Hurricane Katrine rages on in the Gulf Coast. Here’s a round-up of headlines from news including damage, insurance estimates, the effects on oil refineries, and the pending environmental disaster casued by the hurricane…
Plowing through New Orleans, the below sea level city experienced “howling, 145-mph winds and blinding rain that flooded some homes to the ceilings and ripped away part of the roof of the Superdome, where thousands of people had taken shelter.”
National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield warned that New Orleans would be pounded throughout the day and that Katrina’s potential 15-foot storm surge, down from a feared 28 feet, was still substantial enough to cause extensive flooding.
As Ron reported below, another issue created by the powerful hurricane is the lack of equipment for the National Guard to properly aid the ravaged area.
Insurance forecasters predict “Hurricane Katrina may be the most expensive hurricane ever to hit the United States, costing insurers as much as $25 billion, a storm modeler said on Monday.”
Eqecat Inc. of Oakland, California, had on Sunday forecast that losses could top $30 billion, but it reduced that forecast because the storm weakened and veered slightly east. The firm expects minimum insured losses of $12 billion.
Oil companies said today they are “worried that powerful Hurricane Katrina may have caused damage to offshore oil platforms and undersea pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The hurricane, which slammed into New Orleans Monday morning with winds of more than 100 mph after plowing through the Gulf, shut at least half of the region’s oil production, a quarter of gas operations, and forced shut eight refineries along the coast — sending crude oil prices to record highs over $70 per barrel.
Bush is weighing “a decision on whether to release some oil from the nation’s petroleum reserves to help refiners hurt by Hurricane Katrina, administration officials said Monday. A decision was expected later in the day.”
Adminstration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Bush seemed likely to authorize a loan of some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve but that details remained in flux.
Environmental experts are saying Katrina “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.”
Estimates predict that 60 percent to 80 percent of the city’s houses will be destroyed by wind. With the flood damage, most of the people who live in and around New Orleans could be homeless.
“We’re talking about in essence having — in the continental United States — having a refugee camp of a million people,” van Heerden said.
After the storm passes, the water will have nowhere to go.
In a few days, van Heerden predicts, emergency management officials are going to be wondering how to handle a giant stagnant pond contaminated with building debris, coffins, sewage and other hazardous materials.
“We’re talking about an incredible environmental disaster,” van Heerden said.
Hurricane Katrina could leave 1 million homeless.