CNN Investigative Correspondent
It has been dumping rain for three live shots now. My professional earpiece is no longer functioning. And during my last shot I used iPod plugs which caused water to get in my ear. Anderson sounded like he was underwater.
Between shots we try to dry out in the car. This is me and my producer Marcus Hooper (producers are always on phones).
Anyway, this is the glamorous world we live in, currently at the end of St. Bernard Parish and the Mississippi river.
Stay dry ya'll.
Eighty-six year old Maxine Richardson sat in the lobby of a Baton Rouge Sheraton and watched Gustav whip its fury on bent street signs.
A large piece of metal from a neighboring building flew off and crashed into the Sheraton's glass roof, startling and entertaining evacuees. The glass cracked but didn't break. People applauded.
Richardson was startled at first, but then rolled her eyes. She isn't going to put up with running from hurricanes any longer.
Though there are three generations of family who live with her in New Orleans, she is over the place.
"People were like, 'Oh, aren't you excited to be back home?'" She said, recalling how she moved back in to her home that was destroyed by Katrina.
"I was not happy. I didn't like that place anymore. It made me uncomfortable.
"I want to leave New Orleans and if I go back this time to the same thing Katrina left me, I will find another place to live. Lord Jesus, I hope you hear me because I mean it!"
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/katrina.320x640b.jpg caption="Northern Chandeleur Islands, 60 miles east of New Orleans: before and after Hurricane Katrina. Storm surge and large waves from Hurricane Katrina submerged the islands, stripped sand from the beaches, and eroded large sections of the marsh. Today, few recognizable landforms are left on the Chandeleur Island chain" width=292 height=640]
Ivor van Heerden
Ph.D., Author "The Storm – What Went Wrong and Why during Hurricane Katrina
the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist"
The Mississippi River, for the 7,000 years before Europeans settled in North America, built most of what is now coastal Louisiana.
The Mississippi river sediment load was deposited at the coast as the river went from a deep confined channel to the shallow continental shelf building over time a series of deltas. Approximately every 1,000 years it would switch it course because a shorter course existed to the Gulf of Mexico, the active delta having expanded many miles over its lifespan.
This switching of the loci of deposition was the basic geological framework. Every year the river flooded, every year it spread its life giving sediment and nutrient goodness over 100’s of square miles, maintaining the existing wetlands such that while they did subside, sediment additions and accumulation of organic matter from roots and leaf litter, maintained the wetland surface. In fresh water areas, cypress swamps abounded, as impenetrable walls to hurricane storm surges.
Based on old Indian mounds these surges never seem to have exceeded 6-8 feet.
However, along comes man; he must tame this Mississippi river ‘beast’; put it in strait jackets called navigation or flood control levees. By 1930 we had cut off the wetland’s ‘blood’ supply, no more flooding, no more wetland maintenance and growth.
Nature did try to flex its muscle; the Mississippi river tried one of its 1000 year switches, to the Atchafalaya River, a course to the Gulf some 100 miles shorter. Again, man stepped in and locked in the distribution of Mississippi flow down the Atchafalaya to about 30%. So instead of the Atchafalaya having the potential to build a new parish (county) it barely manages to maintain the two deltas at its seaward end.
The nation, however, has and continues to benefit enormously from the numerous ports that line the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the sea.
Now, to add insult to injury, man ‘cut up’ these starving wetlands with thousands and thousands of miles of canals and channels in support of mining very easily accessible and rich oil and gas fields.
Again the nation benefited, from very cheap domestic energy. Unfortunately, in the process the wetlands were devastated such that since the 1930’s more than a million acres have been lost, and storm surges are now Louisiana’s worst enemy.
Officials at the LSU AG Center shelter in Alexandria, LA just told the 2700 evacuees that the plumbing is not functioning. No showers or toilet flushing. Initial reaction is calm among evacuees, many of whom are bunking down for the night. Details from Dr. John Barnett, head of the facilities at this building:
Heavy winds and rain at the moment. Not much to do about it right now.
No panic. Just no plumbing and 2700 evacuees, and 600 volunteers and EMTs.
It has been a long day here at Tulane Medical Center, but luckily, boredom, rather than chaos, is the reason.
I arrived at the parking deck this morning at 5 AM, and everything was relatively calm. By six o'clock, it was starting to get a little windy and rainy. I was gearing up to weather a monster category 3 storm embedded in the hospital.
But the storm came, and went. The biggest issues we've had here all day - a minor water leak on the upper floors, no Starbucks coffee in the cafeteria and one downed tree.
But what if the storm had materialized into a monster? Would Tulane Medical Center have been ready?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/weather/09/01/gustav/t1home.brathwaite2.wwl.jpg caption="A private levee south of New Orleans may fail, official says."]Maureen Miller
Anyone who dared to stay in Plaquemines Parish, just downriver from New Orleans, is being urged to evacuate at this hour. A private levee could break at any moment, due to the storm surge from Hurricane Gustav. Crews are working to keep the levee from failing, but "it doesn't look like we're going to be successful," Parish President Bill Nungesser said.
It's a tense waiting game to see what might happen. We're keeping an eye on the levee trouble outside New Orleans and we'll have the latest tonight on 360°. We'll be taking you throughout the storm zone and checking in with our reporters all along the path of the Gustav.
Our other big story of the day comes out of the Republican National Convention, which has been scaled down due to Hurricane Gustav. The McCain campaign reveled today that Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant.
The campaign says Bristol will keep the baby and marry her high school boyfriend. Aides say the announcement was made because there were Internet rumors that Palin's youngest son, born in April with Down syndrome, was actually Bristol's baby. Sarah and her husband, Todd Palin, issued a statement saying they are "proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents."
We'll have all the angles on this story, including reaction from John McCain and Barack Obama.
What are your thoughts? We'd love to hear from you.
And, don't miss AC360° starting at 10pm ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/01/art.nola.randikaye.jpg caption="The view from Randi Kaye's windshield as she drives through Gustav to reach Baton Rouge."]
AC360° Correspondent | BIO
We are on our way to Baton Rouge to meet some of the folks who evacuated from New Orleans. I’m with my producer, Chuck Hadad.
We flew into Jackson, Mississippi because the Baton Rouge airport was closed. At first, it was just raining… now it’s storming and the wind is rocking our car back and forth pretty fiercely.
At first we thought the drive would be a breeze, but now we’re seeing big downed trees in the road and it’s nearly impossible to see through the rain out the front windshield. We are following our crew which is in the car ahead of us and we can barely see them. At this point, we are still 70 miles away... Not good!