Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

I was supposed to be flying to New Orleans Tuesday morning for a week of meetings. Well that's not happening. And this disruption of my schedule is nothing on what's happening to the hundreds of thousands of people now evacuating who have to wonder, will they have homes to return to?

Some thoughts:
  • Yesterday Gustav pounded Cuba as a Category 4 storm, with winds in the 150 mph range. I've been in Cuba in torrential rains; it floods. What I saw of Cuba didn't make me love their society and government. But I've seen a little of how their practice at discipline and working together serves them in time of crisis. Jeff Masters, Hurricane watcher extraordinaire, had high hopes for how the island would do:

    Fortunately, Cuba has a top-notch hurricane civil defense operation, and I'm confident they have gotten all of the population at risk out of harm's way.

    I sure hope he was right.
  • Now Gustav is barreling across the Gulf of Mexico -- toward New Orleans -- and toward those drilling platforms that Senator McCain wants us to encourage more of. Uh, oh. Turns out that oil company practices ensure that an ill-winds blows their profits good.

    Afterward .. already painful gasoline prices could hit $5.00 a gallon quickly. Unlike the hurricane, it's a preventable event. The storm may well cut refining capacity along the Gulf, but if the U.S. had a decent supply of gasoline on hand, price spikes would also be muted. But refineries have cut back production to keep prices up even as gasoline consumption falls. So U.S. gasoline supplies now are lower than before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    Oil Watch

  • Grandmere Mimi, who has now successfully evacuated from the Louisiana Coast, wants to us to know that it's an oil advocates' myth that none of those same oil facilities leaked under Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

    As a result of both storms, a total volume of 17,652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons) of total petroleum products, of which 13,137 barrels were crude oil and condensate, was spilled from platforms, rigs and pipelines. 4,514 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs.

  • If I'd gone to New Orleans, I had meant to point readers to this extraordinary archive on the city, its people, and their struggles in the context of Hurricane Katrina and its human-induced aftermath. The Katrina Reader brings together online accounts and analysis of grassroots struggles led by African Americans in New Orleans for their communities and their way of life. Katrina tore the mask off systemic racism -- this is that story.

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