I must say that Michael is another one of those amazing people without whom I’m not sure how this trip would have gone. He not only picked me up off the river on one of the coldest days yet. He’s given me a place to stay for a week and has kept me fed at the same time. As I write I’m looking at the Ikkuma which we’ve put up on chairs in his dining room so I can take care of some of the wear and tear that the last 1000 miles have put on it. Michael is an avid kayaker and an all round great guy, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to thank him enough for the help he’s given me.
On the way back home we passed back over the Pearl river and as I looked down from the highway above I could see why Michael likes it. Even on a dark rainy January day Pearl river is very beautiful with stands of cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss and an endless maze of river channels to explore by boat. I only wish the weather had been warmer because we might have paddled a section of the Pearl together while we were down there. Some other day for sure.
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Because if the main part of the storm had hit there…they’d probably be dead. The large hurricane named Camille that hit this coast in 1969 (I believe the one featured in Forest Gump) brought with it a record setting and astonishing tidal surge around 23 feet. Remember a tidal surge is not a tidal wave that comes in as one big wave then retreats. Essentially a tidal surge is a bulge of water pushed in by the storm that moves in and stays for a while. On top of that surge you still have the chaos of the wind driven normal waves you’d expect in any storm. Just a few miles east of New Orleans the storm surge that accompanied the winds of Katrina was 27 feet deep. That was a surge of water that would have easily topped the levy surrounding New Orleans and filled the (lower than sea level) town well above the roof tops. Those people in the emergency shelter that Michael was helping were the ones that chose not to, or just couldn’t, evacuate before the storm. If the surge had hit New Orleans dead on they would have first moved from the first floor of their house to the second. Then as the surge water continued to rise they would have moved into the attic. The prepared ones would have then used their emergency ax to chop through the roof to take refuge up there. The problem was that from there they would have eventually been swept away in an additional five feet or more of water.
It’s with this knowledge… or without it… or ignoring it… or trusting that the levy that already failed won’t again, that people are choosing to re-build the same old way in New Orleans. It’s not that I think they shouldn’t move back to their town and start again. But how bout learning the lesson and rebuilding in a way that can help you and your home survive the next one that is ever more likely to come as the protective coast line slowly disappears.