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Interesting Facts

  • Origin of the Word Hurricane"The word hurricane derives from the Native American word huracán. Native American groups throughout the Caribbean basin recognized huracán (spelled in a variety of ways) as a powerful god or supernatural force under the control of a god. The Taino Indians of the Greater Antilles held that huracán was responsible for the formation of the islands themselves. In Mayan culture, hurakán was one of the three most powerful forces in the pantheon of deities, along with cabrakán (earthquake) and chirakán (volcano)."
  • FEMA was created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 after criticism of the government's fragmented response to a series of disasters, including Hurricane Camille in 1969 and California earthquakes in 1971. Bill Clinton upgraded FEMA to cabinet-level status. It is now part of Homeland Security.
  • During the 20th century, floods were the number-one natural disaster in the United States in terms of number of lives lost and property damage.
  • The most devastating flood in U.S. history occurred in the summer of 1993. The Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri, was above flood stage for 144 days between April 1 and September 30, 1993. Seventeen thousand square miles of land were covered by floodwaters in a region covering all or parts of nine states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois).


  • Alexander Cockburn:
    Weather can wipe out cities forever. It's what happened to America's first city, after all, as a visit to Chaco Canyon northeast of Gallup, New Mexico, attests. At the start of the thirteenth century it got hotter in that part of the world, and by the 1230s the Anasazi up and moved on. As the world now knows, weather need not have done New Orleans in.
  • Stuart Schwartz, historian:
    The writing of the history of hurricanes like that of much environmental history begins with a problem. For all their power and destructive potential, the history of the hurricanes is, because of their frequency, almost inherently boring.
  • Sidney Blumenthal:
    Before Katrina, the Republican theory received its most apposite formulation by a prominent lobbyist and close advisor to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, who said about government that he wanted to"drown it in the bathtub." In relation to the waters that surround it, New Orleans has been described as a bathtub, and it has served as the bathtub for Norquist's wish.
  • Barbara Bush:
    What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. So this is working very well for them.
  • News story (Slate summary of the news):
    The papers say that Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist put off a vote on extending the estate-tax cut. But the WP mentions far down that Republicans suggested they'll"proceed with a package of $70 billion in tax cuts." The Post also says that for the moment House Republicans are still sticking by their proposal to cut funding for Louisiana flood control."We are committed to living within our budget," said the Appropriations Committee spokesman.
  • Scott Cowen, president of Tulane:
    We've never had an incident that I know of in the history of the United States when an entire city was closed down and people were uncertain when it would reopen. There is no script for this. There is no road map for this. We're writing it as we go along.
  • Tom Engelhardt:
    The headline was:"Direct hit in New Orleans could mean a modern Atlantis," and the first paragraph of the story read:"More than 1.2 million people in metropolitan New Orleans were warned to get out Tuesday as [the] 140-mph hurricane churned toward the Gulf Coast, threatening to submerge this below-sea-level city in what could be the most disastrous storm to hit in nearly 40 years." That was USA Today and the only catch was -- the piece had been written on September 14, 2004 as Hurricane Ivan seemed to be barreling toward New Orleans.
  • David Brooks:
    Last week's national humiliation comes at the end of a string of confidence-shaking institutional failures that have cumulatively changed the nation's psyche. Over the past few years, we have seen intelligence failures in the inability to prevent Sept. 11 and find W.M.D.'s in Iraq. We have seen incompetent postwar planning. We have seen the collapse of Enron and corruption scandals on Wall Street. We have seen scandals at our leading magazines and newspapers, steroids in baseball, the horror of Abu Ghraib. Public confidence has been shaken too by the steady rain of suicide bombings, the grisly horror of Beslan and the world's inability to do anything about rising oil prices. Each institutional failure and sign of helplessness is another blow to national morale. ...

    Reaganite conservatism was the response to the pessimism and feebleness of the 1970's. Maybe this time there will be a progressive resurgence.