Saturday, September 10, 2005

Southern Defensive Perimeter

South of New Orleans is a series of bijous, bays, and marshes that have historically acted as a buffer zone between the city and oncoming hurricanes.

Even though it's a wetland area, the force of a hurricane is dulled somewhat as it proceeds further inland. Since the first settlements in the NOLA area, levees and canals were created to control seasonal flooding and the banks of the Mississippi were hardened to keep the river following the same course, so the major port facilities would remain useful. What this does, however, is prevent the regular depositing of river silt, which not only allows the land on which NOLA sits to remain at relatively the same level, but also maintains the wetland buffer zone by replenishing the land that is constantly removed by tidal action. The result of this is that, not only is New Orleans sinking, but the marshy buffer is shrinking; more goes out than comes back in. This increases the likelihood of a hurricane traveling further inland and also makes the buffer towns and ports more vulnerable to disaster.

About an hour and a half before dawn, I started out from the little church lot I had “slept” in and headed South on highway 1, which winds it's way through little towns and parishes to a point called Port Fourchon and then East to Grand Isle, a park and recreation area (with a small US Marine observation station). On the way, the highway follows the course of a river, and I as drove further down, I could see the lights of shrimp and fishing boats, which were moored to little docks at its edges. Of course, I couldn't help but think of Forrest Gump, and how this was entirely unlike the movie as so many boats had survived. In the glow of the ships' lights, I could see debris from the hurricane, but it appeared that none of them were visibly damaged, at least as far as my untrained eye could detect.

I continued on into the pre-dawn, and as it got lighter began to see my first real evidence of serious hurricane destruction. One of the first things I noticed, besides random piles of mixed wreckage along the side of the road, was pretty severe damage to utility poles. Throughout this trip, it became pretty obvious that the some of the most vulnerable things in a wild storm are trees and utility/telephone poles, and I will have many pictures that include them here, as well as in later entries.

The stilted buildings seen in the background of the above picture are called “camps,” which translates to “summer home” in regular English. I have spoken with quite a few people who, even though their regular houses may have been undamaged, lost their camps. On the other hand, I've spoken with others who lost their regular houses, but were able to seek refuge in their still-surviving camps after the storm passed.

The sun had yet to break over the Eastern horizon when I passed Port Fourchon and ran in to a roadblock at a bridge. The park ranger manning the post informed me that only emergency personnel, military, and refinery employees (there are several in this area) were allowed to pass. Here's a shot of one of the refineries along the route (though not one accessible from the roadblock where I was forced to turn around).

I was starting to get annoyed at my lack of free reign, but turned around, drove a few hundred feet, and parked. I needed to catch up with writing my posts anyway, and it was still only 5:30 AM. I wasn't really going to miss anything if I hung out for a couple of hours. Not too long after I had parked, the sun started to rise and I snapped a few shots of it against a bijou foreground.

After a few sunrise shots just to see if I could come up with something dramatic, I popped off a shot back towards the checkpoint from which I was turned away.

Then I started back north on the highway, stopping and taking pictures whenever I thought I saw something interesting.

In no particular order:

Here are a couple that I particularly liked. I'm not sure how exactly to express this thought, but it seems to me that both of these really capture something especially graceful about the state of destruction of the subject. (Great, now I'm sounding like a less articulate version of Hannibal Lechter).

Once I meandered my way back up Hwy 1 to my starting point, still having not successfully completing my mission of linking up with any military units, I decided to try and hit some small, secondary Coast Guard and Marine bases located to the Southeast. I spent several hours driving around bijou country, getting lost, back-tracking, and sightseeing, and ended up only finding a tiny, locked, and deserted Coast Guard facility in the middle of nowhere. The only thing I really found of interest was an old fishing boat that had obviously been sunk well before the hurricane, judging from the amount of duck grass (someone told me that's what it's called) growing up out of it.

Disappointed, hungry, and ready to finally get to New Orleans, I headed back north and got on the HWY 90 to see if I could just talk my way in to the heart of the town.


Blogger A Girl From Texas said...

I've been speaking with some evacuees that have been transplanted in my community and they say that there is a RUMOUR, and I do mean RUMOUR, that Beau Brothers Construction had some barges near the levees that were not tied properly; and as a result they banged against the walls and weakened them during the storm. I don't know anything more about it than what I just posted.

7:36 PM  
Blogger RNDMSFREE said...

I saw, touched, and climbed on three barges and also saw a grounded ferry boat that are slammed up against the levee that holds back the Missippi from the West Bank (which isn't actually a part of New Orleans proper, but right on the other side of the river, and is actually South, not West, along that part of the Miss.). I have pics of all but the ferry (don't know why I didn't shoot that). That will be part of one of my next two posts.

Just to keep you interested, here's a link to a google maps sattelite photo that shows just one of them through the cloud cover. I think this is the one that had the front end all tilted up so I was actually standing under it. Pretty amazing.,-89.992329&spn=0.002273,0.002752&t=e&hl=en

Thanks for your enthusiasm for my blog, by the way.

7:49 PM  
Blogger RNDMSFREE said...

I don't know, however, if there are other ones that caused the levee break at the lake that flooded NOLA. Good thing the ones I saw didn't, because the West Bank is one of the few completely dry places around there...

7:51 PM  
Blogger A Girl From Texas said...

You're welcome..... you're the smartest ape I've ever encountered. :)

8:32 PM  
Blogger B. Stabby said...

there is hot romance brewing here!!! In my shorts!!!



B. Stabby

3:58 PM  

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