state police, having herself witnessed the rising water for the last two hours.
The breach is at 17th Street canal, she says, which is at "the geographical border between Orleans and Jefferson parish -- the breach is on the Orleans parish side, so it's dumping all the water from the lake into Orleans parish, and it's essentially running down Canal Street, and there are whitecaps on the street, it's flowing so fast ... The water is rising so fast, I cannot begin to describe it." And she says the rate of water rise is increasing.

The hospital is in downtown New Orleans -- the central business district. They did not have any substantial street flooding during the storm, but now, they are contemplating an air evacuation because the ground floor is submerged, and the second floor, where the emergency generators are located, will be submerged soon if the water keeps rising at this rate. They have been on emergency generator power since 2:00 AM.

It sounds to me like the worst-case scenario, or something very like it, may happen after all. Is there anything that can stop Lake Pontchartrain from flooding the city, now that there is such a substantial breach? This is a catastrophe, and it's happening right now.

At least 40,000 homes in New Orleans flooded

8/29/2005 11:27:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

FEMA director: one of the worst disasters I've seen

8/29/2005 10:52:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown called Katrina one of the worst disasters he has seen, exceeded only by California wildfires.

"This is a catastrophic storm," he said. "People will not get back to their homes for several weeks -- if not longer."

Lots of stranded people in N.O.; "widespread devastation" in Jefferson parish; "tension" in Superdome; "very bad" in Miss.; oil rigs adrift in Gulf

8/29/2005 10:29:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Jeanne Meserve is on CNN, talking about stranded people in New Orleans who can't get help. She's breaking down. She can barely hold herself together enough to talk to Aaron Brown.

"We [reporters] are wacky thrill-seekers sometimes, but when you stand in the dark, and you hear people yelling for help and no one can get to them, it's a totally different experience."

One of the reasons they can't get to people is because some of the natural-gas and electrical lines are still "live," and it's too dangerous to take boats around in those areas, according to CNN photojournalist Mark Biello.

"Could be hundreds of deaths by tomorrow." --Biello

Water still rising -- slowly, not dramatically like before, but still rising.

Lots of dogs and cats also stranded on rooftops, along with humans, Biello says. (An important question: what about the snakes?)

There has been looting in New Orleans. Assholes.

Meanwhile, WSDU is reportedly showing footage of a fire spreading from house to house in Metairie.

Also... CNN is now reporting that conditions at the Superdome are getting "progressively worse." There is some considerable "tension" among the population inside, according to Ray Bias, an emergency worker at the dome, and he's not sure how much longer the current situation will remain tenable.

In comments, Chris writes:
People will NOT be going back home for a long long time to much of New Orleans, even if the water drops, which will take a long time because three of the huge pumps are out, there is now sewage, waste, pollution, disease carring agents and vectors of all kinds EVERYWHERE....many of the older houses will have to be condemned, many of the people living in them before will not be able to afford to rebuild, the roads, rail system and infrastructre of all kinds is severely damaged, I heard at least one major bridge on 10 is "comprimised"
That sounds right to me. He also criticizes news anchors for constantly saying "people are asking when they can go home," as if the big story here is the impatience of the evacuees. "Don't they realize that this just delays the reality of what all those people must face, they will be in camps or refugees possibly for many months?"

UPDATE: I-10 bridge story confirmed: "Sections of the Interstate 10 twin bridges linking St. Tammany and Orleans parishes over Lake Pontchartrain have been 'severely damaged' in both directions, some probably knocked out, Louisiana's highway boss said."

NOLA: "Jefferson Parish's Chief Administrative Assistant Tim Whitmer said the damage from Hurricane Katrina was almost equally split between the east bank and the West Bank. 'We have widespread devastation in the parish,' he said." Details, and lots of other good info, on the NOLA breaking-news blog.

Meanwhile, off to the east in Mississippi, "things are very bad" in the Gulfport/Biloxi area, according to the Sun-Herald storm blog:
I've gotten several hundred specific queries about friends, families and neighborhoods. I've told several people that it is easier to list the things that are undamaged than those that have been pounded. That's the honest truth.

We've got significant loss of life, with around 40 dead in Biloxi alone. We're trying to glean other information from Coast municipalities and counties, but communications are brutal here at the moment. Shortly, we'll be posting some stories that will be appearing in tomorrow's edition, which will be printed in Columbus, Ga., and flown by helicopter for distribution as best we can in the area.
Now CNN is reporting that one, maybe two oil rigs are "adrift" and missing in the Gulf of Mexico. The Coast Guard is aerially searching for them.

N.Y. Times: at least 55 dead

8/29/2005 09:55:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"Officials reported at least 55 deaths, with 50 alone in Harrison County, Miss., which includes Gulfport and Biloxi. Emergency workers feared that they would find more dead among people believed to be trapped underwater and in collapsed buildings."

Also: "Insurance experts said that damage could exceed $9 billion, which would make it one of the costliest storms on record."

P.S. A commenter notes: "55 . . . that's a high death toll to start with in the US. Highest starting death toll I've heard since 9/11. These natural disaster tolls only tend to go up. Not good." My thoughts exactly.

Adam Stone speculates via e-mail, "I think the death toll will be in the hundreds." He comments, "I just talked to my friend in Ocean Springs, MS who works for the city. He told me that they have been pulling bodies out of houses all day. The surge in Ocean Springs (on the east side of Biloxi) was in excess of 20 feet. This is worse than I could imagine ever happening. Lots of missing people."

[snip; see page 2]

Destruction in Biloxi

8/29/2005 09:49:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

This used to be an apartment building:

More Katrina pics

8/29/2005 09:47:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The New York Times has some great pictures and video, including these shots:

Meanwhile, here's a picture from AFP of the runaway oil drilling platform that collided with Mobile's Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge, which is closed until further notice:

Looking for info on Metairie

8/29/2005 08:42:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Matt Drachenberg at overtaken by events writes via e-mail:
My wife is going insane. Her mom is 82, recovering from a broken pelvis and stuck in the Jefferson Healthcare nursing home in Metairie. I cannot find anything about the conditions in the area (it's around Ochsner). If any of your contacts have any info, I would be eternally grateful.
If anyone knows anything, please leave it in comments. Thanks!

Deaths in Louisiana, devastation in Mississippi

8/29/2005 08:17:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco on Larry King Live: "We believe we've lost some lives." No idea how many, but various reports here and there.

NOLA: "unconfirmed reports of dead bodies in floodwaters."

Also: "Gentilly, Treme, Bywater and the 9th Ward [have] been swallowed."

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, "we have a report that portions of U.S. 90 are under seven feet of water." Evacuees are being told NOT to come back.

Here's a summary of the Mississippi damage: "Hurricane Katrina brought catastrophic damage from the Coast to Hattiesburg. Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said downtown buildings were 'imploding' or collapsing, particularly in the 19th street area. Coastwide there were reports of homes and buildings knocked off their foundations by storm surges as high as 28 feet."

Katrina was NOT overhyped

8/29/2005 07:45:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Let's be clear about something. I don't want to hear any of this crap about how the media and local officials overhyped this storm. First of all, the damage along the Mississippi coastline was catastrophic! The storm surge was worse than Camille, and basically, entire sections of coastline are GONE. And that was from a weakened Katrina!!! Secondly, New Orleans was hit very, very hard, at least in terms of property damage. (It's too soon to say what the human toll will be.) But it could have been much, much worse -- unimaginably worse -- and that is not just hype.

There are two reasons New Orleans was not destroyed (but merely devastated), two reasons this was not an apocalyptic lost-city-of-Atlantis scenario (but merely a really bad flood). Those reasons are: 1) a last-minute northward turn, and 2) a last-minute sudden weakening the likes of which I have rarely seen before. (Yes, several recent hurricanes have weakened as they approached the Gulf coast, but this one really weakened FAST, particularly the left-hand side of the eyewall. And look at all the damage it still did!!) I watched both things happen in the wee hours of this morning, and believe me, neither of them were pre-ordained to happen. Both of them happened in the final 6-9 hours before landfall, and if either one of them had not happened, we'd be looking at a very different situation right now. We wouldn't be rescuing people from their rooftops because the rooftops would be submerged, along with the rest of the city up to 20-30 feet. This is not a hypothetical scenario. IT ALMOST HAPPENED.

Anyone who suggests that this storm was "overhyped" is contributing to a DEADLY CULTURE OF COMPLACENCY that will dissuade people from evacuating the next time around. For there will be a next time around. New Orleans was spared "The Big One" today -- this was a big one, but not the Big One -- but someday, the worst will happen. It is inevitable; it's a matter of when, not if. THIS SHOULD BE A WAKE-UP CALL, not an excuse to become complacent and arrogant. New Orleans should learn from this storm and actually come up with a viable plan to deal with a direct hit from Cat. 4-5 hurricane, which this ultimately was not. Shore up the levees, wall off a portion of the city, whatever -- something has to be done. And sitting around, carping about how this storm was "overhyped" is obscenely counterproductive.

Looking for someone?

8/29/2005 07:44:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I was just on Hugh Hewitt's radio show

8/29/2005 07:39:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Woohoo! :) I was also interviewed by a USA Today reporter earlier. And 26,051 unique hits today, and counting. Wow. Thanks for reading, everybody!


8/29/2005 07:14:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina downgraded to a T.S.

8/29/2005 06:42:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I'm back. Katrina is now a tropical storm, but it's still causing all sorts of problems, particularly torrential rain and tornadoes -- at least 15 so far, and that number is sure to rise, according to The Weather Channel. Thankfully, she's moving pretty fast, and is now over the Alabama-Mississippi border.

New Orleans evacuees are being told not to return for at least a week.

Help Katrina's victims

8/29/2005 12:22:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Red Cross will, of course, be busy for months helping victims of this disaster. You can donate here.

UPDATE: Or the Salvation Army, if your prefer.

Sorry everyone...

8/29/2005 11:51:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

...but I need to take a little break. I've been up all night and morning, and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open at this point.

I'll try to keep my nap brief. In the mean time, Metroblogging New Orleans has a good summary of known damage in the Big Easy. And of course, there are a ton of links, including other blogs, at left.

P.S. 14,416 hits today. 3,269 in the last hour alone. Crazy. By the time I wake up, I'll have a new daily traffic record (old mark: 15,931). Thanks, everyone! And stay tuned; I'll be back. :)

Superdome all torn up

8/29/2005 11:49:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Fox News just had an awesome picture of the damage to the Superdome, as seen from the outside. Wow! It looks like crap!

More awesome/horrifying pictures from New Orleans and elsewhere are emerging, and many others will no doubt follow. For examaple: wow! And wow again. More here.

Target: Hattiesburg

8/29/2005 11:36:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

About that Tulane-Southern Miss football game, scheduled for next Sunday at USM... well, Hattiesburg, Mississippi (home of USM) is about to get slammed by the right-front quadrant of what is still a Category 3 hurricane. (Radar.)

Serious flooding in N.O.

8/29/2005 11:10:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I'm not clear on exactly how bad/widespread the situation described below is... but there are people on top of their roofs in New Orleans waiting to be rescued, according to Fox. Apparently this is northeast of New Orleans. (St. Bernard Parish?) They had someone on the phone, describing the scene:

"South of Lake Pontchartrain area completely flooded," says caption on screen.

"Everything is underwater, pretty much. ... There's whitecaps on the streets. It is absolutely up to the windows, covering some windows on the first floor."

"The water is steadily on the rise."

"We're looking at trucks, U-Hauls that are almost completely covered, to give you an idea of how high this water is. This is what a lot of people have feared their whole lives."

UPDATE: Micki outlines what the mayor said on The Weather Channel:
Reports of about 150 people on roofs. Getting average of 5 calls/minute. 20 buildings have collapsed, but can't confirm if people were inside them.

They asked where he rode out the storm. He started out in City Hall, but started swaying too much. Went to a 'Major Hotel' nearby and was on the 27th floor. Then he went to the 3rd and 4th floor of the hotel after it expirienced swaying on the higher floors.
Side streets impassable from flooding, fallen trees and fallen utility poles, but "nowhere near as bad, at least in this part of New Orleans, as what had been feared," says CNN's John Zarrella west of downtown (Tulane area). Says the windows of the Tulane hospital were blown out.

Another first-hand report

8/29/2005 11:09:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Bill Crews, in St. Amant, LA (between Baton Rouge and New Orleans), writes via e-mail:
I'm still here in So. LA. Current situation is wind, wind & more wind w/ some rain. The neighborhood is now running on portable generators, so we have cold beer. A few shingles missing and some downed ornamental trees but nothing serious. The wind is at a steady 40-45 mph w/gust up to 60-65 mph. We've heard reports of wide-spread devastation from NOLA to the Miss. Gulf Coast; our prayers are with them.

Lake Pontchartrain update

8/29/2005 10:43:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Reportedly, the key to preventing a Lake Pontchartrain flood is for the water levels to remain below 8.0 feet. (I am not certain of this, but it's what I've been told.) As of 10:19, the level was 6.75 feet at Midlake. However, according to the storm surge gauge at Bayou LaBranche, which is attached to the lake, the water level appears to have plateaued.

"Severe damage" to refineries

8/29/2005 10:34:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Source: TWC.

Do I hear $75/barrel? Do I hear $80?

Widespread but non-doomsday flooding in N.O.

8/29/2005 10:30:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

This NOLA report is about an hour old, but I hadn't seen it before:
9:34 - Reports of widespread flooding now, although not at the doomsday scenario levels. But we've got several hours to go before we've seen the worst past. Scanner traffic is busy with calls of rising water, including 18 inches and rising against the levee in the French Quarter. Dispatchers questioning officers on the scene, trying to determine if there is a break in the river levee, or if water is pouring over the top. Independently, NOLA has received a flooding alert for the French Market area.

Fairly heavy street flooding in front and behind the Times-Picayune . . . water appears about knee deep, whipped by the steady wind into whitecaps and breakers. Water is hubcap deep on the furthest vehicles in the employee parking lot, and rising quickly.
Previously, the NOLA blog reported that "the side of the Times-Picayune building facing the Pontchartrain Expressway has taken enough damage to cause some extra discomfort among those sheltered here. Windows blown out in the third floor executive suite have lead to flooding through the ceiling into the company cafeteria."

Cantore, crew & vets trapped by surging Gulf waters

8/29/2005 10:24:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

My dad sends along this summary of what's happening with TWC's Jim Cantore, which I had largely missed:
Jim Cantore & crew are stuck inside a Veterans Retirement Home at the Gulfport shore where the building, thought safe at 27 feet above sea level, is flooding. TWC crew is heave-ho'ing sandbags and boards etc. trying to keep the stormsurge at bay.
Cantore is on the air now, talking about how they've also been busy evacuating the vets off the first floor, helping get all the medicines, etc. A little unexpected community-service project for Cantore & co. :) Good for them.

The retirement home is essentially now completely surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, which has surged far inland. (The home, a concrete building that is built to withstand winds of 180 mph, was originally a half-mile inland.) The entire first floor is underwater. However, Cantore asserts that they are safe, albeit stuck. Cantore is amazed, says he's never seen a storm surge like this, etc.

"Higher than Camille"

8/29/2005 10:12:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

TWC's Steve Lyons just said that Pass Christian, Mississippi -- where Camille made landfall -- got one of the highest storm surges from Katrina, between 22 and 27 feet. "Might have been even higher than Hurricane Camille," he said, though he added that that's unconfirmed. I'm afraid this is probably bad news for pkahle's mother's house.

His mom isn't at the house, though; she's in New Orleans, "at Jackson and Prytania, and says the wind's bad, and there are some leaks, but the water's not that bad. Probably up over the curb, but not onto the Neutral Ground on Jackson Ave."

Meanwhile... over in Alabama... Downtown Mobile is flooded, according to Mike Seidel. It's not clear if Frederick's storm surge record of 12-13 feet has been or will be broken.

The latest

8/29/2005 10:01:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Significant flooding in St. Bernard Parish, according to The Weather Channel.

Stu Ostro says the worst time for northerly winds blowing the water out of Lake Pontchartrain into the city is right now, and for maybe the next 30-60 minutes. After that, the winds will change direction as the storm moves away. (It's a very good thing that it sped up overnight.)

From WDSU: "9:25 a.m.: East Jefferson Hospital Also Flooding: There are also reports of water on the lower floor of East Jefferson Hospital. The flooding may be related to unconfirmed reports of levee breaks along industrial canals in the area."

"9:45 a.m.: Homeowner Says Water Rising: Chris Robinson says the water is rising in his New Orleans-area home, but he's 'holding off on breaking through the roof' to escape. Robinson is keeping a hammer, ax and crowbar at the ready, though. He spoke by cellphone as water sent by Hurricane Katrina flooded parts of the city. -- Associated Press"

"9:47 a.m.: Boats In Buildings In Gulfport: In Gulfport, Miss., a fire chief says there are 'boats that have gone into buildings.' Waves are also crashing over the seawalls in Gulf Shores, Ala. -- Associated Press"

An oil tanker which had previously broken free of its moorings in Mobile Bay has now been secured, according to TWC's Mike Seidel. Officials aren't sure if any oil leaked.

Landfall again

8/29/2005 09:48:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina is now down to Category 3 with 125 mph as it makes yet another landfall near Anslee (sp?), Mississippi, according to Steve Lyons.

Catastrophic storm surge on the Mississippi coast

8/29/2005 09:38:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

That's proving to be the big story of this hurricane.

FEMA: the levees will hold

8/29/2005 09:35:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"The levees will hold. The main levee protection system will hold ... But we do have a freshwater flooding problem. A creeping flooding problem." --Mike Majonos, FEMA disaster inspector, on CNN

(That's a rush quote, may not be 100% accurate, but that's the gist.)

On the other hand...
Also, I'm not sure if this refers to the same thing, but according to commenter Ben, "Mississippi River levee in the french quarter has been breached."

Local bloggers

8/29/2005 09:29:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Like me, Josh Britton is blogging a mile a minute. Unlike me, Josh is in Louisiana (Baton Rouge, specifically). I just added him to the "local bloggers" list. Speaking of which, be sure to check my list of links at left, including the bloggers and media resources!

Anyway, Josh just posted something I also heard, that "CNN's Jeanne Meserve just reported that the white outer membrane of the Superdome's roof is 'shredded.'" He also writes, "Local news channel WBRZ is reporting that conditions may begin improving in New Orleans within an hour, as the western eyewall is currently passing within 15 miles of the city. Right now, though, conditions are very severe."

Another local blogger, Matt of overtaken by events, writes, "I think I can safely speak for most people when I say, 'Attention Media People! Go inside, we aren't impressed with your bravery, we just think you're stupid to be standing outside while large pieces of buildings and trees are flying around.'" Heh.

Flooding in the French Quarter and downtown?

8/29/2005 09:22:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I think that's what Fox News just said...

"Collapsed buildings, massive flooding" in N.O.

8/29/2005 09:21:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

NOLA reports:
During a morning teleconference, emergency preparedness officials from across southeast Louisiana reported flooding, building collapses, power outages and fires.

Here's a run-down of what they reported:

- In New Orleans, water topped a levee along the Industrial Canal. The city's 911 emergency system was out of service and Charity Hospital was on emergency power and windows had been blown out on five floors. The Police Department was operating on a backup power system. Three to four feet of water was reported on St. Claude Avenue at Jackson Barracks. And a 20-foot tidal surge knocked out four pumping stations; only one was able to get back into service.

Also in New Orleans, a bridge connecting a parking garage to Memorial Hospital collapsed.

- In Jefferson Parish, there was a report of a building collapse in the 200 block of Wright Avenue in Terrytown. Parish officials could not provide details other than to say they had been notified that people were inside the building.

- In St. Charles Parish, significant flooding was reported on the east bank.

- In Arabi, up to 8 feet of water was reported, and people are climbing into their attics to escape the flooding. "We're telling people to get into the attic and take something with them to cut through the roof if necessary,'' said Col. Richard Baumy of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office. "It's the same scenario as Betsy.''

Baumy said 100-plus mph winds were preventing rescue efforts.

At Bayou Bienvenue, water levels were reported at 9 1/2 feet, almost twice normal levels.

- In St. John, massive power outages are reported.

- In Gramercy, there was extensive damage to the town's 1 1/2-year-old fire station.

- Terrebonne Parish reported a fatality from a heart attack.
Also, there are massive power outages, unsurprisingly.

More damage reports

8/29/2005 08:45:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Fox News: "Some New Orleans homes have flooded to the ceiling, and that could be just the beginning of it."

There has been another levee breach at Industrial Canal, according to a commenter who is watching WWL.

Also, there are apparently some serious problems with high-rise hotels.

"We have reports saying total structural failure in the greater New Orleans area of a lot of structures." --Fox News

Ten people are trapped in a collapsed apartment complex in Harvey, LA (in Jefferson Parish). Also, a woman and her three children trapped in her attic in eastern New Orleans (9th Ward), which is pretty much in the eyewall right now.

"The pumps on both sides of the river are failing now."

From the WDSU storm blog: "There are reports of an electrical fire at a home in Covington this morning. Unfortunately, firefighters were unable to respond because of high winds." ... "There are reports of trees down around WDSU-TV. Staff at the station also report parts of roofs coming off buildings" ... "The storm is hammering the Gulf Coast with huge waves and tree-bending winds. Exploding transformers lit up the predawn sky in Mobile, Ala. Tree limbs litter the roads and blinding rain has whipped up the sand on deserted Gulfport, Miss., beaches." ... "Heavy rains associated with Hurricane Katrina are sending floodwaters into the first floor of Ocshner Hospital. Patients are being moved to the upper floors of the building."

NOLA: "Windows have blown out in the West Jefferson Medical Center office building. Because of that, patients in the West Jefferson Medical Center are being evacuated from their rooms into hallways, according to Jennifer Steel, hospital spokeswoman. There were no injuries as a result of the broken windows."

Meanwhile, a roof in Gulfport, MS has slammed into an apartment building, according to Fox News. A rescue is ongoing.

According to commenters, The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore is at a hotel in Biloxi that's 27 feet above sea level -- and it has 4 feet of storm surge in its parking lot. Now that's a storm surge! The bug-eyed hurricane veteran declared, "I've never seen this before...basically we are part of the Gulf of Mexico right now."

Fox News is showing footage of a Flying J sign breaking apart in Gulfport.

CNN's Gary Tuchman in Gulfport: "We are watching the city, parts of it, be destroyed before our eyes." Many buildings collapsed, etc.

Lake Pontchartrain update

8/29/2005 08:26:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here's a photo of Lake Pontchartrain flooding a road on the north shore, in Lacombe, LA.

And here are some more details on what's happening in New Orleans's 9th Ward:
On an early morning radio interview, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that water was coming over the levee system in the Lower 9th Ward, especially in the Florida Avenue area. Nagin said that the Florida Avenue pumping station was not working, and there were unconfirmed reports of people standing on their roofs.

"There is a significant amount of water in the 9th Ward," Nagin said.

Nagin said that city officials had reports of at least five fires in the city and one collapsed building. The locations of the fires and the building were not specified.

Meanwhile, a 9th Ward resident reported that houses were taking in water on Reynes Street at the Claiborne Avenue bridge.

Not all of the 9th Ward, however, appeared to have water problems.

A group of about a half dozen families, some with severe hardships, were riding out the storm near the corner of Feliciana and Marais streets. Among those who stayed was a mother with a son paralyzed in a recent shooting and a 56-year-old man with a broken leg.

"The wind's pushing pretty hard here," the man, Paul Garrett, said in a 7:15 a.m. phone interview. "But it doesn't seem to be destroying any rooftops. We're doing OK."
Meanwhile, LSU researchers have reduced their damage estimates for New Orleans, in light of Katrina's new track. It could still be bad (indeed, it clearly already is), but not as bad.

UPDATE: This tidal gauge in Bayou LaBranche, which is attached to Lake Pontchartrain, appears to be live and functioning, and both the water levels and winds are rising steeply.

Levees compromised; fires & building collapses reported

8/29/2005 08:17:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

According to WeatherBlog: "C. Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans reports on MSNBC that 'numerous fires' and 'building collapses' have been reported around the city. Levee system in the 9th ward compromised and water is spilling over."


8/29/2005 07:58:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

CNN reporter seeing daylight. "Keeps getting larger and larger." "One section of the Superdome roof may soon peel away from the actual stadium."

Probably one-twelfth of the roof. [CORRECTION: Brian Williams's pictures indicate it is only a small portion of the roof. There is some confusion about what the CNN reporter said or meant re: "one-twelfth of the roof."] [UPDATE: It's a "3-by-5-foot chunk," according to the WDSU Katrina Blog.]

Authorities are moving people to a different part of the Dome, getting underneath the terrace level, moving away from the open area. "Rain and wind is now starting to pour into the Superdome."

No panic, but "obvious concern." "Everyone is just kind of looking up in awe, that this is supposed to be the safest place in New Orleans, and now the Superdome is giving way to this Superstorm."

"There's nowhere for these folks to go. This is where they're going to be, whether the roof comes off this dome or not."

And New Orleans is still about an hour away from its closest approach to the eyewall.

Brian Williams, MSNBC: "Katrina has opened at least two holes along one seam in the roof." "Just about six minutes ago, the wind peeled one section and now it has opened a second section." Rain is pouring in through the open section, and inside the whole Dome now there is mist swirling around. But "it is not as if the structural integrity of the Superdome is in any danger."

UPDATE, 9:17 AM: "The National Guard told reporters at a news conference in Baton Rouge, La., that the holes in the roof at the Superdome are only minor. A representative of the National Guard blamed the strong winds for ripping the fabric, but he said there were no structural problems with the roof, and evacuees in the affected areas were moved," according to the WDSU Katrina Blog.


8/29/2005 07:57:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

This Bourbon Street webcam appears to be live. Things look rather wet. But not underwater, which is good.

One levee overtopped, pump out of commission

8/29/2005 07:53:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

So says John Zarrella on CNN. Uh-oh. Not sure which levee or in which place.

From NOLA: "Building collapse reported on Laurel near Washington in the Garden District . . . possibly with people inside. Emergency workers trying to see if they can get a National Guard deuce-and-a-half to get through the storm for possible rescue."

Also: "Listening to reports of windows blowing out . . . most frantic calls about downtown hotels, where a number of windows have blown out. Guests huddling in halls. Water blowing in through windows, leaking through ceilings."

CNN now reporting on Superdome leak.


8/29/2005 07:51:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The eye is filling in a bit on radar, but it's also wobbling ever-so-slightly to the left... does Katrina have one last surprise in store for New Orleans?

Superdome leaking?

8/29/2005 07:45:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

According to a commenter watching local New Orleans TV:
WDSU's reporter in the Superdome is reporting that at least one section of the Dome is leaking and getting worse. According to the phone report, he couldn't see sky but they felt increasing rain falling on them and were planning to move to a more protected area around the concession stands.
Meanwhile, the winds have picked up substantially in Baton Rouge, according to Anderson Cooper.

Sunrise over Katrina

8/29/2005 07:39:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The news from N.O.

8/29/2005 07:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

From NOLA:
As dawn approached Monday, the story was the same across metro New Orleans: Heavy wind gusts, soaking rain, some reports of damage, and widespread reports of power outages.

Damage was expected to be significant. As one caller told WWL radio early Monday: "The smell of pine is in the air,'' referring to the snapping of pine trees on the north shore.
Even as bands of heavy rain accompanied by 100-mph winds moved into the New Orleans area this morning, bending trees in half and plucking camper tops from pickup trucks, the National Hurricane Center warned that Hurricane Katrina still has its biggest punch to come. ...

National Hurricane Center lead forecaster Martin Nelson ... warned that slight wobbles left or right as the eye moves northward will make little difference in the height of storm surge south and east of the city and in Lake Pontchartrain, because the storm already has been pushing surge water ahead of it into Louisiana's southeastern wetlands and the lake for so long.

"There will be storm surge flooding to the west of the eye because of the packing of water that's occurred as Katrina drives to the coast," he said. Once over land, the western side will see that water rapidly exit, driven by the southern, counterclockwise winds on that side of the storm. ...

Watching the progress of the storm from Jefferson Parish's emergency operations center in Marrero, Walter Maestri sounded an early note of optimism at 3:45 a.m., as Katrina jogged a bit off course. But he also cautioned that conditions could deteriorate as the day progresses.

"It looks like we've done fairly well," he said. "We have had no reports of serious wind damage, and we don't see any indication of tidal surge problems."

"But of course it's still really early. The next four to five hours will tell the tale."

US 90 underwater

8/29/2005 07:08:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Highway 90 in Gulfport, Mississippi is now underwater due to the storm surge, according to Jim Cantore.

The storm surge is also rapidly increasing at Ocean Springs, MS, which is just off to the east of Gulfport. Likewise in Waveland, MS, just off to the west.

Meanwhile, "we're not too sure what's happening with Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans," according to Stu Ostro. But TWC has lowered its storm surge estimate for N.O. and the lake from 16-22 feet to 10-15 feet.

Now TWC is saying downtown Mobile is going to flood.

"Pascagoula, Mississippi civil defense reportered a wind gust to 113 mph within the past hour at their office," according to the NHC 7:00 AM update. This has quickly gone from being primarily a New Orleans issue to being primarily a Mississippi/Alabama issue.

New Orleans to be spared?

8/29/2005 06:52:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Barring a major last-minute wobble, it does now definitely appear that Hurricane Katrina's eye and eyewall will pass just to the east of New Orleans, thus sparing the city the worst of the storm. Radar here.

Whether the storm surge and waves will nevertheless be enough to overwhelm the levees, and if so, to what extent, remains to be seen. But compared to the general despair of 24 and even 12 (hell, 6) hours ago, things are definitely looking up for the possibility that New Orleans as we know it will survive to see another day.

If the worst is averted, hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call, and not an excuse to become complacent and react slowly and skeptically to future storm warnings.

Superdome reportedly loses power

8/29/2005 06:46:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Power (and thus air conditioning) is out at the Superdome, according to a commenter, citing local media in Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile, in Gulfport, the water is rising substantially.

Landfall (for real this time)

8/29/2005 06:27:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Landfall officially occurred at 6:10 AM, according to TWC.


8/29/2005 06:07:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Confirming the weakness of Katrina's western eyewall, the highest wind gust recorded thus far at Grand Isle is 77 mph -- which, while not exactly a pleasant day at the park, is also not indicative of being in (or very near) the eyewall of Category 4 hurricane!

I'm really confused. How can a hurricane have a minimum central pressure of 917 mb -- lower than Andrew! -- and yet be this disorganized? How can Katrina weaken as much as she has, without the pressure rising more steeply? Is there something I'm not understanding here? Because this seems bizarre to me.

P.S. In the peanut gallery on Dr. Jeff Masters's blog, a couple of commenters are crying "conspiracy," noting that the sudden weakening began during the nightly satellite "blackout," and suggesting that perhaps the government secretly weakened the hurricane somehow:

funny how she was so healthy prior to the black out. thats when they went in so they could not be noticed and blamed if it went wrong and caused her to explode in intensity ...

Katrina looks less Impressive now than Ivan Did prior to making landfall. She Will Begin to Fall Apart Now. The US Govt Will Never Allow A CAT5 STORM TO MAKE LANDFALL EVER AGAIN NEAR A METRO AREA. She Will Dramatically Weaken and Make Landfall In A relatively Unpopulated Area E of The NHC Projected Path. For The History Books few Things Will add up about This Storm. The Wind \Pressure Difference,The last Minute Jog To The E, Or The Dissappearence of the Strongest Portion Of The Storm Completely Off Radar In One Loop All During The Satellight Blackout just hours Before Making landfall. Very Interesting Stuff. Even More Interesting will Be The "EXPLANATIONS" We will Hear Tommorrow. By The Way I wonder How Many Cat 4 Storms ever had Central Pressure's in The 26's While Still Being Listed As A Cat4 . A -100 mb difference Exists Between Cat4 Hurricane Charley (145 MPH) And Cat4 Katrina Right Now. A Cat4 With 1/2 OF An Eyewall and Pressures in the 26'S. I Hope Tommorrow The Proper Questions are Asked. ...

TRUST ME THE KAT WAS DE-CLAWED. And We Should All Be Greatful.
Obviously, I don't buy into the conspiracy theory. As one skeptic responded, "If they had that technology, why would they wait so long? ... Just because we don't understand it yet doesn't make it a secret government plot. Occam's razor, dude." Heh. Anyway, I just found the conspiracy theory rather entertaining. :)

Here are some facts about past government attempts to control or weaken hurricanes, all of which have spectacularly failed.

Flooding at one N.O. hospital, power running low at another

8/29/2005 05:49:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Sean Rajki, whose wife Mary is a nurse on duty in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at West Jefferson Medical Center on the west bank of the Mississippi River, reports via e-mail:
I just heard from Mary. (5:12 AM) ... She is ok, but the hospital is on its last leg of backup power (how absurdly inadequate?). They heard that at East Jefferson, in Metairie, across the river from them, that there was flooding on the lowest level of the hospital. Confirmed on WWL TV.

They are all - both shifts - heading to their unit (NICU) and will continue to work. Some of the babies, two I think, are on ventilators, so they will have to be hand-bagged from the moment the power goes out until...

She said the National Guard is at the hospital, so that if evacuation needs to happen they have some help. She seemed reassured that the Guard is there.

Also, she said that some people reported some scary noises coming through the building. Hopefully just the noise of the storm.

I am amazed she called me on her cell phone! Told her to turn it off after we hang up to conserve her battery.

Earlier, he wrote: "I am stuck at home in Baton Rouge. My parents are here, but the full scale of what is about to hit New Orleans with my wife there in the way is quite a burden. She is the love of my life and I can't even think about losing her. By the way, she is three months pregnant with our first child. I know this will be bad no matter what- Katrina isn't going to turn around and go home. It would take a miracle today to keep all the people safe. Please pray for Mary and the others."


8/29/2005 05:41:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Weather Channel and CNN are officially declaring "landfall":

CORRECTION: Stu Ostro said it's not quite officially "landfall" yet.

New Orleans radar broken?

8/29/2005 05:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There has not been a new radar image from the New Orleans radar for 40 minutes. So, that may be all she wrote, as far as that radar site goes.

The Mobile radar doesn't give us as good a view of the eyewall structure, but at least the images are current. Landfall is imminent. Here's an extreme close-up.

UPDATE: The New Orleans radar is back! It just took a little hiatus, I guess. :)

River rising in Baton Rouge; high winds in Jefferson Parish

8/29/2005 05:21:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

CNN's Anderson Cooper is reporting that the Mississippi River has risen significantly in Baton Rouge in the last half-hour. Can that be from the storm-surging Gulf waters, flowing upstream from the Delta, which Katrina is currently pounding? If so, surely the river is rising much more in New Orleans, which is further downstream.

Meanwhile, the winds have gotten "much worse in the last 20 minutes" in Jefferson Parish, with doors blowing out and such, according to WWL.

Another report from Gulfport

8/29/2005 05:17:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Lisa Boone reports in again from near Gulfport, MS, via e-mail:
We have just lost power at 4:30. Fortunately the generator kicked on and so far so good. We are getting tropical storm force gusts and have had several inches of rain. The local TV coverage now says that the storm will hit us at category 3 strength. Strong category 3 one presumes. Still predicting a very large tidal surge. They have shown pictures of the water rising at the beach.

You might want to add their stream to your list, they are: http://www.wlox.com

We've had a couple tornado warnings set to expire within minutes now.

Things will still get much worse before they get better. But they are now saying it won't be another Camille and for people who rode out Camille and lived through the aftermath, that is a huge relief.
I can't figure how to get a direct link to the WLOX stream, but if you go to their homepage, you can get it.

Nearing the delta

8/29/2005 04:49:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I wish there was a storm surge gauge at the mouth of the Mississippi River, because the right-front quadrant of the eyewall is absolutely pummelling that area right now. I'll tell you one thing: water is definitely not flowing out of the Mississippi into the Gulf right now. Radar here.

The eye will come ashore over those Mississippi Delta swamplands very shortly. But, hmm, is that really considered a "landfall"? It's barely "land"...

Trying to restrengthen?

8/29/2005 04:31:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here's an extreme close-up of the eye. It looks like the eyewall is trying to close itself back off, but it's running out of time over the water.

It's still confoundingly wobbling left, right, left, right...

UPDATE: Yup... Katrina is definitely trying to pull herself back together at the last minute. Check out the infrared and water vapor satellite loops.

Obsessing over the wobbles

8/29/2005 04:16:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Now it looks like it wants to wobble NNE, in the last 20 minutes or so. Argh. This is a very close call.

NHC: close call for N.O.

8/29/2005 04:06:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"It's going to be very close as to whether the surge will be high enough to over-top those levees." --Richard Knabb, National Hurricane Center meteorologist, on CNN.

UPDATE: The 4:00 AM discussion is out, and it emphasizes that Katrina should not be underestimated, even as it weakens a bit:
Some fluctuations in intensity are possible right up until landfall occurs. However...it appears that Katrina will make landfall as a category 4 hurricane later this morning. The cloud pattern in satellite imagery has eroded on the west side due to dry air entrainment...and the eyewall has opened up to the south and southwest in radar imagery. However...the water remains quite warm underneath the center...and convection can easily redevelop and the eyewall close off again before landfall occurs. Some disruption of the circulation will occur once the center moves over southeastern Louisiana. However...the forecast track keeps the eye close enough to warm water near the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. The upper-level outflow pattern remains quite impressive and even contains a rare 200 mb indraft anticyclone to the east near Tampa Bay. The combination of the outflow regime and the close proximity to warm water may be enough to keep Katrina a major hurricane when it reaches the Louisiana-Mississippi border area this afternoon. Just because Katrina is no longer a catgeory 5 hurricane does not mean that extensive damage and storm surge flooding will not occur. This is still an extremely dangerous and potentially deadly hurricane!

Katrina update

8/29/2005 04:01:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Pressure now up to 917 mb, winds down to 150 mph, according to the 4:00 AM advisory. Still waiting for the new discussion.

Looking again at the radar... this time superimposing the 2:53 AM eye on top of the 3:47 AM radar, and then drawing arrows extrapolating from the eye's movement during that 54-minute period... if anything, Katrina appears to be moving more to the west, not less...

It could yet wobble back north, but man, it's going to be a close-run thing.

Live from New Orleans...

8/29/2005 03:47:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

ParadeCAM in New Orleans is still working, and not surprisingly, it's looking very windy and rainy.

Too soon to say whether eye will miss New Orleans

8/29/2005 03:32:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I know it's dangerous to read too much into radar "wobbles" ... but frankly, at this point, a wobble here or there could make the difference between a catastrophic flood and, well, a bad-but-not-catastrophic flood. So I took a look at the last 15 frames (i.e., 77 minutes) from the New Orleans composite radar, and I superimposed the 3:26 AM eye on top of the 2:09 AM radar image, and then drew lines to figure out what direction the eye has been moving during that time period. Here's what I came up with:

And it's not like most of that westerly component occurred early in the 77-minute period... there has definitely been a continued westerly component to the motion in recent radar frames. So I think it's too early to say that the eye and eyewall will pass east of New Orleans.

UPDATE: CNN's meteorologist just said, "New Orleans may be back into the eyewall landfall with that little [westward] wobble." Personally I think it's more like, "New Orleans always was in the eyewall landfall zone, but we briefly misinterpreted a northward wobble as indicating otherwise."

Another man's opinion

8/29/2005 03:20:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

In his final update of the night, Steve Gregory agrees with me about Katrina's weakening trend:
LATEST storm surge calculations from the USGS Hazards site are calling for an 18-22ft storm surge ... I BELIEVE THIS MAY PROVE TO BE TOO HIGH.

The New Orleans levees are likely to be breached - but not of Catastrophic proportions -- but they will be breached, causing major flooding.

HOWEVER, the odds are going up that the eye will pass just east of downtown New Orleans. Satellite imagery clearly shows a loss of outflow and eroding away of the deep layer moisture as the TROF from the west is making a significant impact on the storm, and a change in heading to NNE (010 deg) that I do not believe is a wobble.

Positive note -- MANY of these areas are reporting water temps in the 83-85 deg range, down considerably from the high 80's this morning. This will help slow any potential intensification.

My current, and last forecast until morning -- Landfall will result in 120mph sustained winds and gusts to 150mph -- below hurricane Camille. This will occur just ENE of the eye wall -- so the worst WIND damage will be experienced Slidell to Gulfport; with the smaller communities east of a line from EAST New Orleans southward to Woodland.

Storm surge will be under around 15-18 feet across Lake Borgne, and 16-20 feet near the LA/MS state line.
I'm not sure about the NNE motion (I'm still seeing some NNW components to the motion on radar), but the rest of his forecast sounds right to me, especially the 120mph sustained winds.


8/29/2005 03:07:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina is wobbling to the north-northwest again on the last several radar frames. So much for "due north."

I'm recalling something I wrote on Friday: "If Katrina gets close enough, a last-minute 'wobble' could save, or doom, the Big Easy."

Good news (?)

8/29/2005 02:52:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Weather Channel says the hurricane hunter recon aircraft confirm what the radar is saying, that the south and southwest side of the eyewall is "a bit ragged."

Frankly, I don't think this is really a 155 mph hurricane anymore. I could be wrong -- and remember, I'm not a metereologist, just an amateur hurricane buff -- but I really think this thing is weaker than the NHC is saying. (Naturally, they don't want people to let down their guard.) The last-minute weakening processes that we all hoped for are indeed happening. Dry air, shear, eyewall replacement... whatever it is, some factors have conspired to disrupt Katrina's circulation. Hopefully that trend will continue -- remember, the eyewall has several more hours before it reaches heavily populated areas, so if the weakening trend continues, that would be excellent news, in terms of the amount of wind damage that will occur. It will still be severe, but not the kind of catastrophic, Andrew-type, everything-gets-flattened damage that the NWS described earlier today. (By way of comparison, here's what Andrew looked like on radar when it hit.)

However, the bigger concern here is the flooding of New Orleans, and from everything I've read, even a Category 3 hurricane would be enough to top the levees. Moreover, the weakening of the west side of the storm won't help with that, because it's the easterly winds ahead of the storm -- on the east side -- that will do most of the work in flooding Lake Pontchartrain. So unless the experts who studies these scenarios are wrong, I think New Orleans is still going to flood.

Again, this is just one amateur weather buff's opinion, and I could be wrong.

Due north?

8/29/2005 02:42:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Hurricane Center is now saying that the eye is moving due north. If that holds, it looks like the downtown area of New Orleans would maybe be hit by the far western side of the eyewall, depending on exactly how wide the eyewall is (of which I am not certain). A north-northeasterly turn would really help.

Again, remember, the winds and rain around the eyewall are undoubtedly more severe than they appear on radar right now. I believe that the radar has trouble penetrating the eyewall, and it has generally been my experience that hurricanes often don't look as impressive on radar as they really are.

Latest radar here.

Storm surge update

8/29/2005 02:32:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The storm surge at Grand Isle is spiking rapidly, and the Lake Pontchartrain levels are also continuing to rapidly rise (see also here).

Schrodinger's City

8/29/2005 02:25:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

N.O. Pundit muses:
There is a Schrodinger's Cat quality to watching the spinning red ball: does the New Orleans that I know even exist right now, hours before landfall? Surely the buildings are there right now and the people who remained are fine right now. But in a sense, some of those buildings have already fallen and some of those people have already met tragedy. Indeterminacy tonight, determinacy tomorrow.

I am in a stunned fog: resigned not that my life will change in the morning, but that my life has already changed. Perhaps a little, perhaps a lot. But even if I have a relatively intact house to return to, there will be friends who don't, and there may be friends who aren't.

Commingled with my resignation is an optimism and resilience. Whatever happens, well, happens. Wherever my starting point happens to be tomorrow is just that: a starting point. Not without pain, not without tears, not without doubts. A fine place to take a step forward.

Yes, I am praying and hoping for miracle, a weakening, an Eastern deviation, and that may yet come. Do you believe in miracles? I do.
In other news, here's a picture of people packed inside the Superdome:

West side of storm erodes; down to high Cat. 4

8/29/2005 01:52:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Wow... the west side of the storm really does look very ragged all of a sudden.

Is that a patch of dry air? Caused by the counter-clockwise flow blowing off the land perhaps? This could help New Orleans at least a bit, if it holds (and if the satellite picture is representative of the wind speeds at the surface)... though I'm suspecting the city will still flood, as the storm surge is coming in from the east, where the storm still looks very strong... so I don't want to get people's hopes up, but this is at least a sliver of hope.

UPDATE: Yup, dry air. Check out the water vapor view:

Here's the latest view. How deeply entrained into the circulation that patch of dry air gets could be crucial. Remember, New Orleans figures to be (probably) on the left-hand side of the eye.

UPDATE: As as 2:00 AM, Katrina is down to Category 4, with 155 mph sustained winds. That's the very top end of Category 4 status. But could it be lower? We're waiting on new data from recon plane.

The Weather Channel guys says there is "erosion of the cloud cover on the western side of the storm... but the radar not really reflecting that."

Here's another water vapor view:

Again, don't get your hopes up. This hurricane is still going to be a very, very big problem.

Staying behind

8/29/2005 01:37:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A college-football blogger, "Anonymous Sportaholic," who also happens to be a doctor, is stuck in New Orleans, staying behind to care for those who cannot leave. (Hat tip: CFR.)

The calm before the storm

8/29/2005 01:29:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The New York Times has a slideshow of good pictures of yesterday's preparations and evacuations, including this dramatic shot of a deserted French Quarter on quite possibly its last evening of existence as we've known it:

Katrina 135 miles away from N.O.

8/29/2005 01:13:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

As of 1:00 AM, Katrina's eye is 75 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and 135 miles south-southeast of New Orleans. A wind gust of 101 mph has been reported at Southwest Pass, LA.

The eye is now becoming visible on the short-range radar from New Orleans.

Memo to WWL anchors

8/29/2005 01:12:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

It's probably not a good idea to refer to the people in the Superdome as being "in the same boat." Just saying.

Blog update

8/29/2005 01:05:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I've moved most of today's posts onto Page 2, so that the homepage will load faster as I continue hurricane-blogging through the night. (Automatic archiving is not working because of the in-limbo status of my blog.)

Cat. 4?

8/29/2005 12:51:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

They're already getting 90 mph wind gusts in New Orleans, according to WWL.

Reading what Dr. Jeff Masters and Steve Gregory are saying, it sounds like Katrina has probably weakened to a Category 4 hurricane, though it hasn't officially been downgraded. That's good news, but New Orleans is going to be devastated either way, as well as whoever is in the path of the eye and particularly the right-front quadrant.

Storm surge

8/29/2005 12:45:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

This tidal gauge, located on a bayou attached to Lake Pontchartrain (map here), appears to have live data, updated every 12 minutes or so. In addition to the water level, it shows the wind speed and barometric pressure, which are rapidly increasing and decreasing, respectively.

Good God

8/29/2005 12:27:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There are still people on the roads. They're talking on WWL about what to do if you're stuck on the highway -- under what circumstances you should "ditch your car" and under what circumstances you shouldn't, whether you should seek shelter at a random building off the nearest exit, etc.

This is damn mayor's fault.

P.S. Also, there is a disturbing amount of price gouging going on, apparently.

26-30 thousand people in Superdome

8/29/2005 12:20:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There are between 26,000 and 30,000 people at the Superdome, according to what sounds like a well-sourced report on WWL's live streaming video feed.

Incidentally, I've updated the links to the feeds from both WWL and WDSU.

And so it begins

8/29/2005 12:09:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

As of 9:00 PM, the water level in Lake Pontchartrain was rising steeply.

I guess the gauge has shut down now, or something. This gauge appears to have some more recent data, possibly even live... I'm not sure.

Lake Superdome: what will happen?

8/28/2005 11:50:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Discussing the Superdome in comments on a previous post, Todd observes, "I can not even begin to imagine what a hellhole that place will soon become." Paul at Wizbang is imagining:
It's a near certainty the electricity will go out about midday Monday. The Dome has backup power but it is only for lighting - no environmental controls - and the backup lighting is not full power. The Dome is about 20 stories high, but people will be scattered all thru it.

If the worst happens - and at this point it seems implausible that it won't - the bottom 2 stories will fill with water. Dirty nasty foul water full of chemicals and raw sewerage. Further the bathroom facilities are only expected to function for the first day.

So in rough terms, 40,000+ people will be trapped in a building with no plumbing, little light and no air conditioning. The temps after the storm rolls thru will probably be in the low 90s. Considerably hotter in the building.

There is an elevated paved deck that surrounds the Dome. It will most probably be above water but inaccessible until probably daylight Tuesday. Once the people can get out to the deck, they will still be trapped there because the city will be underwater. They will be an island. We have no idea how long it will take to remove the water from the city. I've seen estimates from 10 weeks to 10 months... yes months.

There is a helipad (maybe 2) where choppers can land to drop potable water, food, tents and other supplies, but sanitation will be scarce to put it mildly. We really have no idea how long people will be there.

In theory they can be removed by boat... But how do you move 40,000+ people by boats that will be navigating their way thru a flooded city? And where do you put them?

And this is assuming the building has no structural problems.

These are all guesses obviously- we've never done it before. But it is pretty much commonly accepted these people will face days or probably weeks of hellish conditions few of us can imagine.
And to think that some reporters are going there voluntarily! Of course, maybe their news helicopters can airlift them out. (Speaking of which, isn't that hypothetically an option for everyone? Granted, it would take a while, but...)

Hat tip: InstaPundit, who notes in another post that "Knoxville hotels are filling with refugees from the Gulf coast."

Report from Gulfport, MS

8/28/2005 11:41:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Lisa Boone, who is riding out the storm north-northwest of Gulfport, MS, about 25 miles inland, checks in via e-mail:
We are watching the weather outside and the news on TV. The weather here is gusting to gale force at times with rain as feeder bands are going over.

I think we are shortly going to see tropical storm force winds and then hurricane force starting, I'm estimating, about daylight. ...

So far we still have power; we have a generator that is supposed to kick on when we lose power. We certainly hope it works.

If we lose telephone, I will see if I can get a cell signal and connect to the internet with that.

I know too many people that have chosen to ride this out in the Bay St Louis area, which looks to me like where the eye will come through in Ms. We are worried for friends tonight, the kids are actually worried about their schools, and of course, all the people and places that we love in New Orleans.

I'll check in later.

Bearing down

8/28/2005 11:29:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here's the latest look at Katrina, on satellite and radar:

Again, do not make the mistake of thinking that the southern side of Katrina is weak just because it looks ragged on radar. That's typical of a hurricane that's still a ways away from the coast. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, I believe the radar can have a tough time penetrating the torrential rains on the near side of the eyewall even as the storm gets closer. Anyway, the satellite is much better gauge of the strength of the south side, which actually appears to be the strongest part of the storm.

Pressure is up from 904 mb to 908 mb. That's good news, but keep it in perspective: Camille made landfall at 909 mb, and Andrew made landfall at 922 mb. This is still a monster, and there is no reason to believe it won't continue to be a monster.

I'll be here all night

8/28/2005 11:02:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I want to thank everyone who's been visiting my site all day, and everyone who's linked to me. I've had more than 1,000 hits in each of the last two hours, and more than 11,000 total today. I'm sorry that such an awesome traffic spike is caused by such an awful situation, but I'm glad to be able to be a resource for people looking for information on this storm. I took a long nap this afternoon so that I could stay up all night and into the morning and afternoon watching this thing, and I plan to hurricane-blog basically nonstop. So please feel free to keep coming back for the very latest.


8/28/2005 10:35:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

CNN still has a reporter in the French Quarter!!! WTF?!? Is he planning to have Scotty beam him up when the levees overflow?

UPDATE: Aaron Brown basically asked him the same question, and apparently his genius plan is to "hunker down" in the hotel. Did he miss the memo about how the entire area is going to be under-f***ing-water?!?

UPDATE 2: Now Aaron Brown is talking about "what these people are going through," meaning the reporters. Oh, boo-hoo, feel sorry for the poor reporters, the ones who have deliberately put themselves in harm's way, and who, if they survive the night, will soon go home to their families somewhere else, in a city that isn't destroyed. They're the real victims here. ... Blech.

Katrina's exact intensity uncertain; eyewall replacement cycle possible

8/28/2005 10:06:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The 10:00 PM NHC discussion notes that there is some confusion about the strength of Katrina right now, and also that an eyewall replacement cycle may be starting:
There are conflicting signals regarding the intensity of Katrina. The NOAA aircraft near 00z reported a peak flight level wind of 155 kt...which would normally correspond to 140 kt at the surface. The pressure remains extremely low...904 mb at last report. On the other hand...the stepped-frequency microwave radiometer...or SFMR...suggested winds were in the 120-130 kt range...and limited dropsonde data also suggested something a little below 140 kt. There are enough questions about the performance of the SFMR at these speeds for ME to stick with the Standard 90 percent adjustment for now.

There have been some modest changes in the structure of Katrina over the last several hours. Recent microwave passes show that an outer eyewall is in the formative stages...and the latest IR images show a less well-defined eyewall with more evidence of outer banding. The NOAA hurricane hunters also reported an erosion of the eyewall in the southwest quadrant. These observations suggest that there could be some weakening of Katrina prior to landfall. All this is relative...however...and Katrina is still expected to be of at least category four intensity when it reaches the coast. An eyewall replacement at this point is not all good news...as they are generally accompanied by a broadening of the wind field...so that even as Katrina weakens there could be an increase in the area that experiences major hurricane force winds.
The discussion also notes that "while there is great significance for the city of New Orleans in the details of the track...track anomolies of 30-50 miles are still possible even 12-18 hours out."

Gassing up

8/28/2005 10:01:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

All the cool kids in the comment section seemed to be filling up their gas tanks, so I decided to join the crowd and gas up Becky's car. I just got back a few minutes ago, and I'd have to say there were definitely more people than I'd expect at 10:00 PM on a Sunday night.

What about the newspaper?

8/28/2005 09:47:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Will there be a New Orleans Times-Picayune tomorrow and on Tuesday? Do they have a back-up facility? What about the rest of the New Orleans local media? Will they be able to continue broadcasting/publishing?

UPDATE: A few minutes after posting this, I saw on CNN that tomorrow's Times-Picayune is indeed out:

(Click for full-size PDF version.)

As for whether there will be a Times-Picayune on Tuesday, the real qusetion, as squid wrote, is whether "there is still a city of New Orleans that needs a newspaper. It may be renamed the Superdome Island Times-Picayune." Which would be funny if it wasn't realistically possible.

Evacuees report in

8/28/2005 09:20:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Another e-mail from "Dr. J," a.k.a. Jolie Harris, in Hammond:
I unplugged my computer after I posted the e-mail because the lightning was affecting my computer. Surprisingly, since then, things have been amazingly quiet. We have lost cable but still have electricity. We know this won't last long though. Wish us luck!
Meanwhile, Harmony St. Charles, in Lacombe, writes:
We evacuated first thing this morning and are now at my father-in-laws home in Lacombe. Packed up what we could, boarded the house and left the rest at Katrina's whim. At the moment I hold no hope of returning to our house or neighborhood for quite some time.

This really may be a life changing event for so many of us here. My heart is truly in tatters at the moment and I feel so drained emotionally it boarders on numb. I'm sure this feeling is not held by myself alone. All that can be done now is to hang tight and see what happens. I really wish I could seem more positive but I can't. Tommorow, I'll pull myself up by the ol' boot straps and do what must be done to go on. Tonight, it's pity party time.
And electric mist reports on the scene in Baton Rouge:
By 8:30, most -- if not all -- of the local stores were closed. There are a few random Circle K types convenience stores open with long lines at their gas pumps. Carl tried to run one last errand, but could not get out of the neighborhood. Hwy 30, (which intersects with I-10), had a zillion refugees from New Orleans. Hwy 30 runs parallel to 1-10 and becomes Nicholson -- which, for those familiar with the Death Dome of LSU (the stadium), Nicholson runs right by that stadium. I don't know where everyone is going. It's scary to see they're just now getting out and may still have hours to go before they get somewhere safe.

Most of the gas pumps are empty. I doubt if there will be a tank of gas available here by tomorrow.
Last but not least, Joe B. at Metroblogging New Orleans writes, "All indications are that this is absolutely worst-case scenario." Indeed.

Getting closer and closer

8/28/2005 09:11:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Still no sign of weakening. Radar here. (Keep in mind, the eyewall is much stronger than it looks on radar right now; the radar can't see it too well yet, at this distance.)

Live video

8/28/2005 09:01:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

You can watch live video of the deteriorating conditions in New Orleans here. (Hat tip: Emily.)

The Weather Channel is smart

8/28/2005 08:31:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

As Debbie pointed out, The Weather Channel's only reporter in New Orleans, Jeff Morrow, has left. He's now north of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville. Meanwhile, the cable news networks still have reporters in the Big Easy, which will soon be a toxic lake. Methinks TWC knows what it's doing, and Shepard Smith & co. don't.

Hurricane Party's over

8/28/2005 08:13:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina has shut the French Quarter's legendary "hurricane party" bar:
It takes a mean, mean storm to shut down the hurricane party at Molly's at the Market, but Katrina did it, at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

The French Quarter bar, notorious for staying open during hurricanes despite dire warnings and curfew calls, was the last in the French Quarter to close, said Jim Monaghan, Jr., owner of the bar at the corner of Ursulines and Decatur streets.

"I thought about it long and hard," he said. "But I don't want 100 people in here if something happens."

In the past, the bar has remained open and usually chock full of regulars defying the storm and soothing their nerves with drink.

"We would have stuck it out if it was a category two or three, but there's 175 mph winds out there, and I don't want to be liable if somebody does something stupid in here tonight," Monaghan said. "And there's a bunch of drunks wandering around here."

At nearby Cafe Lafitte, Tip Andrews knew it was time to leave when he saw the green shutters on the mustard-colored building close.

"When they close, you KNOW it's bad," the Bourbon Street resident said Sunday as he took his two dogs, Gigi and Dijon, for a last walk before heading north. "They NEVER board up."
On a related note, I got an e-mail this afternoon from Houston Hardin, who said a friend from Louisiana who evacuated north into Alabama ran into a fellow Louisianan at a gas station who was upset that he couldn't buy booze at that county in Alabama on Sundays. Heh!

160 mph

8/28/2005 07:34:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

But still 904 millbars.

UPDATE: Steve Gregory writes: "Katrina has gone 'steady state' and has been at this intensity for almost 8 hours. The eye diameter has actually gone up a bit to 28NM which is truly remarkable for a storm of such intensity. There are no indications that the storm is, or will soon, begin any type of eye wall replacement cycle. The expansion from 22NM to 28NM is probably responsible for the slightly lower wind speeds being observed at Flight level near the core, even though the pressure has not changed (167kts vs 160Kts)." But then he adds:
[A]t the moment, satellite imagery and the RECON data shows that the eyewall is clearly expanding. It never was able to get lower than 20NM early this morning. Last night I conjectured that we may have seen an eye wall replacement cycle start this evening, and if it went slowly, the storm would weaken some before making landfall. (This is in addition to the potential for some light wind shear impacting the system before landfall.) At the risk of hitting enter on this, only to see Katrina begin a real eye wall cycling begin, I am wondering if what we are going to actually see is a 'pulsation effect' where the exiting eye wall expands out to say 40NM, and then shrinks back down towards 20NM by morning. And because there are absolutely no other known environmental variable (except some light shear in the NW quadrant by morning....) this would result in some additional easing of winds during the next few hours, followed by an increase back up to as much as 175mph winds again by daybreak. If this process actually unfolds,...I don't think I will be going to get much sleep tonight. ...

But even if my 'eye wall pulsation cycle theory' I just created out of thin air comes to pass - there still is the issue of increasing wind shear affecting the storm in the last 6 hours before land fall as the developing TROF in the central U.S. which led to Katrina's curve northward to begin with -- could simply over power the storms massive circulation just enough to weaken Katrina anyway. But given the immense size and intensity of this once per century type storm -- there may be 'no stopping' this storm -- since Super Storms, like Katrina, create their very own , self sustaining environment -- and can 'deflect' small outside influences - such light wind shear, or areas of dry air.

The consequences of the delayed evacuation order

8/28/2005 07:25:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Fellow blogger Matt Drachenberg of Overtaken by Events is deeply worried about his mother-in-law, who is trapped in a nursing home just west of New Orleans. He writes:
I just had a very frank conversation with the administrator of Jefferson Healthcare, (where my mother-in-law is trapped). They were forced to make a decision yesterday as far as evacuation. Mr. Ray was honest enough to tell me that, had he had all of the information, he would have made a different decision, but as it stands, my wife's mother will be riding out Katrina in a one-story bulding, with a broken pelvis, requiring a serious regimen of prescription medication.

I really wanted to get angry about this conversation. However, once I realized that, should my wife lose her mother, Mr. Ray would also be dead, I found it impossible to be upset. I thanked him for his service and his commitment and said that he'd be in our prayers. There are people in that facility that make less in a year than a lot of people make in a week of Blogads, but they're staying with the patients to which they've made a commitment.
Read that again -- they made their decision yesterday, and would have decided differently if they had better information -- and explain to me again how the mayor of New Orleans didn't completely f**k this up. Does anyone doubt that, if he had ordered a mandatory evacuation yesterday morning, the nursing home would have made a different decision, and Matt's mother-in-law would be safe now?

In other news, Jolie, a Louisianan who commented here under the name "Dr. J" last night, wrote me this e-mail about two hours ago, at 5:39 PM:
We just got our first feeder band in Hammond, LA north of Lake Ponchatrain. Our last houseguest has just arrived, so I guess we can hunker down for a long 24 hour stretch. I will keep you up on things until we lose electricity.
I'm praying for all of them: Matt's mother-in-law, Jolie and his houseguests, and all the thousands of other souls whose lives are in grave peril.

Oil tops $70/barrel

8/28/2005 07:04:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The markets aren't even open yet, and oil has already surged to $70.80 a barrel -- a new record high -- ahead of Hurricane Katrina, an increase of $4.67.

People are idiots

8/28/2005 06:46:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Fox News is interviewing a bunch of people who are going to be dead in 24 hours.

They're planning on staying put on the Mississippi coastline and riding out the storm.

They have no f***ing clue.

"Human suffering incredible by modern standards"

8/28/2005 06:14:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

AP: "Monstrous Hurricane Katrina barreled toward the Big Easy on Sunday with 175-mph wind and a threat of a 28-foot storm surge, forcing a mandatory evacuation, a last-ditch Superdome shelter and prayers for those left to face the doomsday scenario this below-sea-level city has long dreaded."

Also from the AP: "When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries."

The BBC has comments from people in the area.

Then there's this apocalyptic statement from the National Weather Service in New Orleans:
413 PM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005







I just wrote this in comments, and wanted to add it here:
Yes, the penchant for understatement has been driving me crazy for the last two days. The media has really dropped the ball on this, along with the local government. Sometimes it is necessary to recognize that the normal policy of "let's try not to spread panic" must give way to a policy of "okay, let's face it, panic is completely appropriate at this point" so that people realize exactly what they're dealing with.

Barring a last-minute change of intensity or track, which grows more unlikely with each passing moment, this will be the worst hurricane in American history, in terms of the extent of death and destruction that it will cause. There is no use comparing it to previous hurricanes.

Sunset over Katrina

8/28/2005 05:54:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

By the time the sun rises over this monster tomorrow morning, she'll be ravaging the coastline, quite possibly causing devastation that's unprecedented in modern American history. Our only hope is a well-timed eyewall replacement cycle, and even that might not be enough to save New Orleans. And so far, there's no sign of such a cycle (though the pressure seemingly has finally bottomed out, rising from 902 mb to 903mb to 904 mb over the last few hours).

Fleeing the storm

8/28/2005 04:31:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Ken of N.O. Pundit, who left New Orleans at my urging in the wee hours of this morning, e-mailed that he has reached Galveston. Good. Others, who waited until the mayor's belated evacuation order, are not so lucky:

If you're still in New Orleans, thinking about leaving... it's getting very close to the point where it's too late, if indeed that point has not already come. Tropical storm-force winds are expected to begin overnight tonight, sometime not too long after midnight. Jim Cantore cited 8:00 PM as the time by which you should be "hunkered down." Depending on the traffic reports in the direction you're thinking about heading, it may be time to start thinking about "vertical evacuations" -- heading up into high floors of office buildings or what have you, and riding it out. Then again, I'm not sure how well those buildings will withstand 200 mph wind gusts. The Superdome is also an option.

Argh, there are no words for the type of calamity that this thing is going to be.

UPDATE: Mike writes the following:
Be careful of vertical evacuations. Higher floors mean higher winds, and the frictional forces of air to ground contact abate. The experts on the N.O. CBS affiliate are stating that 2nd to 4th floor windowless rooms are good, but any higher causes additional danger due to increasing winds that offsets the advantage of being out of the water.

Rising tide

8/28/2005 04:15:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The storm surge is already beginning. Nothing significant yet, but it's low tide and the water isn't receding, which is never a good sign. The next high tide will be considerably higher. See also here and, more generally, here.

Lake Pontchartrain's water level is rising, too. But that's nothing to what it'll look like in 12 hours.

Winds down to 165 mph, pressure still 902 mb

8/28/2005 03:52:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina's maximum sustained winds are down to "only" 165 mph, according to the 4:00 PM advisory. Oddly, this is true even though the pressure remains at 902 mb. So I'm not sure what to make of it. Could this be the start of a weakening trend? An eyewall replacement cycle perhaps? We can only hope and pray.

UPDATE: Ah, it hasn't weakened at all; the NHC has merely re-evaluated the data. It sounds like Katrina was probably never really 175 mph to begin with. From the discussion:
Data from the stepped-frequency microwave radiometer instrument on board the aircraft suggest that the surface to 700 mb flight level wind ratio is not quite as large as we typically use...and the initial intensity is adjusted slightly to 145 kt.
Well, damn. It's not a weakening trend, then, just an "adjustment" in the estimation formula.

The discussion goes on to note that "hurricanes do not maintain such great intensity for very long." But that ignores the scary possibility that Katrina is an annular hurricane. Either way, "there are no obvious large-scale mechanisms...such as increased vertical shear...to weaken Katrina. The hurricane is likely to make landfall with category 4 or 5 intensity."

I have to say this at some point

8/28/2005 03:47:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I don't mean to trivialize what is going to happen to New Orleans and environs by highlighting my petty concerns... but the thought keeps entering unbidden into my head: "Damn. I wanted to go to Mardi Gras in 2007." Partying with friends in the French Quarter, and crossing that particular item off my life's to-do list, was my big plan for my final semester of freedom, before entering the dreaded real world. But now I'm not sure there will be a French Quarter in 2007.

I'm glad I went there in 2002, if only for a day. It may prove to have been my one and only visit to the Crescent City as we know it.

P.S. Here's a cool picture, though an ominous one, now. Here's another.

Third-strongest hurricane ever

8/28/2005 03:35:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Hurricane Katrina's minimum central pressure is down to 902 mb, which is fourth-lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. The only hurricane that were more intense, pressure-wise, were Hurricane Allen in 1980 (899 mb), the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 mb), and Hurricane Gilbert (888 mb). Only the '35 hurricane made landfall at that intensity; Allen and Gilbert weakened somewhat before coming ashore. Hopefully Katrina will do the same... but it's very hard to see any reason why she would weaken substantially.

With the pressure dropping to 902 mb, I think the winds may yet have some further increasing to do, unbelieveable though that might seem. The record for maximum sustained winds in the Atlantic is 190 mph. We could see Katrina reach that.

"Model guidance for intensity is not encouraging," writes Charles Fenwick at Eye of the Storm. Latest SHIPS output is for 180 mph winds in 12 hours with no indication of weakening before landfall." As for the track, "The 12Z runs of GFS, GFDL and NOGAPS models do not provide much hope for New Orleans." Here's the GFS for 7:00 AM tomorrow.

175 mph sustained winds

8/28/2005 09:48:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

So says the 10:00 AM advisory. Gusts to 215 mph. Pressure at 907 mb.

"This is going to be an unprecedented event in the history of the city of New Orleans, and we want everybody to get out." --Mayor Nagin

Okay, now I'm really going to take that nap. See you in a few hours.

Mandatory evacuation for New Orleans

8/28/2005 09:26:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Mayor Nagin has finally ordered everyone out.

"The storm surge will most likely top our levee system," he says.

The live footage of cars streaming out of the city on both side of the interstate, with the Superdome and the city skyline in the background, superimposed on CNN's split-screen with the mayor and the governor ordering everyone out of the city, is really very, very eerie, strikingly apocalyptic.


8/28/2005 08:42:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I stayed up all night watching Katrina blow up from a Cat. 3 into a Cat. 5... and with another marathon night and morning of hurricane-blogging ahead, I need to sleep now. I'll try to wake up in time for the 4:00 PM advisory at the latest, hopefully before then. In the mean time, you can follow the long collection of links at left to stay abreast of the storm. In particular, check out Eye of the Storm, Dr. Jeff Masters and Steve Gregory for the latest. And of course, the National Hurricane Center. I'll be back in a few hours.

Katrina likely to strengthen further

8/28/2005 07:31:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here's the latest on Katrina: minimum central pressure is down to 908 mb, making Katrina the sixth most intense hurricane in the recorded history of the Atlantic basin. Maximum sustained winds are still 160 mph, with gusts to 195 mph; hurricane force winds extend up to 85 miles away from the center, and tropical-storm force winds go 185 mph out; and the strike probability for New Orleans is at 29% and rising with each advisory. The visible satellite picture is just incredible:

Dr. Jeff Masters says Katrina is likely to strengthen even further. He says she is "in the midst of a truly historic rapid deepening phase--the pressure has dropped 34 mb in the 11 hours ending at 7am EDT," and he suggests that "at the rate Katrina is deepening, she could easily be the third or fourth most intense hurricane ever, later today." And even if the pressure doesn't fall any further, "The winds are likely to increase to 'catch up' to the rapidly falling pressure, and could approach the all-time record of 190 mph set in Camille and Allen. Winds of this level will create maximum storm surge heights over 25 feet, and this storm surge will affect an area at least double the area wiped clean by Camille, which was roughly half the size of Katrina. Katrina has continued to expand in size, and is now a huge hurricane like Ivan. Damage will be very widespread and extreme if Katrina can maintain Category 5 strength at landfall."

So, can she maintain Category 5 strength until landfall? Normally the answer would be no, but Charles Fenwick raises the scary possibility that Katrina might be something called an "annular hurricane" -- which I must admit I'd never heard of before -- meaning that it might be able to avoid eyewall replacement cycles and maintain Category Five status all the way to landfall:
[Annular] hurricanes do not fluctuate as rapidly [as normal major hurricanes]. The most recent case was Ivan, which retained category five status for 30 consecutive hours.

The tell-tale sign of an annular hurricane is that the convection is uniform, making a perfect circle, i.e. there are no spiraling bands, just a donut. That is almost exactly the case with Katrina, as one can see from infrared satellite. Another feature is a larger than average eye (average being 14 miles). The message from the recon plane shown in my last full update shows that Katrina's eye is 25 nautical miles in diameter, so it is well above average. As far as conditions associated with annular hurricanes go, some of the conditions are most certainly there. Average Sea Surface Temperatures associated with them are 26.9° C. Katrina is certainly on the more favorable side of that (ref). Weak vertical wind shear is another key factor. That is certainly the case in the immdiate vicinity of Katrina. ...

So enough of the theory, what does this mean practically?

It means that the situation has gotten even worse. If Katrina is indeed annular, then the chances of her retreating down to say category three status are nil. If we make the somewhat unlikely presumption that she has reached her maximum strength (and again if she is annular), then the averages of such hurricanes suggest that she would only weaken to 145 mph at landfall. That would be a storm with Charley-like intensity, but on a much larger scale as Charley was puny compared to the present size of Katrina.
This could prove to be the greatest American natural disaster of our lifetimes, the sort of thing that will be remembered for generations.

Assuming for the moment that Katrina is not an annular hurricane, Dr. Masters offers a good overview of the possibilities: "Katrina's intensity at landfall is likely to be Category 4, but could easily be Category 3 or 5. She will undergo another eyewall replacement cycle before landfall, and this will weaken her maximum winds by 20 - 30 mph for a 12-hour period. Additionally, some increase in shear is possible in the 12 hours prior to landfall, which could weaken Katrina's winds another 10 - 20 mph. If we are extremely lucky, both factors will conspire to knock Katrina down to a Category 3 and she will hit at low tide. Given that the storm is so large and is already pushing up a huge storm surge wave in front of it, even a weakened Category 3 Katrina hitting at low tide will cause an incredible amount of damage. A stretch of coast 170 miles long will experience hurricane force winds, given the current radius of hurricane force winds around the storm. A direct hit on New Orleans in this best-case scenario may still be enough to flood the city, resulting in heavy loss of life and $30 billion or more in damage."

An angry rant

8/28/2005 07:25:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

What the hell is the point of even having such a thing as "mandatory evacuations," if you're not going to order them right now (or better yet, about 24 hours ago) for New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi?!? Don't the officials down there get it?!? ONE OF THE MOST INTENSE HURRICANES IN RECORDED HISTORY IS 24 HOURS AWAY FROM QUITE POSSIBLY DESTROYING THEIR CITIES!!!

If it's not appropriate to order a mandatory evacuation now, when would it ever be appropriate to do so?!? A huge, still-strengthening Category 5 hurricane... a high-confidence forecast track... an extremely vulnerable, densely populated area in the very center of the track... bottom line, this is nuts!!! Hundreds or perhaps thousands of people are going to die because their local officials inexplicably refuse to pull the trigger and tell them they have to get out!!!

Sunrise over Cat. 5 Katrina

8/28/2005 06:51:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The sun is just rising over monstrous Hurricane Katrina:

For the full-size, wide view, click here and zoom in.


8/28/2005 06:20:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Well, that was quick.

910 millibars. 160 mph. (Source: TWC.)

UPDATE: And as if that wasn't scary enough... the water with the greatest total heat content is still ahead!

Katrina could get even stronger! This thing could rival the 1935 Keys hurricane before it finishes deepening!

As for how strong it will be when it comes ashore... that will depend entirely on the timing of those totally unpredictable eyewall replacement cycles.

915 millibars: Katrina will be a Cat. 5 soon

8/28/2005 06:12:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

According to the latest reconaissance data, Katrina's minimum central pressure is down to 915 mb. That's lower than Andrew was at landfall (922 mb), and almost as low as Camille (909 mb).

A pressure of 915 mb equates to Category Five intensity. It may take the winds a few hours to "catch up," but I expect that by the 10:00 AM advisory, or a couple of hours thereafter at the latest, we'll be looking at a Category Five hurricane.

If it made landfall right now, Katrina would be the third-most intense hurricane ever to hit the United States.

Quote of the day

8/28/2005 06:05:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"If you're not scared, you should be." --Jim Cantore, The Weather Channel

UPDATE: Here's an audio clip of what Cantore said, and here's a picture of him with his classic bug-eyed look:

150 mph (and counting)

8/28/2005 05:04:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Hurricane Center just upped Katrina's max winds to 150 mph.

Says the 4:00 AM discussion:
The intensity forecast anticipates that Katrina could approach category five status prior to landfall. The SHIPS guidance actually does forecast [160 mph] at 24 hours... but it is also possible that internal structural changes [i.e., eyewall replacement cycles] could cause fluctuations in the intensity... so the official forecast peaks at [155 mph]. [Category Five begins at 156 mph. -ed.] While the details of the landfall intensity cannot be not known at this time... Katrina will be a very dangerous hurricane at landfall.
Hurricane-force winds now extend out 85 miles from the center, and tropical-storm force winds extend 185 miles out. This is a huge storm, as well as an enormously powerful one. A wide swath of territory is going to suffer severely when it strikes.

With an eye that big and development this explosive, the morning's first visible satellite pictures should be very dramatic. I'll be watching for them here (click to zoom).

Last chance

8/28/2005 12:57:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

If you are on the central Gulf Coast, especially in New Orleans, do not wait for daylight -- LEAVE NOW! There will be mass panic when the stragglers wake up in the morning and find out that Katrina is Cat. 4 (or maybe Cat. 5 by then!) and 24 hours from landfall. The roads will fill up very quickly. Now is your last, best chance to beat the rush. Get the hell out!


8/28/2005 12:48:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Talk about rapid intensification:
Cripes. And she's still got nearly an entire day of perfect conditions ahead.

(Hat tip: CFR.)

[UPDATE, 1:24 AM: The full advisory is out now. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center!!! (That's up from 45 miles three hours ago.) And there are wind gusts to 170 mph, according to the marine advisory.]

[UPDATE, 2:56 AM: Weatherblogger Steve Gregory writes, "On the most recent SAT imagery, the eye appears to be nearly 50NM across! If the eye was to shrink down to 15NM, we would probably see a storm as strong as Camille."]

35-foot wave heights over the Gulf, according to The Weather Channel.

My personal prediction: I think it will definitely get to Category 5 later today. Whether it makes landfall as a Cat. 5 will depend on eyewall replacement cycle timing. It will probably go through at least one more cycle before landfall, but will that cycle be just before landfall, or long enough before landfall that it has time to re-strenghten again after the cycle is over?

P.S. Katrina has just become a Category 4 hurricane, and on CNN they're talking about Martha Stewart. CNN Headline News is showing a clip of P. Diddy. Fox News is on commercial. MSNBC has Stone Phillips babbling about some human-interest story. And we wonder why some people aren't taking this storm seriously enough?

A success story

8/28/2005 12:41:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Well, I've successfully helped convince one person in New Orleans to evacuate. Woohoo! A few hours ago, I sent Ken of N.O. Pundit the analysis by Charles Fenwick of Eye of the Storm indicating that all the elements are in place for Katrina to become a Category Five. A few minutes ago, Ken wrote back:
Consider me convinced. I am leaving in the next hour or two for Galveston where I have friends. As much as I'd like to believe that NO will slip past another one (and boy, our city has "charmed" many residents into believing it can never happen), this one seems to have too many "perfect storm" elements. Your links were the clincher. Blogs are good for rapid education!
He's making a wise choice. Others in the Crescent City and environs should follow suit. GET OUT!

That's a lot of isobars

8/28/2005 12:15:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Unisys's forecast surface map for 36 hours from now, based on the GFS global model, is rather ominous. (Hat tip: Coriolis Wind.) And here's the 42-hour GFS map.

On a lighter note...

8/28/2005 12:12:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Weather Channel's Stephanie Abrams is filing reports from Gulf Shores, AL in a not-entirely-unflattering gray t-shirt. Is she planning on having a wet t-shirt contest with herself when the Katrina's rain bands roll in? :)

UPDATE: Thanks to Bill Woods, here's a photo:

No place to go, no way to get there

8/27/2005 11:53:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Che of The Shattered Prayer is "one of those thousands of New Orleanians with no place to go and no way to get there." She writes:
Fear is very frustrating when its a helpless fear, when you know from the bottom of your sinking heart that there is absolutely nothing you can do. Except pray. Except maybe put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye. Fear is lonely when you see other people in their cars, heading out of town, packing up together, boarding up their houses together, going to the store to buy beer together. When your friends who live elsewhere just don't understand why you're so f***ing afraid. And fear is sorrowful when your best friend, your cat, isn't very well-protected by the powers that be, when the shelters don't allow pets. My most grievous fear is for my cat.
Earlier, on a lighter note, she wrote about the supplies she needed to buy: "bottled water, food that doesn't have to be cooked, batteries... beer maybe? Its kind of a tradition in New Orleans to get drunk for a hurricane. God forbid anyone should be sober and alert during a life-threatening emergency." Heh.

In all seriousness... pray for Che. Because she doesn't want to leave her cat (whose name is Bea) and can't take her to a shelter, she plans to "hunker down in my rickety little cottage and hope for the best. 'The best' being not getting covered in 20 feet of water."

UPDATE: Good news! Che has found herself a ride out of town:
My neighbors have all decided to leave, and are kind enough to take me with them. We're leaving first thing in the morning, several car-loads full. I'm relieved, but still frightened. I don't know what will be waiting when I return. ...

There is something that feels primal and instinctual about fleeing ahead of the storm. Since the earliest ages of pre-history people have looked out to sea and said, 'Its comin' up a bad cloud' (as they say in middle Georgia), then started running in the other direction. No shame in it. Get me the hell out of here.
No shame at all. N.O. Pundit adds his two cents on that point: "By the by, it's not wrong to leave when you don't know whether things could go wrong and you can still get out. It is dreadfully wrong to wait until you are certain you must get out and you can't." Well said.

Pressure drops again

8/27/2005 11:01:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

936 mb, and looking very impressive on satellite.

If it's not a Category Four yet, it will be very soon.

P.S. Charles Fenwick writes:
While the traditional worst case refence for a hurricane is Camille, the potential path of Katrina makes me reach further back for such a reference, 105 years to be specific. I am referring, of course, to the Galveston storm of 1900. If Katrina bears on New Orleans, that is the sort of devestation we will see. While the death toll need not be high, inaction by individuals and the government could lead to that.

Pray for last minute shear, pray for an ever so slight delay in the sharpening of the turn to the north such that Katrina heads towards the less populated areas of the coast.
Various Lord of the Rings movie quotes come unbidden to my mind. Like, "there is always hope." (Aragorn). Or, "courage is the best defense you have now." (Gandalf). Alas, this is not a fantasy movie. The death and destruction, wherever it may occur (New Orleans would be the worst scenario by several orders of magnitude, but any landfall by this thing will be bad), will be very real.

NHC urges N.O. mayor to issue mandatory evacuation

8/27/2005 10:58:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Okay, so let me get this straight: the governor calls the mayor during dinner, and basically says "HEY, IDIOT, CALL THE F***IN' HURRICANE CENTER!" It took a phone call from the governor to convince him to make this call?!? Well anyway, the mayor calls the NHC, and they basically tell him, "GET EVERYONE OUT OF YOUR CITY NOW!!!" So now, finally, the mayor is apparently planning to order first mandatory evacuation in city history tomorrow morning. About damn time. Story:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he may call for the first-ever mandatory evacuation in city history after talking with the head of the Hurricane Center who said a storm surge of 20-25 feet could be expected with major hurricane Katrina.

Nagin said he would consider ordering evacuations by Sunday morning and may employ buses and trains to help get people out of the city.

In an interview on Eyewitness News, Nagin said his Saturday night dinner was interrupted by an urgent call from Governor Kathleen Blanco who asked Nagin to call the Hurricane Center.

Nagin said the Hurricane Center Chief told the mayor that if it was possible at all, he should order an evacuation due to winds that could reach 145 miles per hour sustained and 170 mile per hour gusts.

Nagin said he would put his wife and family on a plane and he urged everyone to do anything they could to get out.

"All models say this storm will land right on top of New Orleans," he said.

Nagin said he would call churches and urge them to have their congregations adopt seniors or someone who doesn't have transportation and get them out.

"I don't want to wake up one day and not have done all I could do with a catastrophe on top of us."
Um, well, "all you could" might have included already having ordered a mandatory evacuation by now, instead of waiting until 24 hours before the hurricane hits. It also might have included calling the Hurricane Center on your own initiative!! Argh. I am not remotely impressed with Mayor Nagin at the moment.

"This one is different"

8/27/2005 10:08:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Axodys has a good round-up of New Orleans bloggers' posts. My favorite is this:
Dear Evacuation Monkeys:

This one is different. You officially have my permission to freak out.
Heh. Indeed.

Hurricane Warnings up; barometric pressure down

8/27/2005 09:52:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Hurricane Katrina's minimum central pressure is down to 939 mb -- that's the lowest it's been yet, and it corresponds to Category 4 strength. But it may take the winds a few hours to "catch up" with the pressure, especially given Katrina's newfound huge geographic size. Officially, the winds are still at low-end Category 3 strength, or 115 mph. I think that will change by the 4:00 AM advisory, and certainly by the 10:00 AM advisory I expect Katrina will be a Category 4 hurricane (131 mph+). I wouldn't be at all surprised if she's a high-end Category 4 or even a Category 5 by afternoon or evening. All the conditions for rapid intensification are there; now it's just a matter of watching and waiting to see if it happens, or perhaps more precisely, how bad it is.

Meanwhile, most of the Hurricane Watches have been upgraded to Hurricane Warnings.

(The blue-and-pink zones on the far east and far west are Hurricane Watches and Tropical Storm Warnings; the red area is under a Hurricane Warning.)

How to not get caught on the highway during a major hurricane 101

8/27/2005 09:25:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Traffic isn't terribly bad on the roads leading out of New Orleans right now, according to Jeff Morrow on The Weather Channel. Specifically, he says the road to Baton Rouge is pretty clear. So now is still a good time to evacuate. When the idiot mayor finally announces the mandatory evacuation order tomorrow morning, that will change.

Dr. Jeff Masters: 20% chance of New Orleans calamity

8/27/2005 08:59:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The weatherbloggers are kicking into high gear. Dr. Jeff Masters has another excellent post:
We may be on the verge of a rapid deepening phase, since the shear and dry air on the northwest side of the hurricane appear to be lessening, and the hurricane is moving over a deep layer of warm water of almost 90F. The areal size of the hurricane continues to expand, and Katrina is growing from a medium sized hurricane to a large hurricane. Where the pressure will bottom out after this deepening phase is anyone's guess, and I believe something in the 915 - 925 mb range is most likely [Hurricane Andrew was 922 mb at landfall; Camille was 909 mb. -ed.], which would make Katrina a strong Category 4 or weak Category 5 hurricane by tomorrow afternoon. The deepening phase may last longer than usual for a major hurricane, since Katrina is expanding in size and thus has more mass to spin up.

After this phase of rapid deepening, another eyewall replacement cycle will occur, and the timing of that cycle will be worth billions of dollars and perhaps many lives. There is no way to predict when this eyewall replacement cycle will occur. Another major factor will be the timing of the tides--if Katrina hits at high tide, there will be billions more in damage. There is still the possibility, too, that the trough that is now steering Katrina to the north will also create enough shear to reduce her to a Category 3 storm at landfall. This is what happened to Hurricane Ivan last year.

New Orleans finally got serious and ordered an evacuation, but far too late. [Actually, they didn't even "order" it, they merely suggested it. -ed.] There is no way everyone will be able to get out of the city in time, and they may be forced to take shelter in the Superdome, which is above sea level. If Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane, the levees protecting the city will be breached, and New Orleans, which is 6 - 10 feet below sea level, will fill with water. On top of this 6 feet of water will come a 15 foot storm surge, and on top of that will be 20 foot waves, so the potential for high loss of life is great. Given the current track and intensity forecast, I'd put the odds of this at about 20%.

Katrina could cost $100 billion, spike oil prices to $75/barrel

8/27/2005 08:57:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

On top of everything else, Hurricane Katrina could be economically devastating, costing the insurance industry countless billions and sending gas prices even higher than they already are. Let's start with the latter issue. Steve Gregory writes:
Hurricane Katrina is heading for 'Prime Oil Producing Real Estate' in the north central Gulf. Unless the forecasts prove very wrong (as in landfall 250 miles to the east, or the storm is much weaker) -- Oil prices will jump tremendously on Monday. Last year IVAN took out fully 6% of the entire U.S. annual production of oil and a fair amount of this year's record high prices has to do with the 'threat' of another IVAN. On Friday, the 'market thought' Katrina would be a CAT 2 in the Florida Panhandle - and priced oil accordingly. If Katrina 'stays on course', prices will jump $3-$5 per barrel Monday morning. Further increases to $75/bbl may follow Tuesday if there are reports of serious infrastructure damage on par with that done last year by IVAN - by far the most expensive hurricane to affect the U.S. oil producing industry.
As far as the potential for direct costs from hurricane damage, Dr. Jeff Masters says Katrina could be the "costliest hurricane ever" if she hits New Orleans as a Category 4 hurricane:
Insurers estimate that Katrina already did about $1 to $4 billion in damage (total damage is roughly double insured damage). This is a shocking number for a Category 1 hurricane, and bodes ill for the residents of New Orleans and the U.S. insurance industry if Katrina makes a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 4 storm, which would likely cost $100 billion. But, New Orleans' amazing run of luck could well continue at the expense of Mississippi or Alabama or Florida. Like Camille in 1969, Katrina may come ashore far enough east of New Orleans to largely spare it.
Only time, and eyewall replacement cycles, will tell.

Another Camille?

8/27/2005 08:15:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Because no one else seems willing to say this, I'm going to keep screaming it until my face turns blue: Katrina could be another Camille. Metereology student Charles Fenwick of Eye of the Storm explains why:
If you were writing a book on hurricanes and wanted to get examples of the factors needed to create a category five hurricane, you would not have to search hard. For all exist right now. Low shear? Doesn't get lower than this (parts of Katrina are in areas of sub-5 knot shear). High amounts of heat potential? Red freaking hot, right in the middle of Katrina's path. A well-organized, already powerful hurricane? Here you go.

Can I guarantee a category five? No. Is Katrina going to try her damndest to make it? Yes. The only things limiting her are space, time and the sole weakness of a powerful hurricane: An unpredictable eyewall replacement cycle that temporarily reduces its strength.
One eyewall replacement cycle is ending. Now Katrina has probably a solid day of intensification ahead. I expect to see some amazing pressure drops overnight tonight and/or tomorrow. A well-timed second eyewall replacement cycle, occuring shortly before landfall (but not too long before, because then it will have time to restrengthen), now appears to be the only thing that can the Gulf coast from a calamity significantly worse than any of the recent hurricanes that have struck there. And there is no guarantee that such a lucky event will occur.

If you think you can ride out Katrina because you survived Ivan and Dennis, you're wrong. You need leave, and you need to do it now, before it's too late. As Fenwick writes:
If you are living on the coast or an otherwise low-lying area inside the danger cone portrayed in the National Hurricane Center forecast and you do not have plans to leave, then you are putting your life in grave danger. ... There is still time to secure life and property, but it is quickly running out. For the residents of the northern gulf coast, now is the time to take decisive action to do both.
Steve Gregory also has an excellent post about eyewall replacement cycles and what's going on with Katrina.

Katrina strengthening again

8/27/2005 07:56:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The barometric pressure is dropping again:

10:00 AM: 940 mb
1:00 PM: 949 mb (weakening because of eyewall replacement cycle)
4:00 PM: 945 mb
7:00 PM: 944 mb
Latest recon data: 941 mb

The wind speeds often take a number of hours to "catch up" with the pressure. Katrina never reached its full potential as a 940 mb hurricane prior to the eyewall replacement cycle (which, I think, is why the winds never dropped below 115 mph, even as the pressure rose). So now that the pressure is back down in the 940 mb range, I expect it won't be long before the winds start ramping up.

Tell it like it is, Jim

8/27/2005 07:54:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Watching the Weather Channel... Jeff Morrow is in New Orleans. Stephanie Abrams is in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Jim Cantore is in Biloxi, Mississippi, trying to position himself to be in the heart of the right-front quadrant, or as he calls it, "home." :)

Cantore seems to be the only person on the The Weather Channel who is willing to utter the dread words "Category Five." Good for him. People along the coast need to realize exactly what they're dealing with here. There is a substantial chance that this could be not just another Ivan, not just another Betsy, but another Camille. Will hearing that scare people? Yes, and that's good! The important thing here is not to prevent panic. It's to cause just enough panic to convince people to LEAVE.

The mayor of New Orleans is an idiot

8/27/2005 07:34:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I can't emphasize enough what a bad decision I think it is for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to delay the mandatory evacuation order until tomorrow morning. According to the Weather Channel, lots of tourists in the French Quarter are happy the evacuation is only "voluntary," and are planning to stay in town until it becomes mandatory. Idiots. Those people may find themselves stuck on a highway with 180 mph wind gusts howling around them. (Of course, if that happens, they won't actually be "stuck" for long. Nor will they be on the highway.)

Landfall is expected to occur around midday Monday. So by waiting until tomorrow morning, Mayor Nagin will be giving people scarcely 24 hours to get out. Perhaps he's hoping to ease the evacuation traffic jams by starting things off with a trickle, but that's awfully risky.

Will Ray Nagin go down in history as the mayor who fiddled while New Orleans drowned? Could be.

Watches extended east, track inches west; Warnings tonight

8/27/2005 06:53:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Sorry for the lack of updates. I had a headache earlier and needed to rest. That turned into a three-hour nap.

Luckily (or unluckily, for New Orleanians), not much changed while I was asleep. Katrina is still at 115 mph; she's still in a concentric eyewall cycle, but seems to certain to strengthen once it's over; and the forecast track still looks like a worst-case, potential doomsday scenario for New Orleans. Katrina's sustained winds are still expected to reach 145 mph at landfall, with gusts to 180 mph, and it is still possibile that she'll get even stronger than that, becoming just the fourth Category Five hurricane in recorded history to make landfall on the United States mainland.

Hurricane Watches, as expected, have been extended eastward to the Alabama/Florida border, but that doesn't indicate an rightward lurch in the track; the NHC simply put the Louisiana warnings up a few hours early, to give New Orleans and vicinity more time to prepare. The track has actually edged ever-so-slightly to the left, but the below-sea-level city of New Orleans is still directly in the crosshairs.

For some reason that I can't even begin to comprehend, the evacuation order for New Orleans is only "voluntary" at this time. The mayor says he might issue mandatory evacuations tomorrow morning, depending on what the forecast says. What is he waiting for??? The forecast calls for a DIRECT HIT! This is the story we've been fearing for decades! And if he waits until 24 hours before landfall to order people to leave, it may very well be too late! People getting stuck on the highways while a Category Five hurricane makes landfall is one of the most horrifying scenarios imaginable!!!

Memo to New Orleanians who are thinking about "riding it out"

8/27/2005 03:46:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Dr. Jeff Masters puts the odds of a catastrophic "filling the bowl" scenario -- i.e., the destruction of New Orleans -- at approximately 10 percent.

So here's the question you should be asking yourself, if you live in the Big Easy (or anywhere inside the "bowl") and are hesitant to evacuate: If you knew there was a 10 percent chance terrorists were going to set off a nuclear bomb in your city on Monday, would you stick around, or would you evacuate? That's essentially equivalent to what you're dealing with here.

I sure as hell would leave.

Tulane vs. USM

8/27/2005 03:11:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

College Football Resource points out that the Tulane and Southern Miss football teams are scheduled to play each other next Sunday (Sept. 4) on Southern Miss's campus in Hattiesburg, MS.

Whether that game actually occurs will depend on several things, including how badly Hattiesburg (~75 miles inland) is hit by Katrina, and perhaps more importantly, whether there is still a Tulane University come next Sunday.

Traffic moving north of N.O.

8/27/2005 02:50:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I just talked to Tom Grace, the blog reader who e-mailed me last night saying he and his family would be leaving New Orleans this morning. They are indeed on the road, halfway to Jackson, MS. (Their destination is Memphis.) He said there's moderate traffic, moving at 65 mph. He's going to call back later, when he's off the road, so I can give him the necessary information so he can file audioblog reports.

Here's what he e-mailed me a few hours ago, before leaving:
We have the house almost buttoned up and the car half packed. We will be leaving New Orleans within a couple of hours. Have to pick up my 87 y.o. mom, then head North, across Lake Pontchartrain, where we will meet up with my wife's family before taking I-12 to Memphis. At the moment, we are planning to take both cars, though we may leave one of them on the North Shore, in Covington, LA, which might be a safe place for it. ... I just want to leave early, before "the lemmings" as I call them. Most people will decide to leave about the same time, then it could take 10 hours to get 30 miles, as it did for my son and his family last year when they waited just a few hours to evacuate for Hurricane Ivan.
Anyone else in Katrina's path -- or in the process of evacuating from it -- please feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to file some first-hand reports, either by audio, or if you have a camera phone, or whatever.

Tulane closes

8/27/2005 02:36:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tulane University, in New Orleans, is closing at 5:00 PM today. The dorms are closing until Wednesday. Classes are cancelled until Thursday. Orientation is cancelled. Everything is shutting down. Everyone is being told to leave:
New first-year students who are arriving on campus today should make plans to leave campus as soon as possible.

* If you can leave with your parents today, do so.
* If you have friends or relatives with whom you can seek shelter, do so now.
* Students who are unable to leave New Orleans should contact their Resident Assistant immediately for university assistance.

No students will be allowed to occupy residence halls after 6 p.m. today.

Katrina: a critical moment

8/27/2005 02:20:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

We're at a critical moment in Hurricane Katrina's development right now. The next few hours are probably the last, best chance for a serious disruption that could ultimately prevent Katrina from making landfall as a monster hurricane. Weatherblogger Steve Gregory explains:
Katrina is currently in a presumably temporary weakening cycle due to an eye wall replacement that began 5 hours ago ... In all likelihood, Katrina's max winds at the surface are now of only CAT 2 intensity. ... Katrina will complete the eye wall replacement cycle, and the eye will again begin to shrink down by this evening ...

NOTE: Katrina's eye wall cycling, that has resulted in a 50NM wide eye, leaves Katrina in a 'vulnerable' state -- and dry air intrusion could take place during the next 6 hours which will trash the intensity forecast. Until this evening, we really won't know for sure. ...

[T]here will be a period of time on Sunday when the shears will approach zero, and, the outflow to the NNW of the storm will be enhanced by the high level, southwesterly winds ahead of the developing TROF. This 12-18 hour period of 'perfect' environmental conditions and winds, including even warmer waters associated with the loop current, and the semi-permanent 'pool' of warm water in the Gulf south of Louisiana -- will provide ideal conditions and the opportunity for Katrina to rapidly intensify, and the ability to attain strong CAT 4 if not CAT 5 intensity (assuming she manages to re-intensify this evening!)
So, what happens in the next six hours or so is absolutely critical. Hopefully some dry air will get in there and mess things up.

Katrina a Cat. 3; expected to be 145+ mph at landfall

8/27/2005 12:58:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina officially became a major hurricane overnight, with 115 mph winds, and her expected intensity at landfall was upped to 145 mph. Moreover, according to the 10:00 AM discussion, "IT IS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION THAT KATRINA COULD REACH CATEGORY 5 STATUS AT SOME POINT BEFORE LANDFALL."

Also at 10:00 AM, the NHC issued a Hurricane Watch for southeastern Louisiana, including New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain.

"This is not a test," said New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin. Evacuation orders for the city will be issued very soon. Already, nearby Placquemines and St. Bernard parishes have urged people to leave. ("According to the state's plan, New Orleans and Orleans Parish call for evacuations after the low-lying areas to allow people who live south and east of the city to get on the road first and head for safety.") Mayor Nagin urged New Orleanians to "get their supplies, get their medications in order, clean up storm drains and get ready. Because it looks as if we're going to get hit."

The Hurricane Center will likely expand the Hurricane Watches eastward, to cover the Mississippi and perhaps Alabama coastlines as well, later today. It sounds like they did follow my advice and fudge the normal timetable a bit for New Orleans, where hurricane preparedness is a uniquely difficult prospect.

It bears repeating just what we're dealing with here: the potential destruction of a city, and the deaths of many thousands who are unable or unwilling to evacuate. Dr. Jeff Masters puts the odds of this scenario at one in ten:
I'd hate to be an Emergency Management official in New Orleans right now. Katrina is pretty much following the NHC forecast, and appears likely to pass VERY close to New Orleans. I'm surprised they haven't ordered an evacuation of the city yet. While the odds of a catastropic hit that would completely flood the city of New Orleans are probably 10%, that is way too high in my opinion to justify leaving the people in the city. If I lived in the city, I would evactuate NOW! There is a very good reason that the Coroner's office in New Orleans keeps 10,000 body bags on hand. The risks are too great from this storm, and a weekend away from the city would be nice anyway, right? GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away. Get out now and beat the rush. You're not going to have to go to work or school on Monday anyway. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so--particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.
And it only gets worse. In addition to increasing in strength, Katrina has also substantially increased in size, as you can see for yourself here. Hurricane-force winds now extend outward up to 40 miles, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 150 miles, from the center; that's up from 25 and 85 miles, respectively, just 12 hours ago. Katrina "will deliver a widespread damaging blow wherever she comes ashore," says Dr. Masters.

Okay, now for the good news, such as it is. Katrina hasn't strengthened since she reached 115 mph about eight hours ago. She's been going through an eyewall replacement cycle, and it's possible she might weaken a bit this afternoon (though I'm not sure if that's good or bad news, as it might cause people to become dangerously complacent, only to have Katrina blow up into a monster tomorrow). Also, according to the discussion, "There is a possibility that southerly or southwesterly shear could affect Katrina starting at 48 hr...and as always happens in hurricane of this intensity additional concentric eyewall cycles could occur." That would be good... although, 48 hours from now, she'll already have come ashore, won't she? Hmm... HURRY UP, SHEAR!!!

Those two things -- wind shear and eyewall replacement cycles -- are the only factors that might prevent Katrina from being another Charley, or worse, another Camille, at landfall. Water temperatures aren't going to do the trick, as they did with Opal and Dennis. The sea-surface temperatures near the shoreline have warmed since July, there's a patch of water due south of New Orleans that is extremely warm and deep; that could easily be the engine that boosts Katrina to Cat. 5 during the final hours before landfall. Which, of course, would be very, very, very bad.

110 mph

8/27/2005 02:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Hurricane Katrina now has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, putting her on the threshold of Category 3. I'm going to bed now; by the time I wake up, I expect her to be a major hurricane.

The Big One?

8/27/2005 01:00:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here's an excellent essay, written in 2002, about the mortal threat that New Orleans faces.

If you live in New Orleans, here is the official evacuation info from the Louisiana State Police that you'll probably be needing tomorrow.

If there's a storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, this storm-surge gauge (located here) will see it, as will these water-level monitors: 1, 2, 3. (More data here and here.)

Finally, here are some traffic cams from the New Orleans area. Could get interesting tomorrow.

UPDATE: I just got an e-mail report from Tom Grace, a resident of Metairie, LA, just west of New Orleans. He writes:
I just got back from tieing up my boat, putting out extra lines and fenders, and generally preparing her as best I could for Katrina, in case she comes here.

We are in the process of putting things together to load into the car, so we can leave in the morning. We have reservations in Memphis, the closest place we could find a pet-friendly hotel.

Wish us luck. We will need it. Our press reports that because of the gradual destruction of the barrier islands, which used to provide protection for us, our city now faces extreme danger from even a Category 2 storm. In the past it was believed that we faced that danger only from a Category 3 or stronger storm.

See, for example: [here and here].

More later, if we get a chance.
Good luck, Tom and family. And thanks for the e-mail.

Hurricane guestbloggers wanted!

8/27/2005 12:27:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Anyone in Hurricane Katrina's path, whether staying behind or preparing to evacuate, if you would be interested in guestblogging here, please e-mail me. I can make it possible for you to guestblog via cell phone if you are evacuating. Whatever the situation, I'd love to have some first-hand reports.


8/26/2005 11:22:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I'm not a meteorologist. I'm just an amateur weather enthusiast, a law-student blogger who happens to be a hurricane buff. But if I lived in New Orleans, I would definitely leave at this point. Tonight. Barring a major change in the forecast, I expect the evacuation orders to come tomorrow. That will produce massive traffic jams and general confusion. My advice? Beat the rush; get out now. For it is imperative to get out. Katrina probably won't destroy New Orleans -- but it could. So if anyone in New Orleans is reading this, I'd personally advise you to get the hell out of dodge.

Models "cluster" on near-worst-case track

8/26/2005 09:56:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The 10:00 PM discussion of Hurricane Katrina is pretty much all bad news. Let's start with the new forecast track, which has once against shifted to the left, and is now very, very close to being the doomsday scenario for New Orleans:

Here's a closer view. This is pretty much the very track that disaster planners have feared for years, the one that features a major hurricane "moving in from due south of the city" with the eye passing "next to New Orleans but just to the east," thus literally blowing the overflowing Lake Pontchartrain into the city, turning the Big Easy into a modern-day Atlantis. (Here's what it might look like. Here are some maps.)

Here's my (entirely unofficial) rendering of a close-up of the NHC's track, using Google Maps, and based on the forecast latitude and longitude points for 48 and 72 hours (and a conservative estimate of recurvature):

Compare and contrast with Camille and Betsy, both of which were further from New Orleans than this would be.

This is not good, people. And it gets worse:
It is worth noting that the guidance spread has decreased and most of the reliable numerical model tracks are now clustered between the eastern coast of Louisiana and the coast of Mississippi. This clustering increases the confidence in the forecast.
Great... a high-confidence forecast for a track that could kill 100,000 people and utterly destroy a major American city.

Oh, and another bad thing: after leveling off this afternoon and evening, Katrina is strengthening again. She's up to 105 mph now. The official forecast brings her to 130 mph at landfall, with 160 mph gusts. One computer model thinks she'll have sustained winds of 140 mph. Another says 150 mph. Barring some unexpected intervening force, this thing is going to be a monster. The water out there is very warm and very deep, and the atmosphere is very conducive to strengthening. There's nothing standing in Katrina's way except, well, the Gulf Coast.

I expect Hurricane Watches and massive evacuations tomorrow.

If I can glean any good news out of this discussion, it might be this: "Katrina continues to move stubbornly toward the west-southwest or 250 degrees at 7 knots along the eastern side of a very strong deep-layer mean high centered over Texas." I like that word "stubbornly," because when hurricanes are moving "stubbornly," it often means the forecasts will continue to be wrong because the computer models really are not understanding the dynamics of what's going on. In this case, that might mean Katrina will continue to move further west than expected, and perhaps New Orleans will be spared as landfall occurs west of the city, in the central parishes. This is actually my personal forecast, but bear in mind, I'm not a meterologist, I just play one on the Internet.

Bottom line... New Orleans is in serious trouble if Katrina follows the NHC's projected path.

CAVEAT: Hurricane forecasting is an inexact science. 72-hour predictions have a substantial margin of error. The entire northern Gulf Coast should be keeping a very close eye on Katrina. I am focusing on New Orleans because a direct hit there would be catastrophic in a way that no other scenario would be, NOT because other areas are safe. If you live anywhere from western Louisiana to the central Florida panhandle, you should be watching Katrina closely.

P.S. Charles Fenwick writes: "Residents of coastal southeast Louisana, Mississippi, and western Alabama need to start taking action tomorrow morning to prepare for the arrival of what will be a dangerous hurricane. Due to the warming of the Gulf of Mexico that has taken place throughout the summer, there is far more fuel for the hurricane as it approaches the coast. Dennis ran out of gas as it were during his last hours [over the water]. This is much less likely to be the case for Katrina as deep warm waters extend almost all the way to land."

State of emergency in Louisiana

8/26/2005 09:44:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The governor of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency. Good. Residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas need to realize now just how serious the threat from Hurricane Katrina really is. Much of the media seems convinced that this is still exclusively a Florida issue, which is just not true. Drudge's headline is "Katrina could be Cat. 4 at second Fla. strike," which is ridiculous, considering the current expected landfall is along the Alabama/Mississippi border, and that's on the eastern edge of the computer-model guidance. That's not to say a Florida landfall isn't still possible -- it certainly is -- but people need to be making preparations RIGHT NOW all along the northern Gulf coast, especially New Orleans.

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers! Scroll down for my complete coverage of Katrina. Also, click here to read about what the hurricane could do to New Orleans if she's strong enough and makes a direct hit on the city. Bottom line: tens of thousands could die.

Here's a look at the computer-model guidance right now:

Remember, the worst-case scenario is "a hurricane moving in from due south of the city." And that's what the computer models are forecasting right now. Check out the GFS.

My wild guess? Katrina will spare New Orleans -- making landfall west of the city, over the central parishes (a la Andrew).

Honoring the troops

8/26/2005 07:57:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

This is a nice story. (Hat tip: David.)

Humbled by Katrina

8/26/2005 05:54:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The 4:00 PM forecast track has Hurricane Katrina aiming for Mobile Bay, which would be Apocalypse Lite -- really bad, but an order of magnitude less bad than a direct hit on New Orleans. However, the Mobile scenario is on the "east end of the guidance envelope," according to the discussion. We could easily see some further westward drift in the NHC's predicted track at 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM. Bottom line, the forecast is very much in flux, and it's far too early to know where this thing is headed.

If you stop and think about it for a moment, there's something incredibly humbling about the situation we're in right now, watching and waiting to see where Katrina goes. A week from now, the city of New Orleans -- a great, industrialized city in the most powerful nation in the history of the world -- might be annihilated, or it might be devastated but not destroyed, or it might be mildly damaged, or it might be perfectly fine. We have absolutely no control over, and a very limited ability to predict, which of these scenarios will occur. We are utterly at nature's mercy.

Which scenario occurs -- annihiliation, devastation, mild damage or no damage at all -- will be determined, when you boil it down to the bare essentials, by the movements of countless air and water vapor molecules through the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. The vagaries of atmospheric dynamics will determine the fates of thousands of human beings.

A miniscule variation in the upper-level pressure gradient right now could alter Katrina's track enough that, 72 hours from now, it ends up 100 miles east or west of where it otherwise would have been. That is more than enough to differentiate life from death, city from no city. Indeed, as Charles Fenwick points out, even 30 miles here or there can separate a close call from a direct hit. "The difference between absolute disaster, major damage...or annoyance is within the margin of forecast error at 12 hours." Right down to the bitter end, the air molecules control our fate. If Katrina gets close enough, a last-minute "wobble" could save, or doom, the Big Easy.

If you're a religious person, I guess those atmospheric dynamics might seem a bit less random. But then, devastating natural disasters have happened before, and they'll happen again, so I'm not sure how comforting the idea of the Guiding Hand of God is in this situation. I tend to say things like "pray that New Orleans is spared" because I'm really not sure what else to say or do; prayer is the only thing that even has the potential to work. Anyway, supposing there is a God or some sort of higher power (which I firmly believe) and supposing He makes a habit of intervening in our everyday lives (of which I am far less certain), the fact remains that His decisions are just as inscrutable as the molecules' random movements, and thus it's just as humbling regardless of whose mercy we're at: nature's or God's. Either way, we do not control our own destinies nearly to the extent that we like to believe.

That might sound a bit depressing, but like Casey, I find it awe-inspiring, in a way. He said it in the context of the forces that shaped the Earth billions of years ago, but it applies here too: "I find our fragility both beautiful and humbling, daunting and inspiring. We're here because this indifferent world of ours somehow worked out just right, but we're simultaneously subordinate to these cycles of destruction and (when lucky) creation that are much larger than any one species."

New Orleans in peril

8/26/2005 01:57:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

At the risk of being alarmist, we could be 3-4 days away from an unprecedented cataclysm that could kill as many as 100,000 people in New Orleans. Such a scenario is unlikely -- the conditions would have be just right (or rather, just wrong) -- but IMHO, it's not nearly unlikely enough to feel good about things. If I were in New Orleans, I would seriously consider getting the hell out of dodge right now, just in case. Once the evacuation orders are issued, if it comes to that, it'll inevitably be an absolute madhouse, despite officials' best efforts. (More here.)

Some computer models are taking Katrina on a worst-case scenario track: almost due north over the marshlands and straight into the below-sea-level city, or just to its west. If the hurricane is strong enough -- and Category 4 is looking more and more likely -- that could very possibly "flood the bowl," breaching the Lake Pontchartrain levees and "turn[ing] 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... trap[ping] hundreds of thousands of people in buildings and in vehicles... [while] high winds and tornadoes...tear at everything left standing." (Source.) And, even if evacuation orders are issued, lots of people won't leave. Hence the prediction of between 25,000 and 100,000 deaths in a worst-case direct hit.

I, and everyone else, had the same fear when Ivan was approaching last September. That storm ultimately took a right-hand turn and hit near the Florida/Alabama border. Georges in 1998 was also a close call, but it, too, veered right at the last minute. Will Katrina do the same? Maybe, but increasingly the computer models are suggesting not. Note the distinct westward shift in the GFS model's predicted landfall point between last night and this morning. And the GFS is not alone. According to Charles Fenwick at Eye of the Storm:
Every global model plus the GFDL shifted its track to the west its forecast to the west in its 12Z run. Forecasts are now in a fairly tight cluster between eastern Louisana and Mississippi.

While it is generally unwise to hop onto one run of the models as the gospel, it is meaningful when every model makes the same type of shift.

This definitely shifts the area of concern much further west than I had been figuring.
CAVEAT: Hurricane forecasting is an extremely inexact science, especially when we're talking about what will happen in 72+ hours. Hence my statement that the New Orleans scenario is "unlikely." It would be statistically unlikely even if the Big Easy were directly in the center of the NHC's forecast track, because these things can, and usually do, change. That's why the highest coastal strike probability percentages at this point are under 20%. Katrina is going to hit somewhere along the Gulf Coast, but the actual odds of her taking any particular track, even the most likely one, are still quite low, because there are just so many possibilities. But despite that fact, if New Orleans is anywhere near the center of the risk area, residents need to prepare as if there is a 100% chance of a direct hit, because the 90% chance it won't happen isn't going save their lives if the 10% chance it will happens to come true.

Anyway, it will be very interesting to see what the National Hurricane Center's discussion at 4:00 PM EST says. Presumably this new computer-model guidance will cause them to shift the official forecast track substantially to the west. But how far west? And how long will they wait before issuing watches and warnings? Normally, watches go up approximately 48 hours before the leading edge of the storm is expected to hit, but I wonder whether the NHC might fudge that a bit, and issue watches earlier, if New Orleans looks like the target, in light of the time-consuming logistical nightmare that a citywide evacuation would be. On the other hand, an evacuation that ultimately proves to have been unnecessary is economically costly and, more importantly, may have a vigilance-lowering "boy who cried wolf" effect, especially since it would be the second time in as many years. So this is going to be a tough call for the NHC. Here's hoping they get it right... and here's praying that New Orleans is spared.

Katrina intensifying rapidly; Cat. 4 by Monday?

8/26/2005 11:06:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The National Hurricane Center issued a special advisory a half-hour ago, indicating that Hurricane Katrina has rapidly strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, and further intensification seems inevitable:
Given the rapid improvement in the inner core structure and the sharp pressure drop...rapid intensification seems likely for the next 12 hours or so. Afterwards...steady intensification to near category four strength by 72 hours appears to be in order given the very warm Gulf waters beneath the hurricane and the vertical shear forecast to decrease to less than 10 kt by 48 hours.
So where will this soon-to-be-a-monster hurricane go? The computer models are all over the map (more here). According to the 10:00 AM discussion:
The NOGAPS and GFDN models have made a large jump to the west over Louisiana...whereas the majority of the NHC models take Katrina inland over the northeast Gulf Coast [i.e., Alabama or the Florida panhandle]. The official forecast track remains in the right portion of the model guidance envelope.
My New Orleans nervousness increases.

A Picture Share!

8/26/2005 09:52:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

It's Friday, and that means it's time to catblog! I took this picture the other night. It shows Butter resting her little kitty head on Becky's laptop. How cute! :)

Well, that didn't take long

8/26/2005 07:49:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

As of 4:00 AM EST, Katrina is a hurricane again. She was a tropical storm for exactly four hours.

Here's the latest forecast track. It's shifted slightly to the left, but the Florida panhandle is still seen as the likely target. Most of the computer models agree, though the exact location is up in the air, which is not surprising for a landfall that's 3 to 4 days away.

The intensity forecast conservatively brings Katrina to 105 mph at landfall, but the discussion says, "It is certainly possible that Katrina could attain major hurricane status [i.e., 111 mph+] before making landfall somewhere on the northern Gulf Coast."

Katrina turns south, stays strong

8/25/2005 11:09:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Hurricane Katrina has turned southwestward and sped up a bit, so she will emerge over the Gulf of Mexico in just a few hours. (Radar loop here.) That's good for south Florida, which will get less rain than expected, but bad for wherever this hurricane heads next. Katrina hasn't weakened much at all during her brief sojourn over the Florida peninsula; even now, as the center nears the state's west coast, she's still at 75 mph. The NHC's forecast that Katrina would only attain minimal Category 2 strength over the Gulf was based on the premise that she would weaken to 50 mph first. So her failure to significantly weaken is distinctly bad news, and should substantially change the intensity forecast. With steady intensification expected once the center re-emerges over water, I suspect Katrina will be at least Category 3 at second landfall.

UPDATE: Charles Fenwick at Eye of the Storm writes: "More than four hours over land and STILL a hurricane. Remarkable." (Now it's more than five hours.) But Fenwick offers a good explanation for why: "Katrina's southerly course is taking her over the Everglades. The difference between the Everglades and open water is slight."

Regarding the track, Steve Gregory says "there is is still way too much uncertainty with the exact timing of the turn northward, and the entire Gulf coast, from Louisiana eastward to Tampa could ultimately be at risk for the next and final, landfall of Katrina." Dr. Jeff Masters says "an area from New Orleans to Cedar Key, Florida at risk. In the center of this risk area lies the U.S.'s very own hurricane magnet, the Pensacola region, where Ivan and Dennis struck."

I can certainly understand Pensacolans being nervous. What makes me nervous is that Katrina's southwestward turn and refusal to weaken makes a New Orleans doomsday scenario considerably more plausible than it seemed just a few hours ago. Still unlikely, but more likely than it was.

UPDATE, 12:17 AM: Katrina has finally weakened to a tropical storm as of midnight EST, approximately six hours after making landfall. But that won't last long. She's already got her "feet wet" over the Gulf, seven hours ahead of schedule.

Mr. Spartz... our new celebrity...

8/25/2005 10:31:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Notre Dame news & information website has an article about Emerson Spartz, the ND freshman who created the Harry Potter fan site MuggleNet, whose web traffic puts this website to shame. In fact, MuggleNet is currently the #2,041-ranked website on the entire Internet. (BrendanLoy.com, in case you're wondering, is #279,177.)

Regarding Spartz's introduction to Notre Dame, the article notes, "the University's 'sorting hat' has designated him a resident of Knott Hall, and he intends to study business." It also says Spartz "will no doubt bring his own brand of magic to the Class of 2009." Hopefully he won't have any Snape-esque professors (or Malfoy-esque classmates) who resent his celebrity status...

Disaster strikes Beverly Hills :)

8/25/2005 09:42:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Drudge reports:
Rolling blackouts leave 500,000 in California without power... Rodeo Drive hit; Beverly Hills Jamba Juice forced to give away smoothie inventory, according to witness... Developing...
Oh, the humanity!!!

More here.

Deadly fire in Paris

8/25/2005 08:29:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

BBC Breaking News alert: "At least 16 people have been killed and many others injured in a fire in a building in Paris, the French fire service says."

More: "French news agency AFP says the dead are African nationals. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has gone to the scene."

Nothing like a front-row seat

8/25/2005 08:13:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

From the NHC's 8:00 PM EST advisory:

Christian Wilson, a 1L, writes that his family lives next-door to NHC Director Max Mayfield, and "we only shutter [our windows] when he does." Talk about a personalized forecast! :) As Katrina approached, "He shuttered only the west side of his house because he says the winds are coming from that direction. I found that pretty amusing....a partial shutter situation."

Hurricane Katrina

8/25/2005 02:55:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Katrina is now a hurricane.

UPDATE, 5:57 PM: Katrina has made landfall.

Here's the latest radar.

Katrina is the sixth hurricane to hit Florida in the last two years. But it, at least, is not a major hurricane. We'll see what happens on second landfall. (Official track, computer models.)


8/25/2005 02:46:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

In every school year, there are various "firsts." First class... first football game... first night out at The Backer... and of course, first nap on the law-lounge couch:

(Photo by Lisa.)

Katrina almost a hurricane, nearing Florida

8/25/2005 02:06:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Storm Katrina (seen here on radar) is strenghtening as she nears south Florida, with 70 mph winds as of 2:00 PM. She's expected to be a hurricane (i.e., 74+ mph winds) when the center makes landfall later tonight or early tomorrow. The likely landfall point is near Fort Lauderdale, according to Dr. Jeff Masters.

Here's a news article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

After hitting Florida peninsula and slowly inching westward, what then? The official track calls for a second landfall, again as a Category 1 hurricane, on the Florida panhandle Sunday night or Monday morning. But there are lots of different computer model scenarios, ranging from the Mississippi Delta to Savannah.

Free speech, the flag, and a trip down memory lane

8/25/2005 12:50:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

One of the cases in our initial assignment for Professor Garnett's Freedom of Speech class, Brown v. California Department of Transportation, was particularly interesting for me because I was living in California when the case was decided, and I wrote an op-ed column about it -- more than two years before starting law school -- in which I disagreed with the District Court's ruling (which was later affirmed by the Ninth Circuit in the case that we read). Naturally, I just had to dig up my old article to see what I had written. Here it is. It was published in the USC Daily Trojan on February 13, 2002.

The case revolves around two peace activists who sued the state Department of Transportation (a.k.a. "Caltrans"), and won, after their peace-protest signs were taken down from a state-owned freeway overpass while American flags were allowed to remain up on that same overpass and other overpasses across the state. (This was during the initial months after 9/11, when, as you'll recall, American flags were spontaneously showing up everywhere. It was also during the Afghanistan phase of the war on terror.) Caltrans claimed it was implementing a viewpoint-neutral safety policy; the court disagreed.

Alas, part of my DT article appears to have been based on a faulty premise: I thought Caltrans's policy banned "signs" but allowed all "flags," not just the American flag. According to the case that we read earlier this week, that's not true; only American flags were allowed. (That's what I get for trusting the L.A. Times instead of reading the case myself.) So that invalidates some portions of my argument (e.g., stating that the activists could have put up a "peace flag" instead of a sign reading "At What Cost?"). But the latter, and more important, part of my argument still holds water. Excerpt:
Lest we forget, we all live in the United States of America, of which the stars and stipes are the universal national symbol. Waving the flag is not necessarily an endorsement of any particular president, policy, or military action. The flag is the symbol of our republic, its Constitution and its ideals, including the right of the people to oppose their government's policies. Neither the Bush Administration nor the anti-war movement owns the American flag, and the flag is not, on its face, an endorsement of either.

Certainly, many who favor the war on terrorism use the flag as their symbol. But there is no reason why those who oppose the war could not also wave the flag, and with just as much justification. They are just as patriotic, just as American, as the war's proponents. They are following the Constitution by exercising free speech and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. ...

But many refuse to accept the flag for what it is. Instead of claiming it as their own--which it is--they read into it everything that they disagree with, and conclude that all flag-wavers are robotic Bush cronies. Every American flag becomes the enemy.

Judge Whyte apparently bought into this logic as well. The premise that underlies his ruling depends on it. After all, if the flag is accepted as a universal symbol of American ideals and the American Constitution, then it is in total harmony with the "At What Cost?" banner. But if it is regarded as a symbol of support for the war, then it is a "viewpoint" in opposition to the banner, and both must be treated equally.

The American flag should not be considered equal to other banners and signs, whether those banners and signs support or oppose the present government. A "Support Our Troops" sign and an "At What Cost?" sign must have the same constitutional standing, but a flag is something else entirely. It is intrinsically neutral in a political debate. The only thing it stands for is the ability of both sides to engage in the debate.
I'm not certain if I would make the same argument today, as relates to the court's decision. I do personally believe, strongly, that the flag should be a neutral symbol in debates over specific government policies, but that doesn't necessarily mean that, in the real world, it is, or that it is perceived as such by the majority of the public. So perhaps Judge Whyte (and, later, the Ninth Circuit) was indeed correct to rule that the government's action was not viewpoint-neutral in this context.

On the other hand, I must admit, the 2005 law-student Brendan still finds the 2002 editorial-columnist Brendan's argument relatively compelling, if I do say so myself. :) Either way, it's interesting (for me, at least) to read what I had to say about this case, back when I was a mere news junkie and journalist-in-training, and not yet a law junkie and lawyer-in-training.

Read the whole thing. :)

Computer models still confused about Katrina

8/25/2005 12:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The 11:00 PM discussion on Tropical Storm Katrina notes:
This forecast is rather difficult since one of the more reliable models...the GFS...shows that the cyclone barely touches the East Coast of Florida before moving northward....while the outstanding GFDL moves Katrina south of due west across extreme South Florida and the Keys as a very intense hurricane. The GFDL scenario would be very dangerous for South Florida. This appears to be unrealistic at this time but because of the good past performance of this model...we must pay close attention to future model runs.
The GFDL track is the green line on this map. Here's the official track.

"Back into the law school groove"

8/24/2005 10:44:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Alex explains why 1Ls are funny, and why "it feels a bit strange being a 2L."

Strange website traffic spike

8/24/2005 09:57:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

For some reason that I can't figure out, I'm suddenly getting an enormous amount of traffic via this Google Images result. Of my last 1,000 hits, 224 have come from that page! (This phenomenon is helping produce an overall increase in my traffic.) But why would so many people suddenly be doing Google searches that result in finding a picture of George Bush kissing a USC volleyball player? Any ideas?

Awesome new Harry Potter trailer

8/24/2005 07:55:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There's a new Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire trailer out, and it's very, very, very cool. Click here to choose from various media-player options, or just follow the direct link to the largest available QuickTime version (alas, not downloadable, so far as I can tell). Hat tip: MuggleNet (whose webmaster, Emerson Spartz, is a freshman at Notre Dame, incidentally).

A few highlights from the trailer:

Chaos at the Quidditch World Cup.

A Death Eater at the Quidditch World Cup.

More Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup.

Dumbledore and the Goblet of Fire.

The stadium for the first task of the tournament, with Hogwarts in the background.

Harry evading the dragon on his broomstick.

Harry and Ron getting ready for the Yule Ball.

Hermione dancing with Krum at the Ball.


Harry being threatened by the merpeople.

Krum, himself under the Imperius curse, preparing to curse Harry.

Harry reacting to Krum's wand in his face.

Cedric and Harry in the maze.

Unsurprisingly, there is nothing in the trailer (that I can spot, anyway) from the climactic scene, in which You-Know-Who rises again. Presumably, they're keeping that sh*t under wraps under November 18. :) Can't blame 'em.

It would be a massive understatement to say that I am looking forward to this movie. In fact, I'd have to say it's the most eagerly anticipated film in my world since Return of the King, and that's saying something. Even two books later, Goblet of Fire remains my favorite of the Harry Potter books, and it is also definitely the one that should make the best movie, if done right. And if the trailer is any indication, it looks like Mike Newell is doing it right. WOOHOO! I can't wait!!!

New and improved

8/24/2005 07:06:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The inside of Notre Dame Stadium has a new look, as we saw today while waiting in line for tickets. Photos here.

Katrina could be a major hurricane at landfall

8/24/2005 06:40:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Russell may have been on to something when he wrote yesterday that Tropical Storm Katrina, then just a nascent tropical depression, could become a monster hurricane before landfall. The official forecast calls for Katrina to hit south Florida as a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds on Friday, but the latest NHC discussion raises the possibility that she may reach major hurricane status:
With the improved banding features...symmetrical upper-level outflow...and relatively weak shear...at least steady intensification of a normal rate of 10 kt per 12 hours until landfall occurs seems justified. This is similar to the SHIPS intensity model...but much less than the now very bullish GFDL model which brings Katrina to 111 kt [130 mph, borderline Category 3-4] just before landfall. It should be pointed out that with SSTs near 31c and a low shear environment...conditions are favorable for possible rapid intensification to occur between now and landfall. This is suggested by the SHIPS model experimental rapid intensification output...which indicates a 57 percent probability of that occurring. The only inhibiting factor is the dry air that surrounds Katrina and has been working its way into the inner-core region and eroding the deep convection. If the dry air mixes out within the next 12 hours...then intensities would likely be higher than the official forecast is indicating.
There's also the matter of re-emergence over the Gulf of Mexico. Charles Fenwick at Eye of the Storm writes, "It is a bit soon to rate the probabilities of the scenarios, however, it is worthwhile for residents of the Gulf coast from Mobile, Alabama to St Mark's, Florida to be aware of the possibility of a significant hurricane affecting their area in six days."

Fenwick also notes that, thanks to Katrina, the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season has now given rise to the earliest recorded formation dates for the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh named tropical storms of the season. That's eight consecutive "earliest ever" records! (Details here.) However, the twelfth-storm record is August 28, and nothing else looks too likely to develop at the moment, so that streak may be nearing an end.

In other news, I've found some more computer-model maps: here and here.

Ty on ND: "I don't talk about it"

8/24/2005 04:44:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Earlier this afternoon, prior to Bob Huggins's resignation, an article about Washington football coach Ty Willingham (formerly of Notre Dame) was the featured story on the front page ESPN.com. He's now been bumped below the fold by a coach with considerably less "Integri-TY," but here's the article anyway. Excerpt:
Willingham has been endlessly asked ... [w]ith time for reflection, what are his feelings on his treatment at Notre Dame, where he was unceremoniously fired after only three seasons? ...

[T]o what he termed "the Notre Dame episode," he said: "I won't touch that. I don't talk about it. It's a great place. A wonderful place. I did not do all I wanted to do."
The article also reveals that Ty has grown a mustache.

Robertson v. Chavez update

8/24/2005 04:34:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Pat Robertson has apologized for calling for Hugo Chavez's assassination. (Hat tip: Bea.) Now if only Hugo Chavez would apologize for being a corrupt, communist, terrorist-supporting thug.

I still like Scientizzle's idea.

P.S. Robertson's an idiot, and I make no apologies for him. But, to my understanding (and I am prepared to stand corrected if I can be proven wrong on this point), he's very much a marginal figure on the Right, not generally taken seriously by very many people. If an equally marginal figure on the Left -- say, Dennis Kucinich, or perhaps Al Franken -- had made a similarly idiotic comment, would it have gotten anywhere near this much play in the MSM? Just asking!

Huggins shown the door

8/24/2005 02:42:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Cincinnati's 2:00 PM deadline for troubled head coach Bob Huggins to resign or be fired has come and gone. I've heard no word on what he decided. (Hat tip: Patrick.)

UPDATE: He resigned.

Overheard in the lounge

8/24/2005 02:36:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"International Law isn't law! It's just a bunch of good ideas." --a 3L

Ticket man

8/24/2005 02:25:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

At one point, I was holding a pile of checks totaling $6,552 in football-ticket money. Wow. I should have made a run for it, legally changed my name to "University of Notre Dame," and cashed 'em. :) But noooo, I did what I was supposed to do, and bought everyone's tickets with 'em -- 39 ticket booklets, all told:

24 days and counting till Michigan State!!!

In other news, here's another pretty picture:

A Picture Share!

8/24/2005 01:21:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Getting football tickets for our "mega-group" of 39 law students and spouses. GO IRISH!!! (er, except on Oct. 15)

The Class of '08

8/24/2005 12:17:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

For anyone who might be interested, here's the unofficial 1L roster. Eight of 'em are from Princeton! That's more than we had from any single school except Notre Dame. (We had 7 from UCLA and 4 each from several schools.)

There are two Trojans, both of whom I've corresponded with via e-mail, and one of whom I've met (and will be sitting with on Oct. 15). And I just met the girl from Gonzaga, with whom I will undoubtedly have a lot to talk about in March. :)

UPDATE: It just occurred to me that spambots might follow the link from my site and terrorize the entire 1L class with unwanted e-mail, since their addresses are linked there. So I've removed the link. Anyone in the law school who is interested in the link, e-mail me and I'll pass it along.

CT sub base saved

8/24/2005 10:27:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Groton sub base will not close after all. Connecticut is saved! :)

(Hat tip, again, to Brian of Briandot fame.)

Hurricane Watches up

8/24/2005 10:11:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Storm Katrina is now forecasted to become a hurricane by landfall, and Hurricane Watches are up from Vero Beach southward to Florida City. Here are the latest computer models.

Quote of the day (two days ago)

8/24/2005 09:36:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"I'm not the best football analysisist." --me, on Monday, having a George W. Bush moment, drawing a blank on the correct noun for "one who engages in analysis." (That would be "analyst.")

P.S. We could win in Iraq if only our military analysisists employed better strategery. :)

Quote of the day

8/24/2005 09:29:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"Oh, sweet! Dr. Phil's on? I can't go to my interview!" --Nick

The blog is hungry

8/24/2005 09:21:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The blog is hungry. The blog will not be ignored. It is an insatiable little beast, a creature still unclassified by science -- hairy, warty, slobbering, with its own fiendish agenda. I often fantasize about killing the blog, but I worry that it will respond just like the crazed computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey": It will try to kill me first.
The article comes with an illustration:

It also includes this line: "A thousand years from now, blogs will have explored the universe, telling alien races about the human beings who used to be masters of the blogs but, because of irrational and stupid blog postings, had to be exterminated." Heh.

And this: "And let me just add, purely for the sake of Google: sex, alien abduction, Oprah, Tom Cruise, Lindsay Lohan, jumbo hooters the size of watermelons, Dick Cheney, Mark of the Beast, Armageddon, free money." LOL!

(Hat tip: Briandot.)

UPDATE: It worked! Heh.

1Ls are funny

8/24/2005 09:14:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There are far too many 1Ls in the lounge, reading studiously, for such an early hour in the morning. Don't they have classes to skip? Tuesday-night drinking binges to sleep off? C'mon, people, get with the program! ;)

UPDATE: Now they're talking about du Lac, and whether they can get away with having sex with their girlfriends in university housing. Haha! NERDS!

(If any 1Ls are reading this... we kid because we love... and because we were you, one year ago. And that makes you funny to us. You'll understand in a year.)


8/24/2005 07:21:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Depression 12 is now Tropical Storm Katrina, the eleventh named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Second Axis?

8/24/2005 06:15:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I'm not endorsing this viewpoint, but I thought it would make potentially interesting (or should I say "explosive"?) fodder for discussion:
Forget about the 'axis of evil.' The true Second Axis is taking shape before our eyes. China will be the organizer, though it will avoid direct confrontation with the US for as long as it can. The key proxies will be Iran's fascist regime and the oil-rich, faux-communist dictator of Venezuela. Old Europe will applaud with one hand. Russia will play a double game, but China will double-cross it. I have little doubt that nukes will detonate before the game ends.
Discuss. :)

Another plane crash

8/24/2005 06:12:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

In the fifth major airline accident this month, a plane split in two during a emergency landing Peru, killing at least 41 people. (Hat tip: Briandot.)

Proto-Katrina update

8/24/2005 05:50:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Depression 12 is slowly strengthening. It's not Katrina yet, but it's getting there.

Most of the computer models are continuing to call for a track that takes the storm over Florida and then back out over the Gulf of Mexico (though they diverge on the details). Here's the official track. Looks eerily familiar.

Meteorology student Charles Fenwick says: "Residents of south Florida will certainly want to keep a close eye on this, because if it were to become become organized, it could intensify fairly quickly (but not so much that it would be a dire threat)." Fellow weatherblogger Steve Gregory agrees: "Despite some extremely warm water ahead of the system right up to the coast, all the ingredients for rapid intensification are not quite there. When reaching the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday -- the chances of significant intensification seem a lot more possible." Here's a look at wildly divergent computer-model intensity forecasts.

Immaculate conceptions confuse Ohio school officials

8/23/2005 07:33:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Drudge is headlining this story, which reveals that 65 of 490 female students at Timken High School in Canton, Ohio are pregnant. The article opines, "School officials are not sure what has caused so many pregnancies." Umm... I don't wanna say anything, but I think the cause is relatively clear...

I got a callback!

8/23/2005 07:13:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Offensive mascot update

8/23/2005 05:09:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The NCAA has granted permission for Florida State University to keep using its "Seminoles" nickname, after presented with evidence that the Seminole Tribe of Florida approves of the usage.

So, I guess this means Notre Dame should ask Bertie Ahern whether it's okay to keep calling ourselves the "Fighting Irish." USC officials may have a somewhat harder time locating King Priam to get his permission to remain the "Trojans."

What I want to know is, when will the Floridian victims of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne and Dennis rise up and demand that the University of Miami stop using its offensive nickname? (Hat tip: Nick.)

Trojans vs. Buckeyes?

8/23/2005 04:05:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

If Stewart Mandel's Rose Bowl projection comes true, the folks in Pasadena will think they've died and gone to heaven.

Now that's irony

8/23/2005 02:14:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Whose idea of a sick joke is it that Father Jenkins's inauguration as Notre Dame's new president is the Thursday and Friday before the Washington game -- against Ty Willingham, the coach whose ouster Jenkins helped orchestrate over the objections of the ex-president, Father "Monk" Malloy?

I wonder... in his heart of hearts, who will Monk be rooting for?

T.D. 12

8/23/2005 01:47:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Just a few hours after Tropical Depression Jose was declared dead over Mexico, Tropical Depression 12 formed over the southwestern Bahamas. It could become Tropical Storm Katrina.

UPDATE: Hurricane Katrina? I could happen; Hurricane Watches may be required later tonight, as T.D. 12 may threaten Florida late in the week.

P.S. This is interesting:
The NWS rules governing the naming of tropical cyclones specify that...within a basin...when a cyclone forms from the remnant of a previously existing cyclone...the old name/number is retained. Tropical Depression Twelve has a complex genesis that likely includes a mid-level remnant of former Tropical Depression Ten. A review of satellite and rawinsonde data over the past week or so suggests that a second disturbance approached and combined with the mid-level remnant of Tropical Depression Ten on 20 August. Because it is impossible to determine which of these two systems is associated with today's genesis...we have elected to use the designation twelve rather than ten for the new depression. This situation differs from last year's regeneration of Ivan...in which the low-level remnant of that system remained a distinct feature that could be followed continuously until it regenerated.
Well, it's interesting if you're a nerd like me, anyway. :)

Robertson calls for Chavez's assassination

8/23/2005 01:05:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Pat Robertson wants Hugo Chavez dead. Chavez's vice president calls that a "terrorist statement." Wow -- talk about a conflict between two utterly unsympathetic figures.

A study in contrast

8/23/2005 12:44:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A couple of cool, contrast-y pictures of campus yesterday evening:

Getting verklempt

8/23/2005 11:41:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. In the phrase "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech," "Congress" doesn't mean "Congress," "no law" doesn't mean "no law," "abridging" doesn't mean "abridging," and "speech" doesn't mean "speech." Discuss.

For the record, Smith College rocks

8/23/2005 10:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

In case y'all hadn't noticed, I hold few things sacred and will make fun of almost anything. In keeping with that spirit, I made a joke in a post below about Smith College, which evidently upset some people. I won't repeat it, but suffice it to say, the comment was intended entirely in good fun. I've had a couple of friends/relatives -- straight and gay alike -- who went to Smith and made similar jokes, and that's where I pick it up from. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with making such a joke, so long as it's made in the right spirit, but it's all a matter of context, and I understand the concerns that are being raised along those lines. In light of the sometimes tense nature of the gay-rights debate as Notre Dame, perhaps it's unwise to repeat such jokes on a blog that's widely read here -- especially during the first week of school -- as some people (on either or both sides of the debate) may not understand that I really and truly am just kidding, even with a smiley face next to the comment. So I removed it. I apologize to those who were offended.

The fallacy of "moral authority"

8/23/2005 10:10:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Liberal columnist Jonathan Chait takes issue, and rightfully so, with the idea that Cindy Sheehan's views -- their correctness and their importance -- should be judged on the basis of her personal tragedy:
Everybody, of course, ought to feel horrible for Sheehan, and to honor her son's bravery. But Sheehan's supporters don't just want us to sympathize with her. They believe that her loss gives her views on the Iraq war more sway than the views of the rest of us. As Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times, "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." ...

One of the important ideas of a democratic culture is that we all have equal standing in the public square. That doesn't mean stupid ideas should be taken as seriously as smart ones. It means that the content of an argument should be judged on its own merits.

The left seems to be embracing the notion of moral authority in part as a tactical response to the right. For years, conservatives have said or implied that if you criticize a war, you hate the soldiers. During the Clinton years, conservatives insisted that the president lacked "moral authority" to send troops into battle because he had avoided the draft as a youth or, later, because he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

So adopting veterans or their mourning parents as spokesmen is an understandable counter-tactic. It was a major part of the rationale behind John Kerry's candidacy. The trouble is, plenty of liberals have come to believe their own bleatings about moral authority. Liberal blogs are filled with attacks on "chicken hawk" conservatives who support the war but never served in the military. A recent story in the antiwar magazine Nation attacked my New Republic editor, Peter Beinart, a supporter of the Iraq war, for having "no national security experience," as if Nation editors routinely served in the Marine Corps.

The silliness of this argument is obvious. There are parents of dead soldiers on both sides. Conservatives have begun trotting out their own this week. What does this tell us about the virtues or flaws of the war? Nothing.
Can I get an "amen"?

Read the whole thing. (Hat tip: Kaus.)

Able Danger update

8/23/2005 09:54:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Pentagon says it has found no hard evidence that military-intelligent program Able Danger identified Mohammad Atta before 9/11. But a second officer has come forward to publicly claim that indeed it did. "Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000," says Navy captain Scott J. Phillpott. However:
[Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita] said that while Colonel Shaffer and Captain Phillpott were respected military officers whose accounts were taken seriously, "thus far we've not been able to uncover what these people said they saw - memory is a complicated thing."
Hmm... this discrepancy is the exactly sort of thing you'd think the 9/11 Commission would have wanted to investigate, no?

Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus continues to advance the "multiple Attas" theory:
[T]he presence of two Mohamed Attas in Prague--the 9/11 hijacker and a Pakistani businessman with the same name--within days of each other (May-June 2000) helped confuse investigators after 9/11. But that means, of course, that there were not "Two Attas" but Three Attas potentially on Able-Dangeresque data-mining radar screens prior to 9/11: 1) the future 9/11 hijacker; 2) the Abu Nidal terrorist extradited to Israel; 3) the Pakistani businessman who flew to Prague from Saudi Arabia.
But the "Three Attas" defense, while interesting, is emphatically not what the Pentagon is asserting at the moment. They're sticking by their "no Attas" story.

Feinstein to question Roberts on abortion

8/23/2005 08:53:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"That's how mega this vote is"? Heh.

Nuns Gone Wild

8/23/2005 08:35:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A Whoopi Goldberg wannabe is in trouble for a bit of un-sisterly dancing at World Youth Day in Germany. (Hat tip and headline credit: Briandot.)

ND drops to #2 on anti-gay colleges list

8/23/2005 02:51:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The new Princeton Review college rankings are out, and after two consecutive years atop the "Alternative Lifestyles Not An Alternative" list, Notre Dame has dropped to #2 on the list! Take that, Hampden-Sydney College!!! We're way less homophobic than you!!!

It must be the shirts. I'm so glad I played a part in this victory by coming out. :)

Actually, I don't think either side of the debate is going to be terribly happy about this. To the gay-rights crowd, being #2 on such a list is still not exactly something to celebrate, while to the "maintain our Catholic identity" crowd, getting "demoted" in this manner could be seen as yet another sign, albeit small, of Georgetown-esque slippage. But, don't worry fellas, it's all Monk's fault, I'm sure Father Jenkins will get us back to #1 in no time. ;)

Other lists where Notre Dame appears:
#1 - Everyone Plays Intramural Sports
#2 - Students Pack The Stadiums (behind Maryland)
#4 - Students Pray On A Regular Basis (behind BYU, Wheaton and Grove City College)
#6 - Jock Schools
#8 - Future Rotarians And Daughters Of The American Revolution
#12 - Don't Inhale [i.e., not much marijuana use]
#12 - Best Campus Food
#12 - More To Do On Campus [than off-campus]
#20 - School Runs Like Butter

P.S. The best party school is the University of Wisconsin, with Ohio University, Lehigh and UCSB close behind. And here I thought Jen and Soren were only in Santa Barbara for the ugly dogs!

Indiana is #6, up from #15 last year. The Hoosiers were #1 in 2002 and #3 in 2003.

Maryland is #20 on the "best party schools" list, but surely would be #1 on the "best riot schools" list, if only such a list existed.

USC only shows up on two lists: Diverse Student Population (#15) and Students Pack the Stadiums (#16). Yet again, East Coast Bias screws over the Trojans... ;)

More rankings info here and here.

P.P.S. I'm not sure if the law school rankings (like the undergrad ones) are new, but Notre Dame Law School comes in at #4 on the Students Lean to the Right list, behind Ave Maria, Regent and BYU.

P.P.P.S. Getting back to the original topic... the school that took away Notre Dame's #1 spot on the anti-gay list, Hampden-Sydney College, is seriously moving up in the world of, uh, alternative lifestyle unfriendliness. They were only #9 last year!

Football ticket lottery update

8/23/2005 01:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The selected lottery number for Law/Grad/MBA students is 314. (Pi!)

What exactly that means is utterly unclear, due to the fact that, as always, the SAO's "Kickoff 2005" pamphlet is completely inadequate. But I will try to get some clarification via e-mail from the ticket office in the morning.


8/23/2005 01:23:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Free iPod Book and Back to School Guide is available now from iLounge.com!

Why am I telling you this? Because if you click the above link, I could win prizes!!! Yes, I am officially a whore... ;)

Darfur: the next Rwanda?

8/23/2005 12:16:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Most people (myself included) aren't paying enough attention to the ongoing genocide in Darfur -- and many of those who are, like this street protester, would probably oppose any solution that might actually deal with it effectively. (The sort of people who take to the streets protesting something like Darfur are generally the same sort of people who are viscerally hostile toward military action and naively hopeful that Kumbaya-sounding internationalist solutions that have failed in the past will succeed this time around. I realize that's a gross generalization, but it's also true. As I recall, the above-linked protester's handouts called for urging Congress to pass a resolution to urge the U.N. to pass a resolution, or something to that effect.) But Michael Totten is paying attention, and he has no illusions about what needs to be done:
Every day 500 black African Muslims are murdered by Islamists in Sudan's northwestern region of Darfur. The total number of dead now exceeds 400,000. That's 133 September 11ths.

The U.S. is airlifting 1,200 Rwandan troops for humanitarian relief. It's a nice gesture. But that's all it is -- a token gesture. Actually stopping a genocidal regime and its death squads will take a lot more than a handful of Rwandan troops. It would require a full-scale military intervention by Western powers.

The U.N., where state sovereignty trumps human rights, will never authorize anything of the sort. If the West -- through NATO or an ad hoc "coalition of the willing" -- doesn't put a stop to this soon, the genocide won't likely end until it is complete. ...

So many cried out in unison after the Holocaust: never again. "Never," however, turned out not to mean never. "Again" was the operative word. Terry George's recent film Hotel Rwanda ought to make short work of any doubts about that. Most everyone seems to agree these days that the entire world - the U.S., NATO, the U.N, everybody - failed Rwanda. President Clinton later apologized for his part. Yet hardly anyone dares compare Sudan and Rwanda, even though the similarities between the two could not be any more obvious.

Hardly anyone wants to think about this, I know. Hardly anyone wanted to think about Bosnia either. Hardly anyone wanted to think about Rwanda. Most of us will regret it later, though, if Sudan does in fact become the next Rwanda ... We'll regret it even more if it becomes the next Afghanistan.
Read the whole thing. (Hat tip: Bea.)

Sue the SBA :)

8/23/2005 12:01:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Awesome: The SBA is stealing students' books! LOL!

Not so awesome: Being given a 68-page first-day assignment 18 hours before the class meets, when I have two other classes and a night's sleep in between now and then. (In fairness, the prof did say "if possible.")

A day in the life of Brendan Loy

8/22/2005 11:51:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

7:00 AM: Wake up; reset alarm clock to 7:10 AM.
7:10 AM: Wake up.
8:10 AM: Leave for law school.
8:45 AM - 9:20 AM: Job interview.
9:20 AM - 12:30 PM: Sit around in the law lounge, doing some reading, some blogging, and collecting people's football ticket applications.
12:30 PM - 1:00 PM: Get football ticket lottery numbers for "mega-group" of 34.
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM: Back to the lounge; more reading and blogging.
4:00 PM - 5:15 PM: My only class of the day, Patent Law.
5:30 PM - 6:15 PM: Dinner at Reckers with Dmtryo.
6:30 PM: Arrive home.
6:45 PM - 7:15 PM: Run errands (drop suit at cleaners, walk dog, etc.)
7:30 PM: Collapse on the bed and fall asleep, apparently exhausted after my, um, hard day's work.
7:30 PM - 11:30 PM: Four-hour nap.
11:30 PM: Wake up; blog.

I'm going to have to get re-adjusted to this school thing... :)

Top 100 brands

8/22/2005 04:42:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here is the current list (PDF format) of the world's most valuable brands, for anyone in Patent Law who might be wondering after today's lecture. Coca-Cola is still #1, but Marlboro has plunged to #10, for which I believe Michael Bloomberg is personally to blame. :) Microsoft is now #2... damn you, Bill Gates! (And you too, David Kreutz! ;)

P.S. Google is #38. Apple is #41, its value up 16% from last year. Starbucks is #99.

Due to some technicality, Wal-Mart is not included on the list.


8/22/2005 04:36:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Depression Eleven is now Tropical Storm Jose -- the tenth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, but the first new one since August 4.

"This season could turn disastrous very quickly"

8/22/2005 03:40:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A dose of harsh realism from "The Rock" on NDNation.com.

I tend to think that the opener at #23 Pittsburgh is a very important game. Let's face it, Michigan will be out for blood, and the game's in Ann Arbor... and we don't want to start 0-2.

12 days and counting...

In case anyone is wondering...

8/22/2005 03:37:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

...my interview today went well, I think. (Knock on wood.) But in keeping with my general policy of not talking about work-related matters on the blog, I'll leave it at that.

Iraqi draft constitution set

8/22/2005 03:28:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A draft of the Iraqi constitution is ready to be presented to the National Assembly, but not everyone is on board:
Shiite members of Iraq's constitutional committee said Monday they will present an incomplete document to the Iraqi National Assembly without full agreement from their panel's Sunni Arab members.

Shiites and Kurds have agreed on the issue of federalism -- the degree of power held by provinces versus that held by a centralized government -- while the Sunnis haven't come onboard, said Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a Shiite member.

"The majority [of the committee] is for federalism," al-Sagheer said. "As for the Sunnis, some got to acceptance; some accept federalism with conditions; and some rejected it."

Sunni members of the committee rejected the move ... "This constitution does not include the Sunni voice," [negotiator Saleh] Mutlag said. "It doesn't include other voices in Iraq."
Then there's this: "Islam is a main source for legislation and it is not permitted to legislate anything that conflicts with the fixed principles of its rules." Hmm...


8/22/2005 03:25:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Headline of the day

8/22/2005 03:22:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

From Fark.com: "Scientists prove that chimpanzees, like people from Kansas, form societies." Heh.

P.S. Meanwhile, in sports news: "Royals win second in a row. Only 40 straight wins until they're two games under .500."

Also: "Soccer team loses 50-1 after goalie skips game for rock concert."

T.D. 11

8/22/2005 11:12:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Depression Eleven has formed in the Bay of Campeche. The forecast calls for it to become Tropical Storm Jose before making landfall in Mexico.

Meanwhile, out in the Pacific, Hurricane Hilary is running for president heading out to sea.

Thoughts for the day

8/22/2005 09:25:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Since Patrick's blog is shutting down, I figure I should pick up the mantle of the "thought for the day." So... making up for lost time...

Saturday's thought for the day: "What did you do this summer?" is the new "Where did you go for undergrad?"

Sunday's thought for the day: Awww, the little freshies are so cute! (Not cute like that, you pervs.)

Today's thought for the day: I vividly remember, on the first day of school last year, looking at the 2Ls and thinking, "What the hell is wrong with these people, wearing suits to school? Who dresses up to go to class?" Heh. Now I know...

Football ticket meet-up at 12:30 PM, law lounge

8/22/2005 01:29:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

CHANGE OF PLANS! Instead of 2:15 PM (as previously stated via e-mail), the "mega-group" is meeting at 12:30 PM and heading over to the stadium at 12:45 PM to get our football-ticket lottery numbers. If you can make it, please do; if not, give your ticket application to someone who can make it, or else let me know and I'll try to coordinate things. Each person is allowed to bring six applications.

Non-Domers may safely ignore this post, and return to their previously scheduled blog-surfing, already in progress. :)

Trojans looking good; Brady Quinn, too, apparently

8/21/2005 11:35:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Andrew has posted his thoughts on today's USC scrimmage over at Scout.com. The thoughts are extremely positive.

Meanwhile, BoiFromTroy has posted "A Gay Viewers Guide to the 2005 College Football Season," including this analysis of the Sept. 10 slate of games: "If you live on the West Coast, there is one good reason to wake up early on [Sept. 10]--Brady Quinn." Heh. I have no opinion on the matter, but I know some hetero girls who would agree.

I lost the CSO (then I found it)

8/21/2005 10:15:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Am I the only one who missed the memo about the Career Services Office moving from the third floor to the first floor over the summer?

Probably so... I'm sure they sent out multiple e-mails and stuff... but anyway, imagine my surprise when I drove over to the law school this evening to make sure I know where my interview tomorrow morning will be, and discovered that I didn't even know where the CSO is! Eek!

Considering I'm supposed to meet the interviewer at the CSO and show her to the interview room, I'm just glad this happened at 10:00 PM tonight, and not 8:45 AM tomorrow...

Memo to 1Ls

8/21/2005 04:55:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Just so you know... the weather here is always like this. Temperatures in the 70s, low humidity, a light breeze, a crystal-clear, cloudless blue sky, and the sun shining brilliantly off the Golden Dome...

...yup, this is pretty much the norm for South Bend.


In all seriousness, enjoy today. This is just about as good as it gets.


8/21/2005 04:53:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The Space Shuttle Discovery is back in Florida. (Hat tip: Briandot.)

More photos here.

And so it begins

8/21/2005 07:21:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

2L year, here we come!

Conceding defeat

8/21/2005 06:42:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

All right... with unexpected database troubles popping up overnight -- and with the looming necessities of reading the assignments for my first classes and preparing for my first on-campus interview tomorrow morning -- I am officially delaying the launch of the revamped blog on the new server (and with it, the return of guestblogging, archiving, integrated commenting, etc.). I had hoped to launch today, but as NASA would say, it's a no-go. Sorry, y'all. I'm resetting the deadline for next Sunday, though if I can get it done sooner, I will.

Website update: still working

8/20/2005 07:40:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Blog updates are light because I'm busily working on getting the new server set up. I hope to complete the switch tonight or early tomorrow. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Taking a break from website work and Lord of the Rings-watching to go to The Backer with fellow returning 2Ls. Be back in a few Long Islands hours. :)

Gondorian MSM, Dems condemn Aragorn :)

8/20/2005 01:28:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Watching the Fellowship of the Ring with Becky earlier tonight, my mind jumped ahead to the scene in Return of the King where Aragorn sends away the Army of the Dead after the victory at the Pelennor Fields -- but before the final battle at the Black Gates -- and it occurred to me that, if Gondor were a democracy with a free press, the reaction surely would not have been very favorable:

Invincible soldiers allowed to depart
in apparent strategic blunder by "king"

Minas Tirith was miraculously saved from certain destruction yesterday by the last-minute arrival of a mysterious "Army of the Dead" -- but defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory when the army's commander, who claims to be the rightful king of Gondor, sent away the apparently invincible army instead of launching an immediate attack on Sauron's remaining forces.

"I did what I had to do," said the commander, Aragorn, son of Arathorn. But with thousands of enemy troops believed to be lurking in nearby Mordor, and Gondor's regular army decimated by the disastrous days of battle that preceded the dead army's arrival, many were unconvinced. Some even questioned Aragorn's motives.

"This guy shows up on the same day that Lord Denethor dies, 'saves' Gondor, and then leaves us defenseless?" said Democratic leader Pelosi, daughter of Pilates. "How do we know this alleged 'king' is even on our side?"

"What a loser," added Reid son of Screed, another Democratic leader.
How do I know that the Democrats would be the opposition party, you ask? Because it's wartime, of course! :)

Reid OK after stroke

8/19/2005 08:54:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "feels fine" after suffering a mild stroke earlier this week.

Shuttle ferried home; fleet grounded till March

8/19/2005 08:42:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A few days ago, Casey's link to my blog said: "Space Shuttle astronauts who need to know their current position should visit: brendanloy.com." Heh. (That was replaced by "Terrorists looking for peace, love and understanding should not visit: brendanloy.com," which was in turn replaced by the current message, "To find out how 9/11 could have been prevented, visit: brendanloy.com.")

Anyway, in order to keep my reputation intact, I'd better tell you that the Shuttle is almost home on its piggyback ride from California to Florida aboard a 747:

Here's a blog-like journal of the Shuttle's return home.

In a related story, the next Shuttle launch has been delayed until at least March.

Atrocity in Bangladesh, near-miss in Jordan

8/19/2005 08:14:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Terrorists shot rockets at two U.S. warships at a Jordanian port along the Red Sea earlier today. They missed.

Far more successful, from the terrorists' perspective, was a massive, coordinated, nationwide attack on Bangladesh earlier this week, which killed two people and injured 140. According to the AP:
Leaflets from the Jumatul Mujahedin were found at many blast scenes, police said. The group wants to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation governed by secular laws.
Indeed, Bangladesh is 83 percent Muslim, and Wednesday's bombers struck indiscriminately in cities all over the country, proving once again that Islamist terrorists have no qualms about attacking and killing their fellow Muslims -- including, in this case, a 10-year-old boy -- when it suits their purposes.

P.S. I'm sorry I didn't post about this when it happened. I meant to, but then I got distracted by other things at work (like... work) and I forgot to.

Two Attas?

8/19/2005 07:49:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Did the Able Danger military-intelligence program finger the wrong Mohammad Atta? (Hat tip: Andrew.)

Courtney Love lied, brain cells died

8/19/2005 03:27:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Courtney Love, who blearily insisted during Comedy Central's "Roast of Pamela Anderson" last week that she had been drug-free for a year, was ordered into rehab -- again -- after admitting she had violated her probation by using drugs last month.

A poor, drug-addicted black guy off the streets -- one with far fewer resources that could potentially be used to keep himself clean than Love has -- would not be going into rehab for this, he'd be going straight to the slammer. But this post isn't about social commentary; it's about comedy. Love's institutionalization adds an extra bit of "zing" to one of the Comedy Central roast's funniest jokes: "Courtney Love is totally the girl next door. If you happen to live next door to a methadone clinic." Heh. It also makes New York Times reviewer Virginia Heffernan's words seem rather prophetic: "Courtney Love, the bloated musician...throughout the proceedings acted as if she belonged in an institution. Again." I wonder if the judge was watching the roast? Nah, probably not -- it would have persuaded him to actually send her to jail.

(Yes, it was a roast of Pamela Anderson, but as usual with celebrity roasts, pretty much everybody else in the room got roasted too, especially Courtney Love, Andy Dick, Bea Arthur, and Tommy Lee's penis. Highlights here. WARNING: Parental discretion is definitely advised; there's a lot of cussing and sexual references. But then, what did you expect? It was a roast of f***in' Pamela Anderson! And yes, the f-word is intended literally in this case...)

P.S. The funniest joke of the night, IMHO, was: "[Pam] dated Scott Baio, Tommy Lee and the drummer from Poison. Her life story should be a VH1 special called, I F***ed the 80s."

I'm alive

8/19/2005 02:56:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Sorry for the prolonged blog-silence. I took the day off work, and have been catching up on sleep, in anticipation of the school year (which starts Monday).

Regarding the website, I am hoping to complete the switch to a new server -- and new blogging software, WordPress -- by Sunday. That's not a promise, but it's my plan. Stay tuned.

Cindy Sheehan

8/18/2005 12:39:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I haven't been following this whole Cindy Sheehan business very closely, and I haven't posted anything about it, largely because I find it to be more spectacle than substance, borne mostly out of the media's desperate need to find something to talk about in the midst of the annual August news drought rather than out of any desire to engage in serious discussion of the complex and deeply important issues at stake in Iraq right now.

That said, I do have a few passing thoughts about the matter, and I thought I'd share them with y'all, as flame-war fodder if nothing else.

1. I gather that some people on the Right have been calling Cindy Sheehan a traitor, or words to that effect. That's outrageous. Dissent is not treason. Vigorous dissent is not treason. Even irrational, vigorous dissent with which you disagree very, very strongly is not treason. And finally -- here comes the important, controversial one -- dissent which happens, as an unwelcome side effect, to give aid and comfort to the enemy, still is not treason. It can't be treason; if it were, all wartime dissent would be potentially treasonous, because domestic opposition always has the potential to embolden the enemy. And declaring wartime dissent to be de facto treasonous would be an absolutely unacceptable result. Wartime dissent MUST be allowed; it is NECESSARY for the health of the republic... for our freedom, the very thing the troops are fighting for. We must not allow ourselves to go down the road of saying that otherwise legitimate dissent is treasonous merely because it the unwanted side effect of pleasing our enemy. (Saying that nothing which pleases our enemy can ever be right is just as foolish as saying that anything which displeases our enemy must always be right -- for example, nuking Mecca.) Now, if the dissent in question consists of saying "I hope American troops die," or if the intent of the dissent is to embolden the enemy, then sure, that's treasonous (perhaps not legally, but morally). But if all you're saying is, "our policies are horrible, we're doing a very bad thing, our president is a very bad man, and our troops should come home this instant," you might be an idiot, but you're not a traitor.

2. I gather that some people on the Left are under the impression that Cindy Sheehan is immune to criticism, that she's basically untouchable and should not under any circumstances be branded a crazy loony liberal or what-have-you, because her son died in Iraq. That's incorrect. Anyone who steps into the public limelight in the politically charged fashion that Sheehan has, clearly opens himself or herself up to be lambasted by political opponents. Any other conclusion would allow sympathetic figures, on either side of any issue, to render their political opponents completely defenseless. Clearly, Sheehan is trying to exploit her status as a sympathetic figure for political gain, and it's working -- and I'm not saying there's necessarily anything wrong with her doing that, but to suggest that people should tread lightly on her public activism because of her personal loss is wrong. If Michael Moore had made Fahrenheit 9/11 in response to the death of his son in Iraq, would everyone have been obligated to refrain from criticizing its lies, deceptions, and faulty conclusions? Or, to turn the tables a bit, suppose Zell Miller's anti-Democrat tirade at last year's Republican National Committee had been inspired by some sort of personal tragedy, like perhaps his daughter having been driven off a bridge by Ted Kennedy or something. Would we have been forbidden, because of sympathy, from pointing out that he's a demogogic blowhard? Of course not. And Cindy Sheehan doesn't get that privilege either. Not once she's stepped into the public eye and made a spectacle of herself, for good or ill.

To tie together points #1 and #2: a healthy democratic discourse requires that Cindy Sheehan be allowed to harshly criticize the war effort without being branded a traitor, and it also requires that the war's supporters be allowed to respond to her criticisms with equal harshness without being branded insensitive assholes.

Finally... 3. I don't see any particular reason why President Bush should be obligated to meet with someone who calls him "the biggest terrorist in the world." I'm very sorry that she lost her son in Iraq, and I'm sure Bush is too. But if presidents were somehow morally obligated to meet with every wingy ideologue who experienced a personal tragedy that can be attributed to administration policy... well, let's just say I think that idea is nuts. I mean, what if some right-wing nutjob Clinton-hater had lost a son in Bosnia? To the extent that liberals (and the MSM) are acting like Bush is doing something outrageous by "refusing" to meet with Sheehan -- and moreover, acting like it's obvious that it's outrageous, as Jon Stewart has been implicitly doing in his discussion of the issue on the Daily Show this week -- their premise is, at the very least, poorly thought out in the extreme.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Speaking of sacrilege...

8/17/2005 10:39:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Following in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary grilled-cheese sandwich, [Do sandwiches have "footsteps"? What if they're holy sandwiches? -ed.] an Ohio woman on Monday sold a pierogi allegedly bearing the face of Jesus for $1,775 on eBay.

The Holy Pierogi was considerably less expensive than the Holy Sandwich, which went for $28,000. (Poor Jesus. Outsold by his own mother!) Online casino GoldenPalace.com bought both items. More here.

Looks more like Charles Manson to me...


8/17/2005 10:37:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"President Bush woke up this morning, saw his shadow -- six more weeks of vacation." --Jay Leno

Plane crash in Greece: was it terrorism?

8/17/2005 10:31:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Sunday's horrifying crash of a depressurized airliner into a mountain 40 miles from Athens is still baffling investigators, and there is some suggestion that the Greek government's almost immediate denial of terrorist involvement may have been premature:
In London, the British pilots' union urged Greek authorities to release preliminary findings for the sake of the aviation industry.

"There have been several apparently conflicting reports and a number of statements that just don't add up," Capt. Mervyn Granshaw, head of the British Airline Pilots' Association, said without elaborating. "There is a concern in our industry to learn, as quickly as possible, what happened. ... If there is too much delay, the speculation will increase."

From the first, the Greek government has said the cause of the crash was likely technical failure and not terrorism. But with so many unanswered questions, industry experts said Wednesday it was too soon to tell.

"Until they can absolutely rule it out, they've got to consider a terrorist act or some sort of sabotage as a potential factor," said Richard Healing, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Two Greek air force F-16 jets were scrambled after the Helios flight lost radio contact flew by the airliner over the Aegean Sea. The F-16 pilots reported seeing the pilot's seat empty and the co-pilot slumped over the controls, possibly unconscious, according to the Greek government.

The government also said the F-16 pilots saw two unidentified people in the cockpit trying to regain control of the plane. Authorities have not released the fighter pilots' account of the passenger jet's final 23 minutes of flight or how it crashed.

But Greek state-run and private media, quoting anonymous defense ministry officials, have said the F-16 pilots also saw someone in the cockpit — probably a man — take control of the plane as it flew in a gradually descending holding pattern, apparently on autopilot, at about 37,000 feet near Athens airport.

That person then banked the plane away from Athens, lowering it first to 2,000 feet and then climbing back up to 7,000 feet before the plane apparently ran out of fuel and crashed.

For those maneuvers to happen, someone who knew how to work the airplane had to have been in control, said Paul Czysz, emeritus professor of aeronautical engineering at St. Louis University. The lack of air traffic control contact also was suspicious, he added.

"Obviously, he didn't want to contact the tower," he said. "It's happened before."

On Oct. 31, 1999, the pilot of an EgyptAir flight from New York to Cairo apparently directed the plane into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nantucket, a crash that killed 217 people.

Many aviation experts believe a suicidal pilot also caused the Dec. 19, 1997 crash of a Singapore SilkAir Boeing 737-300 near the Indonesian city of Palembang, killing all 104 aboard.
Hat tip: Andrew.

Realism at last

8/17/2005 05:05:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Well, at least someome in Domer Nation realizes that Oct. 15 is going to involve a lot of pain for the Irish. ;)

Speaking of which, I think I should buy this for Becky's car. I'm sure it'd go over real well with the neighbors. Heh.

In other news... holy crap... I didn't realize ND has the preseason #1, #3 and #4 teams on its schedule! Jeez! (Schedule here; rankings here; game-day tees here.)

Listening to my iTunes Library in shuffle mode just now, the Notre Dame Victory March came on. It got me feeling all pumped and excited about football season. (Yes, I'm really, genuinely excited about Notre Dame's season. I'm just on the other side for that one game. For the other ten games, it's GOOOO IRISH! BEEEAT EVERYONEEXCEPTTROJANS! :)

Only two and a half weeks till kickoff! WOOHOO! (That goes for the Trojans too. The second Saturday of the schoolyear, Sept. 3, will be a road-game doubleheader for me: USC at Hawaii at 3pm, Notre Dame at Pitt at 7pm.)

9/11 could have been prevented, but that's "not historically significant"

8/17/2005 12:36:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The "military source" at the center of the Able Danger controversy -- the man who was infuriated by the legalistic/political obstructionism that prevented him from warning the FBI about Mohammad Atta's terrorist cell in 2000, and who was subsequently ignored by the 9/11 Commission when he told them what had happened -- has come forward publicly, identifying himself as Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and elaborating on his story in a manner that puts the lie to the Commission's preposterous assertion that the incident is "not historically significant." Excerpt:
Colonel Shaffer said in an interview on Monday night that the small, highly classified intelligence program, known as Able Danger, had identified the terrorist ringleader, Mohamed Atta, and three other future hijackers by name by mid-2000, and tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the Washington field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to share its information.

But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 attacks were still being planned.

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Special Operations Command of the Defense Department had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States.

"It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.
Well, guess what, chain of command? Something went wrong, and you've got some serious explaining to do.

The 9/11 Commission also has some serious explaining to do. The commission was set up in large part to answer the question, "How could this have happened?" -- and frankly, I don't see how anyone can possibly deny that Colonel Shaffer's uncontradicted account is the single most significant piece of information that has yet emerged with regard to the issue of how 9/11 could have happened. Forget all those tenuous, speculative, hindsight-is-20/20 stories about how we woulda/coulda/shoulda seen the attack coming. Forget about the "Phoenix memo" and the Moussaoui affair. This is the big magilla: We had the 9/11 mastermind in our sights, more than a year before the attacks, and we DID NOTHING! And why did we do nothing? Not because we failed to "connect the dots," not because our intelligence services were "asleep at the switch," but because meddling lawyers -- concerned not about the dictates of the law, but rather, about the vagaries of public relations -- forced the investigators to cancel their meeting with the FBI! And yet, despite all that, the 9/11 Commission ignored Colonel Shaffer's account! He told them about this, but they didn't put anything in their report about it -- not one word! And now, faced with the reality of their outrageously flagrant omission, the co-chairmen of the commission are telling us that the Able Danger fiasco is "not historically significant"!!!

This is both tragedy and farce. I am truly and utterly flabbergasted.

Sacrilege of the day

8/17/2005 01:02:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

From Late Night with Conan O'Brien's "In The Year 2000" segment:
Pope Benedict will invent a delicious egg recipe that he calls "Eggs Benedict." When informed that there is already a dish called "Eggs Benedict," he will change his name to Pope Huevos Rancheros.

I think I just invented a word!

8/16/2005 07:14:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Moments ago, telling Becky that I had e-mailed Glenn Reynolds (of InstaPundit fame) a link to my porn post, I spontaneously announced, "I just InstaWhored myself to Glenn."

Becky laughed and said, "That should be in the dictionary." Figuring that Google is the blogospheric equivalent of a dictionary, I looked it up and, lo and behold, it's not there! The noun "InstaWhore" is there, but not the verb form. There is no mention of "InstaWhored" or "InstaWhoring."

I think I just made up a new word!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go InstaWhore my post about my invention of the word "InstaWhore"... :)

P.S. The origin of my new word is, of course, the verb "to link whore." My verb "to InstaWhore" is just a rather specific version of that concept... much like the "Instalanche" (or, as I stubbornly insist on continuing to call it, "InstaBoost").

P.P.S. Actually, looking up the definition, I guess "to link whore" is a slightly different concept: it involves shamelessly placing lots of links on your site to someone else's site (presumably someone with more traffic than you), in hopes that they'll link back. But the concepts are certainly related.

Putin goes supersonic, one-upping Bush's silly flight-suit act

8/16/2005 06:44:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Vladimir Putin: "I have a bigger **** than you, George Bush." At least, that's what I'm getting from this. :)

Ideologues decry sensible idea of .xxx domain

8/16/2005 06:30:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

It strikes me as extraordinarily stupid for the Bush Administration, or anyone else concerned about the prevalance of Internet porn, to object to the creation of a .xxx domain reserved exclusively for porn sites. They say they don't want to create a "virtual red-light district" -- but whereas the alternative to real-life red-light districts is to outlaw prostitution, outlawing pornography is simply not an option in this country, because of the First Amendment. So what exactly is the Bushies' alternative to a virtual red-light district? Hoping online porn magically disappears? Clearly, that's not going to happen; it's one of the most lucrative industries in the world today, period.

For those of us living in the realm of reality, it's obvious that there are just two realistic options: leaving porn sites on the same domains as all other websites, or confining them to a zone where people will be far less likely to accidentally stumble upon them (the domain name being be a dead giveaway that, hey, this link goes to a porn site!).

What do the Bushies and other conservatives hope to accomplish -- other than making themselves feel pious -- by jettisoning a realistic solution in favor of more pointless censorious prattle? What good will it do to essentially stick our heads in the sand, pretending that perhaps porn will go away if we condemn it loudly enough, all the while leaving it out in the open for everyone to see, even little kids, even by accident? This strikes me as utterly stupid, even by the standards of an administration that insists on the superiority of abstinence-only education.

As usual, Joe Lieberman is a lonely voice of reason. Hardly a pro-pornography libertine, the saintly senator and anti-smut crusader told a federal commission in 2000 (PDF) that an .xxx domain is necessary:
As I understand it, you are weighing the pros and cons of creating a special domain to accommodate X-rated or other forms of adult content and segregate it away from kids. This idea, which would in effect establish a virtual red-light district ... has a lot of merit, for rather than constricting the Net's open architecture it would capitalize on it to effectively shield children from pornography, and it would do so without encroaching on the rights of adults to have access to protected speech. In doing this, we would ask the arbiters of the Internet to simply abide by the same standard as the proprietor of an X-rated movie theater or the owner of a convenience store who sells sexually-explicit magazines.
Lieberman is often accused of being overzealous when it comes to these sorts of issues, but his stance here seems eminently reasonable -- note that he explicitly mentions the importance of free speech -- whereas the administration's stance seems totally nonsensical (except from the perspective of trying to score points with their base).

I am willing to stand corrected on this if I am misunderstanding some aspect of the issue, but as things currently stand, I really don't see how the Bushies' position makes any logical sense.

UPDATE: Here's the Family Research Council's take:
To some this may initially seem like a good idea but it is one that has been considered and rejected as ineffectual for years. This will NOT require pornographers who are on the .com domain to relocate to the .XXX domain.

Some naively suggest that passing a new law to force pornographers to move to .XXX will solve the problem but that will not work either. Law means nothing to hardcore pornographers. There already is a law prohibiting them from selling hardcore porn on the Internet -- anywhere on the Internet -- yet they have been doing if for years.
Well, I'm not sure what the FRC's definition of "hardcore" is; it's my understanding that only "obscenity" can be banned, and that is a very, very limited type of hardcore porn. But regardless, it seems to me that this is a case of letting the great be the enemy of the good. What if we can get 99% of porn sites to move to .xxx? Or even 90%? To a rational anti-pornography advocate, isn't that better than 0%?

P.S. Perhaps it's the nomenclature that they don't like. Instead of ".xxx," how about ".nsfw"? :)

P.P.S. No comments from the peanut gallery about the phrase "the Bushies' position." :) But, actually, now that I mention it, they do seem to have a rather missionary zeal... ;)

Quote of the day

8/16/2005 06:19:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"I am nice to you! What's the matter with you?" --Brendan, to Becky

Note the irony. :)

A Picture Share!

8/16/2005 05:31:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Apparently, the Windows 2000 worm shut down computers at the newsrooms of CNN, ABC, and the New York Times. Ladies and gentlemen, the MSM is under attack! Clearly, this is Karl Rove's doing. ;) In other news, I love my Mac. :)

A Picture Share!

8/16/2005 05:24:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Waiting for the bus, I just received a CNN Breaking News alert stating, "A worm shut down computers running Windows 2000 across the United States."

Another air disaster

8/16/2005 07:20:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A Colombian airliner with 152 people aboard has crashed in Venezuela.

Did a tsunami sink Atlantis?

8/15/2005 06:39:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

BBC: "A submerged island that could be the source of the Atlantis myth was hit by a large earthquake and tsunami 12,000 years ago, a geologist has discovered." The island in question "now lies 60m under the sea in the Straits of Gibraltar."

Gas prices hit new high

8/15/2005 06:34:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Gas prices have officially hit a new record, which is probably why the local CBS affiliate has a van in the parking lot of the Martin's just down the road from our apartment, across the street from a gas station. (Actually, I know that's why. Walking home from the bus stop, I asked the reporter: "What's the scoop? Breaking news at Martin's?" She replied, almost apologetically: "Gas prices.")

Of course, an awful lot of countries have it much worse.

Speaking of gas prices... here's a helpful widget for you Mac OS X Tiger users.

Howard Dean needs to grow a brain

8/15/2005 05:06:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Doctor Screech strikes again: "As of today, it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq."

Hollerin' Howard makes a simple but catastrophic mistake in his thought process here: he is clearly considering only the legal status of women in the "old" vs. the "new" Iraq, and concluding therefrom that they will be "worse off" in the new one. But that's absurd, for the obvious reason that people's well-being under tyrannical regimes like Saddam's is not determined by legal niceties. Authoritarian governments often have constitutions that guarantee all sorts of rights to the people (China is a great example of this), but these constitutions aren't worth the paper they're printed on. They're meaningless, because under a government like Saddam's, the tyrant and his henchmen completely control the entire machinery of government, including the legal system; therefore, the only people who actually get to redeem their "rights" are the people who are in the tyrant's good graces.

So, while it may be true that women had more legal rights under Saddam's government than they will under the new interim Iraqi constitution -- and if so, I don't deny that that's a problem! -- that absolutely does not mean that they will be "worse off." I am not an expert on Iraq by any means, but I venture to guess that most Shi'ite and Kurdish women would disagree rather strongly with Dean's statement. Even many Sunnis would probably take issue with it. In fact, I'm thinking the only women who will truly be "worse off" are the women who were connected to the Ba'ath Party, and were therefore relatively safe from the Saddamites' cruelty. The rest of the country's women are going to be better off in the new Iraq because everyone, whether male or female, is going to be better off in the new Iraq. That Howard Dean cannot grasp this is really rather unsettling. One need not have supported the war to recognize that Saddam's regime was very, very bad, and even a deeply imperfect replacement government is still an improvement. (Whether the U.S. had sufficient justification to bring about that improvement, and whether it was necessary and prudent to do so, is a separate issue.)

Now, having lambasted Dean, let me switch sides, and take issue with the Republican National Committee's response to his latest gaffe. The RNC said, "Dean's wild assertion that Iraqi women would be better off living under Saddam Hussein than democracy is not only counterproductive to meaningful debate, it demeans the hard work of American servicemen and women serving in Iraq."

Ugh. If anything is "counterproductive to meaningful debate," it's the RNC's bullying. Dean's statement is actually quite beneficial to meaningful debate, since it is so easily rebutted! Why, look at the little mini-debate I've having with myself right here! :) The RNC's statement, on the other hand, attempts to suppress debate by chilling dissent, implying that no one should utter anything which might suggest that our brave military's hard work has been for naught. But that's crap. Dean's statement isn't wrong because it "demeans the hard work of American servicemen and women serving in Iraq." It's wrong because it's wrong. If Dean's statement were factually true, then he would be absolutely right to say it, regardless of whether or not it is appreciated by our brave, hard-working soldiers (and I mean that with all sincerity, I really do).

We ought not blind ourselves from unpleasant realities merely because we want to "support the troops." Indeed, that's not supporting them at all; that's subverting the very thing they're fighting for: our freedom, which includes the freedom (nay, the duty!) to criticize our government when it deserves to be criticized. If it were true that our brave military's hard work has been for naught -- and I don't at present believe this, but I also don't exclude the possibility that it may, heaven forbid, become true -- then it wouldn't "demean" our troops to point this out! To the contrary, it would be our civic duty to point this out, and to hold accountable the administration which allowed our military's hard work to be squandered! What would "demean" our troops would be to pretend like nothing is wrong and continue to support the bumbling fools in Washington whose mistakes ruined their gallant efforts!

So, valid criticisms can and should be made, and the RNC should stop implying otherwise. Dean's criticism, however, is not a valid one. Indeed, it's a profoundly stupid one, poorly thought out in the extreme, not to mention politically tone-deaf. The good bad doctor should be summarily fired from his DNC leadership position for saying something so utterly dumb. Of course, he should have been summarily fired several months ago for saying various other equally dumb things (hell, he never should have been hired in the first place), so I don't hold out much hope that it will finally happen now.

Remembering the blackout

8/15/2005 01:52:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

A truly momentous event passed yesterday without my notice: the second anniversary of the Great Blackout of 2003.

I was in New York during the blackout, and it is one of my favorite events to reminisce about -- the ultimate "I was there" moment for someone who really, really likes to be "there" when interesting things happen. :) Actually, the blackout is more than that: it's one of my very favorite life experiences, period. That may seem odd, but I'd always thought that it would be really cool to be in New York City during a massive power outage like the one they had in 1965. And on August 14, 2003, I found out that I was right. It was really cool. :)

I blogged the whole thing, of course, starting with this proxy post typed out by my dad from unaffected Connecticut. Unfortunately, the chaotic state of the blog archives at the moment makes it a little difficult to navigate through everything, but if you start with the above-linked post and keep clicking the "next post" link, you can read (and see and hear) everything I posted. Like this Moblog post from Times Square, and much later, these cool satellite pics of the blackout's effects, and this map of how I got home. And there's lots more.

On the other hand, if you only have 15 minutes to kill rather than three hours :), you can go straight to my blackout story. Excerpt:

[I was working in a 13th-floor loft in Tribeca when the lights went out. Initially, I thought it was just my half of the loft that had lost power. I soon realized the other half was also in the dark. Then, one of my bosses] Richard proclaimed -- I have no idea where he got his information -- that the "whole building," a 17-story structure that is also home to Mariah Carey, was out of power. ... [I] started typing out a cell phone photo-post [to the blog] announcing that our office had lost power and we had reports that the whole building might be out.

In the midst of [my] typing this, [my other boss] Lyn came in and said that one of Richard's employees had said the whole city, plus Long Island and New Jersey, was out. My immediate reaction was extreme skepticism: I asked who the employee had heard this from, and where that person had gotten his information. Lyn didn't know, so I typed something into my cell phone that was extremely wishy-woshy on the point of whether [the] city was out of power ... I had a better sense that something might really be wrong, though, when [my attempt at moblogging failed, as I was unable to get through on my cell phone.] It began to seem more and more plausible that the whole city was out of power -- and that, like on 9/11, everyone was reaching for their cell phones at the same time, jamming the network.

We had no TV and no Internet, of course, and it took quite a long time before somebody got a battery-powered radio out -- I didn't even think of radio as a source of information, in fact, until someone mentioned it. :) Even so, it quickly became clear from the glut of traffic, the honking, and the sirens that were visible and/or audible outside our windows that something was happening beyond just our building. The extent became clear when I finally got through via phone to my dad: in what one of my co-workers later described as a "surreal moment," I repeated aloud the names of affected cities that my dad was reading to me from a CNN article: Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Albany, Toronto, Ottawa.
That really was a dramatic moment.

Here's another excerpt, from several hours later:
Scott, Will and I sat around outside for a while, eventually concluding that we would head toward the Greenwich Village apartment of one of Scott's friends. On the way there, though, we stopped at a grocery store where -- as someone carrying a bag from the store informed us -- they were giving away all sorts of perishables for free or very reduced prices. We got a ton of free milk, several salads, and a bunch of other stuff for a total of $1.90. ...

Finally, as the sun began to set, we started walking in earnest toward the apartment in the Village where Scott and Will stayed over last night. But I decided I didn't want to hole myself up inside just yet: this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wanted to really experience it. I had always wondered, somewhat jealously, what it must have been like for New Yorkers in '65 and '77 to see this city in the dark, and now was my chance. So, without any clear idea where I would be sleeping or what I would do once it got fully dark, I started walking toward Times Square.
It goes on from there, of course. Read the whole thing. :)

Naturally, I took a lot of photos during the blackout. You can view them here. Unfortunately, only the thumbnails are visible -- the links to the full-size versions are broken, as are many other links on that page. Again, archive problems... sorry. But the photos are still cool. Here are a few favorites:

Chaos in the streets.

Buses backed up all the way from Canal Street to Ground Zero!

Broadway in Lower Manhattan becomes a pedestrian mecca.

Selling food by candlelight in Tribeca.

In Greenwich Village, everybody went to the bars.

A generator-powered ice cream stand, with a darkened Madison Square Garden in the background.

The Times Square Jumbotron, in darkness.

And last, but not least...

The Empire State Building in the dark.

Many more photos here.

World's ugliest dog

8/15/2005 07:26:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

People in Santa Barbara are weird. (Hi Jen and Sören. :)

More here.


8/15/2005 12:17:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Some of the stuff on Just Jared's website is NSFW, but this is just adorable.


8/14/2005 10:36:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

In anticipation of the release, one week from Tuesday, of the second book in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance trilogy, I'm re-reading the first book, Eragon. I just got to the part where Eragon and Brom encounter the aftermath of a brutal massacre in which the entire population of a village was murdered. It struck me that the following excerpt is rather applicable to real life, especially as the fourth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and threats of another atrocity loom:
Eragon...avoided looking at the gruesome sight before them. "Who could have done..." He could not force out the words.

Brom bowed his head. "Those who love the pain and suffering of others. They wear many faces and go by many disguises, but there is only one name for them: evil. There is no understanding it. All we can do is pity and honor the victims."
As I wrote earlier, we can examine root causes and all that, and we must. But it's equally important to always, always remember the true nature of the bloodthirsty monsters who deliberately target innocent civilians and rejoice in their deaths.

There is only one name for them: evil.

Hurricane Irene

8/14/2005 09:56:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Irene is now officially the season's third hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. (Actually, she was upgraded at 5:30 PM, but, er, I didn't notice the special update.) Unlike the two previous hurricanes, Dennis and Emily, Hurricane Irene is headed out to sea.

Website update

8/14/2005 08:00:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I didn't accomplish as much as I'd hoped this weekend with the website server switch, largely because the Internet connection in my apartment has been extremely spotty. (Damn you, ApartmentHost.com!) I'll try to finish the switch this week, or next weekend at the latest, so that I'll be up and running on the new server -- with MovableType working again (which means guestblogging, permalinking and automatic archiving) -- by the time school starts.

Speaking of which: Holy crap! School starts in a week!

No way, Jose

8/14/2005 07:59:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Tropical Depression Ten has fizzled. According to the 10am NHC discussion: "Because the system does not have sufficient organized deep convection...it no longer meets the criteria for a tropical cyclone. Therefore advisories are being discontinued at this time." Barring regeneration, T.D. 10 will go down as the first tropical depression of 2005 that did not develop into a tropical storm. The name "Jose" will have to wait.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Irene is almost a hurricane.

God bless England

8/14/2005 07:58:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Police briefly closed a section of a highway in Essex, England to search for a 10-year-old girl's stuffed animal, Tyrone the tiger, after it flew out of the window of her dad's car. The BBC reports:
A spokesman for Essex Police said: "(Officers) put in a rolling road block for a couple of minutes and so got out safely to capture Tyrone."

Defending the use of police resources, he said: "Any parent would know the distress that their child might suffer from the loss of such a toy. It was a minor inconvenience to motorists which I am sure would have been acceptable to all those who have had experienced similar circumstances."
Heh. Tyrone was found, and is in the mail now, en route to a very happy 10-year-old.

InstaPundit returns

8/14/2005 07:56:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Glenn Reynolds is back from his vacation to the Cayman Islands, which he says are "recovering nicely from the tremendous pounding that they took from Hurricane Ivan."

Plane crash in Greece kills 121

8/14/2005 07:51:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Six crew members and 115 passengers, including 48 children, were killed when a Helios Airways plane bound from Cyprus to Athens suffered high-altitude decompression and then crashed into a mountain in Greece. Terrorism is not suspected.

UPDATE: Apparently the report about the 48 children was incorrect. There were "between 15 and 20 young people below the age of 20 on board," according to Cypriot Transport Minister Haris Thrassou, as quoted by Reuters.

The same Reuters article says the passengers were "frozen solid," as the plane had apparently become depressurized more than an hour before the crash. Yikes! Drudge is calling it a "flying tomb." But there's all sorts of conflicting information... the Fog of Tragedy, as it were. Excerpt:
Sunday's crash perplexed aviation experts astounded by what appeared to have been a catastrophic failure of cabin pressure or oxygen supply at 35,000 feet -- nearly 10 kilometers (six miles) up, higher than Mount Everest.

Many questions remained, including how the plane appeared to fly for nearly an hour with the pilot and co-pilot already unconscious or dead. Media speculated the plane may have been on auto pilot before its approach to Athens airport.

There was also mystery over the last minutes of the flight which was declared "renegade" when it entered Greek air space and failed to make radio contact, causing two F-16 air force jets to scramble to investigate. ...

The plane was on a flight from Larnaca to Prague with a stop in Athens when it came down 40 km (25 miles) north of the Greek capital. Greek authorities ruled out hijacking or terrorism links to the crash.

Greek Defense Ministry officials said 90 minutes elapsed between the alert being raised at 10:30 a.m. and the plane crashing at 12:03 p.m.

Greek government spokesman Theodore Roussopoulos said F-16 pilots sent to investigate reported that with the pilots out of action there may have been a last-gasp effort by others on the plane to bring it back under control.

"The F-16s saw two individuals in the cockpit seemingly trying to regain control of the airplane," Roussoupoulos told reporters. It was not known if they were passengers or other crew.

"The F-16s also saw oxygen masks down when they got close to the aircraft. The aircraft was making continuous right-hand turns to show it had lost radio contact."

A passenger on the doomed plane said in an SMS text to his cousin in Athens: "The pilot has turned blue. Cousin farewell, we're freezing."

The Defense Ministry said it suspected the plane's oxygen supply or pressurisation system may have malfunctioned, which could have led to death within seconds for all on board.
Okay, a couple of things. First of all, if the alert was raised at 10:30 a.m. and the plane crashed at 12:03 p.m., that's not "nearly an hour" -- it's more than an hour and a half. Secondly, the above-quoted text message and the sighting of people trying to take control of the plane does not lend itself to a "death within seconds" hypothesis.

Either way, the whole thing is creepy. And, of course, horribly sad.

Understanding the enemy

8/13/2005 11:45:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

There's a lot of talk on the Left about "understanding" the terrorists and their motives. However, as I pointed out elsewhere on this blog recently, the preferred method of "understanding" is generally to listen to liberal intellectuals explain why the terrorists hate us, which, in my experience, really means listening to liberal intellectuals explain why they think the Third World ought to hate us. This is a grave mistake, if our goal is true understanding of the people who want to kill us. (Noam Chomsky may be very upset about various things, but he's exceedingly unlikely to fly a plane into a building anytime soon, which makes his views considerably less important to understand than, say, Mohammad Atta's or Ayman al-Zawahiri's.) As Victor Hanson says:
Throughout this war we have an understandable, if ethnocentric, habit of ignoring what our enemies actually say. Instead we chatter on, don't listen, and in self-absorbed fashion impart our own motives for their hatred. We live on the principles of the Enlightenment and so worship our god Reason, thus assuming that even our adversaries accept such rational protocols as their own.

So they talk on and on of beheading, suicide bombing, another holocaust, and blowing thousands of us up, while we snooze, now and again waking in the midst of a war to regurgitate Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, flushed Korans, the abusive Patriot Act, and the latest quip of Donald Rumsfeld. ...

As we try to assess the causes of Islamists' venom toward the West, it seems wiser to listen to what they say rather than what we say they say.
Of course, we can't be certain that any individual statement from an Islamist is an honest one. It's clear that the terrorist leaders, like all good politicians, are only too happy to cite popular grievances that will appeal to their "base," regardless of whether the hard-core terrorists really care about those grievances. But if we read their statements closely and discerningly, we can get a much better idea of their motives than Ward Churchill or Noam Chomsky can possibly provide by ticking off a laundry list of liberal grievances against the West -- nor (I hasten to add, lest I be accused again of only criticizing liberals) than George W. Bush can possibly provide by simplistically declaring that they "hate freedom" and so forth.

In other words, liberals are right that we need to understand our enemy -- and that conservatives aren't making that enough of a priority -- but entirely wrong in terms of how they're going about it. There may be kernels of truth in what the far-lefties say, and there is certainly some truth, IMHO, in what Bush says. But neither side has it entirely right, because both sides are doing too much talking and not enough listening.

My strong suspicion is that, if we listened closely enough, we'd begin to "understand" that the enemy is even more frightening and grotesque than many of us currently suspect, and a lot more of us would grasp it vital necessity of a broadly-defined war on terror (or global struggle against violent extremism, or whatever they're calling it today). It all goes back to Hitchens: "It's them or me." Or, perhaps more to the point, it all goes back to Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, who "would like to see the Islamic flag fly, not only over number 10 Downing Street, but over the whole world." Everybody "understand" that? Because I'm hearing it loud and clear.

Alan Sullivan sums all of this up very succinctly: "Too many Westerners ignore the jihad, as they might ignore unruly children at a restaurant. Our enemies are not children, nor are they inferior. They're just dickheads."

Heh. Indeed.

P.S. More here:
The truth is, after 9/11 we're not engaged in nation building - we're engaged in planet building. I completely agree with Hitchens on this point. We should "consistently act" against internationalist totalitarian ideologies out of both principle and realism. "...[I]f you don't fight them now you fight them later... We can't live on the same planet as them and I'm glad because I don't want to."
Are you listening, King Abdullah?

Tropical update

8/13/2005 10:46:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

If Tropical Storm Irene were to continue moving in the linear direction of its current forward motion, it would make landfall in New York Harbor.

That's not going to happen, though. :)

Irene is strengthening again, and could become a hurricane tomorrow, out over the open waters. As for T.D. Ten (or "proto-Jose"), he's still at 35 mph, and the computer models are all over the place.

NARAL postscript

8/13/2005 10:12:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

NARAL's outrageous hatchet job on John Roberts has been mercifully yanked off the air, but apparently there are still some people defending it. Those people are idiots. Pro-choice blogger Megan McArdle wipes the floor with them. She concludes:
Such ads are undoubtedly effective, but each one contributes to a political culture in which scoring one for the team is the only important consideration. Honest pro-choicers who feel that it's all right because this is important should have a good long think about what kind of country they want to live in.
There are an awful lot of people, in an awful lot of situations, who think that some otherwise objectionable political tactic is "all right because this is important." Again: those people are idiots.

The Sunni Michael Collins?

8/13/2005 10:05:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Megan McArdle, still guest-blogging over at Insty's place, says the Sunnis are resisting the proposed Iraqi constitution because they "can't quite admit that it is over: that they will never again enjoy unfettered control of their country." She adds:
For peace to come, I suspect that the Sunnis will need a Michael Collins--someone with the guts, and credibility, to tell his people that their dreams of glory are unrealistic, and it's time to put down the guns and settle for what they can get. The Palestinians never had such a leader, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons they don't now have a state. I don't know who such a man would be in the Sunni community, but let's hope one emerges before it's too late.
And, um, let's also hope that, God/Allah willing, the Sunni Michael Collins, if one emerges, comes to a happier end than the original Michael Collins did.

Irene, proto-Jose & the Michiana hurricane

8/13/2005 05:43:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The National Hurricane Center is now formally declaring that Tropical Storm Irene "poses no threat to land." The same may or may not be true of Tropical Depression Ten, which, as expected, was officially declared at 4:00 PM EST. It "has the potential" to become Tropical Storm Jose tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's raining in South Bend, thanks to what looks for all the world like a mini-hurricane:

It's not, of course; it's just a regular old low pressure system, riding eastward along a stationary front. But look at the animated radar! I name it Hurricane Toby, in an attempt to make up for my failure to Friday-catblog yesterday. :)

The 9/11 Commission lied, people died

8/13/2005 05:25:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Captain's Quarters Blog has some truly excellent coverage of the ongoing, snowballing debacle surrounding the 9/11 Commission and Able Danger, the military-intelligence operation that identified Mohammad Atta and his New York-based terror cell in 2000. Much remains obscured in the Fog of War (or is it the Fog of Bureaucracy?), but one thing is now perfectly clear: Lee Hamilton and other members of the 9/11 Commission were extremely deceptive at best, and out-and-out lied at worst, when initially asked whether they were briefed about Able Danger. Their story has changed so many times in the last few days, I simply cannot think of any innocent explanation for it. Captain Ed provides a succinct summary:
[T]his constant shifting of the story underscores the massive credibility deficit that the Commission has now earned. First they never heard of Able Danger. Then, maybe a low-level staffer told them about the program but not the Atta identification. Next, the military met with the Commissioners but didn't specify the Atta identification. Now, we finally have confirmation that the Commission itself -- not just its low-level staff -- knew that military intelligence had identified Mohammed Atta as an al-Qaeda operative a year before 9/11. Instead of reporting it, the Commission buried it.
If you have a half-hour or so to bring yourself up to speed on something that's really quite important, I highly recommend the Captain's Quarters coverage. All relevant posts are on the linked page, although reading 'em in the proper sequence is a bit annoying, as you have to scroll down to the bottom and then keep scrolling up and down and up again. But it's worth it.

The bottom line is that "it looks like the Commission decided early to pin blame on the intelligence community rather than the bureaucracy which stripped it of its ability to act in the interests of our security." Potential leads which did not fit into that preconceived story line were summarily dismissed or, at the very least, not investigated as thoroughly as they should have been. As Ed writes, "Instead of saying to themselves, 'Hey, wait a minute -- this changes the picture substantially,' and postponing the report until they could look further into Able Danger, they simply shrugged their shoulders and published what they had."
Why? Able Danger proved that at least some of the intelligence work done by the US provided the information that could have helped prevent or at least reduce the attacks on 9/11. They had identified the ringleader of the conspiracy as a terrorist agent, even if they didn't know what mission he had at the time.

What does that mean for the Commission's findings? It meant that the cornerstone of their conclusions no longer fit the facts. Able Danger showed that the US had enough intelligence to take action -- if the government had allowed law enforcement and intelligence operations to cooperate with each other. It also showed that data mining could effectively identify terrorist agents.

So what did the Commission do? It ignored those facts which did not fit within its predetermined conclusions. It never bothered to mention Able Danger even one time in its final report, even though that absolutely refuted the notion that the government had no awareness that Atta constituted a terrorist threat. It endorsed the idea of data mining (which would die in Congress as the Total Information Awareness program) without ever explaining why. And while the Clinton policy of enforcing a quarantine between law enforcement and intelligence operations came under general criticism, their report never included the fact that the "wall" for which Commission member Jamie S. Gorelick had so much responsibility specifically contributed to Atta's ability to come and go as he pleased, building the teams that would kill almost 3,000 Americans.

And when confronted with this revelation this week, the Commission lied about their knowledge of the program and attempted to impugn Rep. Curt Weldon's integrity instead. Here's what Lee Hamilton, one of the Commission's co-chairs, had to say just yesterday on the topic:

"The Sept. 11 commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell," said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. "Had we learned of it obviously it would've been a major focus of our investigation."
That statement from Hamilton has since been shown to be a sly Clintonesque deception at best (does a uniformed military-intelligence officer's report count as "U.S. government knowledge"?), and an outright lie at worst. Like so many cornered politicians before them, Hamilton and other members of the Commission are engaging in an unseemly bit of flip-flopping with regard to the facts of what happened. That is intolerable, and the 9/11 Commission Report is now officially damaged goods. Nothing from that Commission has a shred of credibility until we get to the bottom of this. As Captain Ed asks, "What else got left out because of inconvenience?"

The Able Danger fiasco raises all sorts of questions -- some of which relate to Iraq -- which we perhaps thought were answered, but which now clearly merit at least a second look, since the "historical record" on which we've been relying is obiovusly deeply flawed. I'm inclined to agree with Captain Ed when he says: "We need to start rethinking this from the beginning, dump the preconceived notions, and gather all of the evidence together to understand what really happened to us on 9/11." And also: "Until we have officials with some accountability look into the evidence instead of a panel comprised of people like [former Clinton official Jamie] Gorelick [who allegedly played a major role in constructing the bureaucratic 'wall' which prevented intelligence-sharing] who have axes to grind and actions to minimize, we will never get a clear, factual look at the performance of our intelligence services and the constraints put on them by bureaucrats more interested in political correctness than in national security."

Side note: This is really an excellent example of the useful function which the blogosphere -- at its best -- can perform. The mainstream media's reports on a complicated, developing, fast-changing story like this, with multiple strands of incomplete but important information, often connected by one part circumstantial evidence and two parts speculation, are inevitably going to fall short of promoting a full understanding of what the hell is going on. For one thing, there isn't enough space in a newspaper's pages to do such a story justice, whereas an obsessed blogger has no space restraints (and possibly fewer time restraints as well). Secondly and more importantly, "unbiased" newspaper and TV reporters are limited in their ability to connect the dots, because doing so requires expressing a length opinion about what are the most plausible answers to the various unanswered questions. Such speculation, even if well-founded, well-sourced and logically sound, will generally be seen to violate "objectivity" if it's coming from the reporter's brain; it would need to come from an outside source, and unless you're going to quote that source for multiple consecutive paragraphs, you're never going to get a thorough analysis that way. So if you're getting your news about Able Danger from a newspaper (or, heaven forbid, a cable news channel), you're really getting a rather superficial look at what is going on. Today's headline might be, "Commission denies knowing about Atta"; tomorrow's headline might be, "Commission admits knowing about Atta." But what does it all mean? All you're getting is a bunch of disconnected snapshots.

By contrast, a good blogger like Captain Ed can delve deeply into the known facts, and can speculate openly about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns and all that. But -- if it's done right, as it is in this case -- his speculation is fully transparent, with its factual basis explained completely and its logical underpinnings outlined articulately. That means a reader with a different interpretation of the facts can look at what Ed has written and draw his own conclusions (and post it in Ed's comments, or on his own blog). Thus, a real dialogue can occur, and intelligent readers can come away with a much better grasp on the situation than from reading an incomplete newspaper report, the incompleteness of which may very well mislead by omission.

Now, of course, an unintelligent or lazy reader may look at Captain Ed's blog, ignore the caveats like "Does any of this constitute proof? No," and conclude something unwarranted like, "This Able Danger thing PROVES that Saddam attacked us on 9/11!" But that's not a strike against Captain Ed, or against blogs generally -- it's a strike against unintelligent, lazy readers, who could and would jump to similarly unjustified conclusions from reading the paper or watching TV.

Likewise, coverage by an unintelligent or lazy blogger, or one who is not merely biased (which we all are), but is so biased that it hampers his/her ability to think rationally, will also be unhelpful and perhaps even harmful to a full understanding of the issue. But the same can be said of lazy journalists, and I would contend that the informal meritocracy which allows good blogs to gain wide audiences (i.e., prominent bloggers link those who say good/interesting things; readers stick around if the blog stays good/interesting, go elsewhere if it doesn't) generally works better than the formalized attempts at meritocracy in many journalistic institutions (the system that, for example, made Jayson Blair a big-name reporter, and that to this day keeps letting the utterly pedestrian Maureen Dowd write weekly columns for the nation's most prominent newspaper).

Of course, bloggers generally rely on others -- specifically, the mainstream journalists we love to bash :) -- to do the actual reporting. (Well, unless the reporting involves some form of Internet research -- which, incidentally, is a rich reporting tool that mainstream journalists often fail to use as productively as they should, and bloggers often pick up the slack here.) But that's fine. The blogosphere need not replace the mainstream media in order to be recognized as serving a thoroughly worthwhile purpose. We supplement the MSM. They're better at the reporting, but we are often better at the analysis -- which, in a story like this, is at least as important as the reporting.

"Kiss Irene goodbye"

8/13/2005 03:09:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Barring a totally unexpected reversal, Irene is no longer a threat to the United States mainland -- or any land, for that matter. Alan Sullivan at Fresh Bilge notes: "All models now agree that Irene will stay well offshore, and the storm has already turned more to the north." Dr. Jeff Masters writes: "Last night's mission by NOAA's G-IV aircraft gathered a large high-resolution set of data surrounding Irene, and this data was used to initialize this morning's models. These models continue to show that Irene will turn to the north and northeast, missing the U.S. coast by a wide margin. This is a high-confidence forecast, due to the excellent data used to initialize the models and the continuity of the model forecasts from yesterday to today. "

Irene has also apparently weakened significantly. As of the last advisory, at 10:00 AM, she was still officially at 70 mph (though the NHC expressed some doubt about whether that was perhaps too high), but shortly after that advisory was issued, "The Hurricane Hunters just paid a visit to Irene, and found a substantially weaker tropical storm. The central pressure was just 1000 mb, and maximum flight-level winds were 40 mph on the west side of the storm." (That's according to Dr. Masters again.) So the 4:00 PM advisory will probably announce that Irene is substantially weaker.

The 4:00 PM advisory may also announce the formation of Tropical Depression 10, a thousand miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Dr. Masters has an initial take on the proto-depression: "The storm will continue to move to the northwest or west-northwest over the next few days, not posing a threat to any islands until perhaps Wednesday. The GFS model moves the storm northwest, bypassing the Caribbean islands, then tracks it on a more westerly course towards the U.S. late next week. The storm is headed into an area of very dry air to its northwest, which may inhibit its growth and intensification. However, water temperatures are warm (28 - 30C) ahead of it and vertical wind shear is light, so it is likely that it will attain at least tropical storm status. If so, it will be named Jose."

In other news, today is the one-year anniversary of the Florida landfall of Hurricane Charley, the first (and arguably worst) of the four hurricanes to strike the "Sunshine" State last year.

The night we lost our boat

8/13/2005 03:43:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

One year ago this very night, Becky and I were marooned on a desert island.

Or so we have always thought. But thanks to Google Maps and my 360° panorama of our "island," I determined a few minutes ago that we were actually marooned on a desert peninsula.

Heh. Either way, it was definitely a crowning moment in our wonderful history together. :)

Ah, the memories. Full story here. More photos here and here.

UPDATE: Hmm... comparing this satellite map to Google's satellite map, it's clear that the spot where we got stranded is sometimes an island, and sometimes part of a peninsula, depending on the water level of the lake. Whether the low-lying isthmus was underwater one year ago tonight, making the peninsula an island, I don't know. I suspect probably not, as the water level was quite low when we were there, but who knows? Maybe it was even lower when Google took its satellite pictures. So it's possible, anyway, that we were on a desert island, after all. :)

P.S. Look at the right-hand side of this picture, and you'll see the low-lying strip of rock that connects Gunsight Butte to "our island." (You can't actually see our island; it would be off to the right, beyond the edge of the photo. But you can see the isthmus of the sometime-peninsula.) On the other hand, here's another picture of the same spot, taken when the water level was higher. No isthmus is visible; "our island" really was an island at that time.

A child after my own heart

8/13/2005 02:56:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Paula Abdul, you are safe

8/13/2005 02:06:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Paula Abdul will stay on American Idol after a Fox investigation concluded that she did not have sexual relations with that man, Corey Clark.* Well, thank goodness. I don't know about you, but I've been losing lots of sleep over Paula Abdul's fate. We can now return to our normal lives and stop worrying about poor Paula. :)

*Or at least, the investigation concluded that there wasn't sufficient corroborating evidence that she had sexual relations with him. After all, under the Constitution, she's innocent until proven skanky. (I believe Thomas Jefferson wrote that provision.)

Hawk! Squawk!

8/12/2005 11:32:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

I love this headline, "Israeli hawks circle Iran's N-plants." It causes me to picture these Jewish birds of prey, flying over Iran, pooping on the mullahs, and squawking something that sounds suspiciously like "Oy!" :)

P.S. I believe the species Accipiter Likudnik, more commonly known as the Netanyahawk, is especially vicious... ;)

The Return of the Beckster

8/12/2005 11:01:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Becky's first blog post in nearly a month and a half is here.

Irene's winds up to 65 mph

8/12/2005 12:10:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Irene is strengthening, and could be a hurricane by later this afternoon. Meanwhile, the forecast track is looking more and more recurve-y. Although, the 120-hour track-possibilities bubble now encompasses the southern four counties of Connecticut. :)

UPDATE: Now she's up to 70 mph, according to the 4:00 PM advisory. Hurricane strength starts at 74 mph. Methinks it'll be Hurricane Irene at 10:00 PM tonight. Stay tuned...

UPDATE 2: The computer models are now pretty much unanimous in predicting a sharp recurvature out to sea.

UPDATE 3: Nope... still a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. But this is interesting:
A NOAA G-IV jet aircraft and an Air Force Reserve aircraft have been conducting synoptic surveillance missions around Irene this evening. Dropsonde data from those aircraft indicate a slightly stronger and more westward extension of the mid-level ridge than any of the models were indicating for 13/00z...with the UKMET having the closest verification. The ridge...albeit somewhat narrow...extends from near Bermuda westward to North Carolina. A shortwave trough has moved eastward off the U.S. East Coast and a shortwave ridge over the eastern Ohio Valley is moving eastward to take the place of that trough. In the short term...This should build or at least maintain the existing ridge to the north of Irene...which may cause a little more westward motion than forecast for the next 24 hours or so. After that...all the models agree that Irene will erode the ridge and move slowly northward through the ridge between 70-72w longitude...and then turn east-northeastward by 72 hours. However...given more ridge showing up in the synoptic dropsonde data...there may be a westward shift in the 00z model guidance.
Maybe I'm wrong about this (after all, I'm not a real meteorologist, I just play one on TV the Internet), but a forecast that calls for a storm to "erode the ridge" and then move "through" it strikes me as considerably less certain than one that calls for the storm to be passively acted upon by outside forces like well-established ridges and troughs. Put another way: tropical cyclones' direct interactions with other types of weather systems can be unpredictable. What if Irene doesn't "erode the ridge"? Will she just sit and spin, or could she then move west... or north?

Still, it does seem very likely that Irene will float harmlessly out to sea. The yet-to-be-officially-declared Tropical Depression Ten (potentially Tropical Storm Jose) may be a different story. Here's a sea-surface temperatures map that shows why proto-Jose is worth watching closely.


8/12/2005 12:06:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

"Brendan, you claim over and over that you're a Democrat," writes an anonymous commenter. "Some of us may start to actually believe that if you'd post something that criticizes the Right for anything other than their stance on gay rights."

This is an utterly ignorant attack on me. I have posted plenty of things during my 40 months of blogging that criticize the Right for all sorts of stuff. My archives readily demonstrate this. Just because some on the Left can't handle the idea of someone who criticizes fools and knaves on both sides of the aisle, doesn't make me any less of a Democrat. If I'm slightly harder on the fools and knaves on my side, it's only because their actions reflect poorly on me, which pisses me off -- and also, perhaps, because I feel that I have a better chance of bringing about change in the party that I'm a part of rather than the one that I'm screaming at from the sidelines.

It is perfectly legitimate, of course, to disagree with specific choices that I make, in terms of which instances of foolishness and knavery I choose to criticize and which I don't bother with. I don't always make the right choices; sometimes I ignore or downplay things that I should be paying more attention to, and sometimes I overemphasize things that aren't really that big a deal. I'm not perfect, and I don't claim to be. But the sweeping accusation that I only criticize liberals is simply false, and the implication that I'm therefore not a real Democrat is just foolish. If I decide to forswear the Democratic Party and stop voting for its candidates in most elections (including both presidential elections since I turned 18), I'll let y'all know. It hasn't happened yet.

Along the same lines as Anonymous, lawgeek says that I and my "cohorts" on this blog "perpetually attack and critique the Left." Well, so far as I know, I don't have "cohorts."* I think and speak for myself, and no one else speaks for me. But with regard to what I "perpetually" do, it's true that I attack fellow liberals and Democrats when I feel they deserve it, which, unfortunately, is quite often at the moment. The Democratic Party and the Left as a whole desperately need to wake up and grapple with reality, and I'm not going to shy away from pointing that out.

I firmly believe that it is important, for the sake of the country and the world, to have a vibrant, vocal and rational Left, presenting a reasonable alternative to the conservative agenda. At the moment, I do not believe we have such a Left. The vocal Left is mostly irrational, and the rational Left isn't very vibrant or vocal, largely because the noisy loonies drown them out. I believe that situation needs to be rectified. I hope, in some small way, to participate in the process of rectifying it.

In contrast to my mom, who believes that liberals should focus 100% of our energies on attacking the Republicans and not waste our time with internecine warfare, I firmly believe that internecine warfare is absolutely necessary at this particular moment in our history. The 2004 elections conclusively demonstrated that "energy" and relentless "attacking" are not enough to win -- we libs & Dems need to clean up our own act before we can possibly hope to convince the public at large that we should be running the country. It was, for the second consecutive presidential election, the Left that defeated itself in 2004. It should therefore be a top priority for the Left to fix itself.

But that doesn't mean I don't criticize Republicans, too. That's just ridiculous. As I said, browse my archives. But, hey, you want something new and specific? Okay, fine. Yesterday, I received a mass e-mail from the national Republican Party accusing the Democrats of election fraud and using the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race as an example. Specifically, the e-mail referred to those King County ballots that were "found" (the GOP's scare quotes, not mine) and added to the vote tally during the recount. Hot on the heels of my anti-NARAL tirade, I wrote back to the national GOP in a rage:
As someone who followed the Washington gubernatorial election quite closely, I must say that your use of quotation marks (a.k.a. "scare quotes") around the word "found" in the description of those King County ballots is COMPLETELY OUTRAGEOUS. There is absolutely no evidence WHATSOEVER that those ballots were in any way illegitimate. They were, in fact, found (and within the recount deadline, at that). There was never any plausible or credible allegation -- just a lot of unjustified innuendo -- that anything was wrong with those ballots. There was never any suggestion that anyone forged them or altered them or anything like that. Yes, there were other allegations of fraud in the election, but they did not relate to those ballots. What happened with those ballots was a simple administrative error, the correction of which is precisely why we have recounts. And thank God it was fixed before the deadline, or hundreds of voters ballots would have gone uncounted!!! (I don't care who they voted for; votes which are validly cast should count!) Those were real votes cast by real voters, and regardless of whether the judge's other decisions were right or wrong, he was absolutely right to count those ballots.

By implying without any factual basis that those ballots were fraudulent, you sink to the same level as other scurrilous deceitful liars like NARAL and Michael Moore. Shame on you.

The Democrats are wrong to keep harping on the 2000 Florida election having been "stolen," and you are wrong to harp on the 2004 Washington gubernatorial election. Both of these were simply very close elections (statistical ties, really) in which every little tiny error and problem was magnified a thousand-fold due to the closeness of the race. It is entirely counterproductive and wrong, indeed borderline un-American, to dishonestly make unfounded accusations that diminish public confidence in the election process simply for partisan gain. Leave that crap to Jesse Jackson, will you? Making legitimate accusations is perfectly right and proper, of course, but using scare-quotes to refer skeptically to those perfectly valid ballots is not a legitimate accusation.

I lost faith a while ago in the Washington state Republican Party's ability to deal equitably and fairly with this issue, but I expect better from the national GOP. Again: shame on you.

P.S. Why do you think we have recounts in the first place, if not to correct blatant errors like the accidental failure to count several hundred validly cast ballots???

P.P.S. How would you have felt if those ballots had been found in a Republican county? Would you be casting the same aspersions? What if they were military ballots? Does the hypocrisy never end?
So there you go: Brendan Loy lambasting Republicans when they deserve it, just as fiercely as I lambaste Democrats when they deserve it. (And yes, I was planning all along to post this e-mail to the blog today, even before the above-quoted comments forced the issue.)

This really isn't much of a mystery, people. Just because I'm not a blind partisan doesn't mean I'm playing for the other team. That's the sort of small-tent mentality that will relegate the Democratic Party to permanent minority status. Nor -- to strike at the heart of what's perhaps the real issue here -- does the fact I earnestly believe the war in Iraq was and is justified mean that I am not a real Democrat. Hawks can be Democrats too, and so can rational people who don't agree with all the liberal orthodoxies, but who agree even less with the conservative ones. Like I said: we're a big tent, right? Well, I'm staying under the tent until somebody kicks me out, or until it becomes too noxious to stick around. And that hasn't happened yet (though Dick Durbin did his best a few weeks ago).

The bottom line is this. I don't call myself a Democrat just for rhetorical advantage. I call myself a Democrat because I am a Democrat. Like I said, if that changes, I will let you know.

*I'm honestly not sure who my "cohorts" would be. If lawgeek means the guestbloggers and/or the frequent commenters, they span the political spectrum from Pinko and Weenie to Capitalista and Troglodyte, to say nothing of the various Ideologues. So I don't think it can fairly be said that there is any united ideological crusade going on here.

Come on, Irene: pick a track!

8/12/2005 07:54:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Here's a really good graphic showing some of the computer models that the NHC is using to try and figure out where the heck Irene is going to go. (Hat tip: Eric Swartz of the South Florida Water Management District.) Note that the dotted black line is not a computer model, but rather, the linear extension of Irene's current forward motion.

With the exception of the BAMM (or as I like to call it, the Emeril model), the computers seem to agree on recurvature out to sea, east of North Carolina and well south of New England... but it's still too early to be sure. Alan Sullivan at Fresh Bilge is skeptical, declaring that "US landfall remains possible, with Capes Hatteras and Cod the most plausible targets."

Anniversary attack?

8/12/2005 02:48:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

The New York Times reports:
A group of F.B.I. counterterrorism analysts warned this week of possible terrorist attacks in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago around Sept. 11, but officials cautioned on Thursday that they were skeptical about the seriousness of the threat.

The warning grew out of intelligence developed from an overseas source indicating that terrorists might seek to steal fuel tanker trucks in order to inflict "mass casualties" by staging an anniversary attack, officials said. ...

Several government officials in Washington who were briefed on the threat said it was described as credible and specific enough to warrant attention.

But other law enforcement officials in Washington and New York said that while they were aware of the warnings and were concerned about the Sept. 11 anniversary, they remained somewhat skeptical about the latest threat.
September 11 falls on a Sunday this year, so presumably any attack would come on Sept. 9 or Sept. 12, or some other weekday around then. It's easier to inflict "mass casualties" when people are at work, crammed into downtown commercial districts and such. Well, unless the target is a football stadium.

In other 9/11-related news, it seems the didactic and inappropriate "International Freedom Center" is having some roadblocks placed in its path by the Ground Zero reconstruction planners. Good. Give it the boot. Put the exhibits about apartheid and Iraq somewhere else. Let the 9/11 memorial be about 9/11.

Irene to New England? Probably not

8/12/2005 02:15:00 AM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

As of 10:00 PM, Tropical Storm Irene is still at 50 mph, and still posing a vague, uncertain threat to North Carolina; here's the forecast track. Florida State meteorology student Charles Fenwick at Eye of the Storm has an update, in which he kindly answers a question from the peanut gallery:
Via comments, Brendan Loy asks what chances I think Irene has of affecting New England. The scenario is what my Virginia-centric state of mind has thought of as the 'overshoot' scenario. The storm makes an approach to the Outer Banks but turns parallel to the coast and runs north until it finds land. The most recent example of it in pure form is Bob of 1991 (which affected my family since we were living in Brunswick, Maine at the time). Gloria of 1985 is another.

Due to the uncertainties of a five day forecast, it is a bit hard to have high confidence in rating the probability of such a scenario, but here goes anyway. I'm a bit too young to be familiar with the atmospheric setup that caused those tracks, however, one can reckon the positioning of high pressure that would have caused such a track. ... It seems like it would take the center to be positioned to be either a little bit further north than is normal (or elongated north-south), and somewhat off the coast. One thing noticable about these types of storms is that they are very much under the influence of a well-defined steering current, as their forward progress increases tremendously as they pass the Outer Banks.

Looking at what setup appears to be, I don't see such a scenario ocurring. Right now the options plausible to me are a quick turn out to sea, or a stall/near-stall off the coast that leaves the storm spinning until the next front passes through (carrying the storm off to the east). I don't think there are any examples of storms approaching the coast slowly (in the fashion that some models are creeping Irene forward in the mid-late term of their forecasts) and then lurching to the north.
In other words, Irene seems more likely to be an Emily or a Felix than a Bob or a Gloria.


8/11/2005 09:36:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

NARAL has yanked its egregiously offensive anti-Roberts ad, saying "many people have misconstrued" it. (Hat tip: Kate Spitz.)

Riiight... "misconstrued"... and Trent Lott was "quoted out of context." But, hey, at least they're doing the right thing, albeit belatedly, and probably out of a sense political expediency rather than an actual recognition that they did anything wrong. I'll take what I can get.

This, however, is deeply disappointing: "Senate Democrats have not taken a position on the ad." Why the hell not? What's so hard about condemning malicious lies? Oh, right, because no one in the Democratic Party is willing to rock the boat and piss off NARAL. Argh, what a bunch of wimps. So much for Sister Souljah.

Kudos to pro-choice Republican Arlen Specter, who did what the Dems couldn't bring themselves to do, publicly declaring the ad "blatantly untrue and unfair." Perhaps I'll vote for him for the Democratic nomination in 2008. :)

Well said

8/11/2005 08:56:00 PM EST
Posted by Brendan Loy

Christopher Hitchens on the Islamists: "They gave us no peace and we shouldn't give them any. We can't live on the same planet as them and I'm glad because I don't want to. I don't want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murders and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It's them or me. ... It's a duty and a responsibility to defeat them."

He also explains how the Left got 9/11 wrong:
The September 11 attacks were one of those rare historical moments, like 1933 in Germany or 1936 in Spain or 1968, when you are put in a position to take a strong stand for what is right. The left failed this test. Instead of strongly standing against these nihilistic murderers, people on the left, such as Noam Chomsky, began to make excuses for these murderers, openly saying that Bin Laden was, however crude in his methods, in some ways voicing a liberation theology. This is simply a moral and political collapse.

But it's not only that. It's a missed opportunity for the left. Think of it this way: If a group of theocratic nihilists drive planes full of human beings into buildings full of human beings announcing nothing by way of a program except their nihilism and if they turn out to have been sheltered by two regimes favored by the United States and the national security establishment, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to be precise, two of only three countries to recognize the Taliban, and if Republicans were totally taken by surprise by this and if the working class of New York had to step forward and become the shield of society in the person of the fire and police brigades, it seemed to me that this would have been a good opportunity for the left to demand a general revision of all the assumptions we carried about the post-Cold War world. We were attacked by a religious dictatorship and the working class were pushed into defending elites by the total failure of our leadership and total failure of our intelligence. The attack emanated partly from the failure of regimes supported by that same elite national security establishment -- Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. If the left can't take advantage of a moment like that: what's it for? What's its secularism for? What's its internationalism, class attitude, democracy for?

You don't get that many measurable historical moments in your life, but you must recognize them when they come. This was one of those moments and the left collectively decided to get it wrong and I realized at that moment that, to borrow a slogan that slightly irritates me, but is useful: "Not in my name." I'm not part of that family. I wanted to force a split, a political split on the left to which a small extent I think succeeded. Today, there is a small pro-regime change left and I'm a proud part of it.
As am I.

(Hat tip: Michael Totten, who, on a not entirely unrelated note, also points out that The Guardian today published an op-ed column by an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist.