Category Archives: Environmental Issues

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

The tropical depression that became Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005. It’s path led it over Florida before moving out into the Gulf of Mexico, regaining strength, and moving onto the Gulf coast again.

When the storm made landfall, it had a Category 3 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale–it brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour–and stretched some 400 miles across.

And while Katrina affected a huge region, I will limit this blog entry mainly to New Orleans.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

First landfall: Florida

August 25, 2005: at 6:30 PM EDT Hurricane Katrina made its first landfall in Florida as a Category 1 hurricane near Hallandale Beach, Florida on the Miami-Dade/Broward county line.

After landfall, instead of travelling as originally forecast, Katrina moved hard left (south/southwest) almost parallel to the coastline in densely-populated metropolitan Miami, Florida. As many as six people were killed, including three people killed by falling trees and two boaters that attempted to ride out the storm in their crafts.

August 26, 2005: Katrina was  downgraded to a tropical storm. At 5:00 AM EDT, the eye of Hurricane Katrina was located just offshore of southwestern Florida over the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles (80 km) north-northeast of Key West, Florida.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Headed toward New Orleans

August 27, 2005: Katrina reached Category 3 intensity. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced a state of emergency and a called for a voluntary evacuation.

August 28, 2005: Katrina reached Category 4 intensity with 145 mph winds. By 7:00 AM CDT  it was a Category 5 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph , gusts up to 215 mph.

In a press conference at roughly 10:00 AM CDT, Mayor Ray Nagin declared that “a mandatory evacuation order is hereby called for all of the parish of Orleans.”

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Storm surge

August 29, 2005: Katrina’s storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans, submerging eighty percent of the city. 2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

August 30, 2005: Louisiana Governor Blanco ordered that all of New Orleans, including the Superdome, be evacuated due to the flooding of the city.

August 31, 2005: New Orleans’s Mayor Ray Nagin announced that the planned sandbagging of the 17th Street Canal levee breach had failed.

At the time, 85% of the city was underwater. President Bush returned early to Washington from vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Though he did not stop in Louisiana, Air Force One flies low over the Gulf Coast so that he can view the devastation in Air Force One.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

September 1, 2005: President Bush appeared on Good Morning America, and said that he understood the frustration of Katrina victims, many of whom are still waiting for food, water, and other aid.

I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday,” Bush said. “I understand the anxiety of people on the ground. … So there is frustration. But I want people to know there’s a lot of help coming.”

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Heck of a job

September 2, 2005: President George W. Bush told Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” during a tour of Hurricane Katrina damage in Alabama.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Danziger Bridge

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

September 4, 2005: in New Orleans, Sgt. Kenneth Bowen and Sgt. Robert Gisevius and Officers Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon jumped in a Budget rental truck with several other officers and raced to the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans, responding to a distress call.

As a result, police killed two civilians, 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison an wounded four other civilians.

All of the victims were African-American. None were armed or had committed any crime. Madison, a mentally disabled man, was shot in the back. (officers, see January 3, 2007)

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Media limitations

September 9, 2005: U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré and New Orleans Director of Homeland Security Terry Ebbert announced a “zero access” policy with regards to the media, in order to prevent members of the media from reporting on the recovery of dead bodies in New Orleans. CNN filed a lawsuit, then obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent government agencies from interfering with news coverage of recovery efforts.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Brown resigns

September 12, 2005: in the wake of what was widely believed to be incompetent handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by state, local and federal officials, FEMA director, Michael Brown, resigned, saying that it was “in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president.” His standing had also been damaged when the Boston Herald revealed his meager experience in disaster management before joining FEMA.

September 15, 2005, : President George W. Bush, addressing the nation from storm-ravaged New Orleans, acknowledged the government failed to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina and urged Congress to approve a massive reconstruction program.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Death toll

September 19, 2005: Louisiana’s official death toll stood at 973.

September 21, 2005: the official death toll was raised to 1,036, with 63 additional deaths recognized in Louisiana. This marked the first time since 1928 that a natural disaster in the U.S. had been officially acknowledged to have killed at least 1,000 people. State-by-state death tolls: Louisiana 799, Mississippi 218, Florida 14, Alabama 2, Georgia 2, Tennessee 1.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Police charged

January 3, 2007: seven New Orleans policemen charged in a deadly  shooting in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina turned themselves in at the city jail.  More than 200 supporters met them in a show of solidarity.

Each of the indicted men faced at least one charge of murder or attempted murder in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings on the Danziger Bridge. Two people died and four were wounded in the shooting.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Indictments dismissed

August 13, 2008: District Judge Raymond Bigelow dismissed the indictments against the New Orleans police officers after his finding that the prosecutors had wrongly instructed the grand jury and that testimony of three of the accused officers had been divulged to other witnesses in the case.

The US Dept of Justice and the FBI will subsequently investigate the case.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Guilty pleas

February 24, 2010: Officer Michael Lohman, who had encouraged the officers to provide false stories in the shooting incident entered a plea of guilty to obstruction of justice in federal court.

March 11, 2010: Officer Jeffrey Lehrmann pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for failing to report the cover-up.

April 7, 2010: Michael Hunter, one of the seven officers originally charged with attempted murder in 2007, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and obstruction of justice.

July 13, 2010: a federal grand jury indicted Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, and Anthony Villavaso in connection with the shooting and subsequent cover-up.

Additionally, Arthur “Archie” Kaufman (lead investigator on the case) and Gerard Dugue (another investigator) were charged with falsifying reports and false prosecution in the conspiracy to cover-up the shooting. [Times-Picayune article]

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

More guilty verdicts

August 5, 2011: guilty verdicts were handed down for Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon, Villavaso and Kaufman. [Times-Picayune article]

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Sentencing

April 4, 2012: the four officers directly involved in the shooting were sentenced in federal court to lengthy terms ranging from 38 to 65 years, while a police sergeant who was charged with investigating the shooting, and instead helped lead the efforts to hide and distort what happened, was sentenced to six years.

Three police officers who pleaded guilty and later testified at the trial were involved in the shooting on the bridge and received sentences ranging from five to eight years.

Two others, a detective and a police lieutenant who helped orchestrate the cover-up, were sentenced to three and four years. [FBI report]

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

Vacated convictions

September 17, 2013, following a year-long probe into the defendants’ claims, U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt vacated the convictions of Bowen, Faulcon, Gisevius, Villavaso and Kaufman, and ordered a new trial.

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

2015

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

New guilty pleas

April 20, 2016, the five officers pleaded guilty to charges of deprivation of rights under color of law, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In return, they were sentenced to significantly reduced sentences of three to 12 years in prison, with credit for time served.

November 4, 2016, Gerard Dugue pleaded guilty in federal court to “a misdemeanor charge of accessory after the fact to deprivation of rights under the color of law.”

He was sentenced to one year of probation, making him the only NOPD officer who plead guilty in the case but was not sent to prison.

December 19, 2016:  New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu apologized and announced a settlement agreement. [NOLA dot com article]

The settlement included payments for the families of victims killed or injured in the shooting of unarmed civilians; for the beating death of Raymond Robair, 48, who was killed before the storm; and for the fatal shooting of Henry Glover, who was killed by a police officer standing guard outside an Algiers shopping center.”

2005 Hurricane Katrina New Orleans
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Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

The podcast 99% Invisible had a story about weather control. That story inspired the following.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Weather control is an attractive idea. Warmth when we want it; rain when we need it. Light wind? Sure. No snow? Why not.

The 19th century’s Industrial Revolution led many to believe that if we could control and increase production so efficiently, why can’t we control nature, too? Beyond the ceremonial rain dance. Beyond prayer and sacrifices to the gods.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Civil War impetus

During the American Civil War, some thought that its large battles had affected the weather and the idea of shooting cannons, setting off fireworks, exploding hydrogen balloons might cause rain.

The US Department of Agriculture experimented with this idea in Texas in the 1890s. It worked since it rained, but some suggested that it rained because it was the rainy season in Texas anyway.

Sporadic attempts continued with no actual success.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Weather Race

Like the impact of the Industrial Revolution, the development of the atomic bomb again led us to feel we had conquered the unconquerable and renewed the idea of weather control.

So before the so-called Space Race of the 1960s, the US joined the Weather Race. Communism had arrived and the Cold War was around the corner.

Of course, the race wasn’t just for a gold medal to the winner of weather control. The military advantages were immense.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Irving Langmuir

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

In July 1946, Irving Langmuir, the 1932 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awardee, and his assistant Vincent Schaefer discovered that moisture that normally stayed  vaporous below freezing, would turn into ice crystals when they super-cooled it with dry ice.

And on November 13 of that year at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York Langmuir, and Bernard Vonnegut discovered that silver iodide could be used with dry ice as a nucleating agent to seed clouds.

Seeding clouds involved inserting large quantities of a nucleating agent into clouds to facilitate the formation of ice crystals. The intent of this process was to cause the clouds to produce rain or snow.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Dr. Felix Hoenikker

Side note: Langmuir was the inspiration for Bernard’s brother Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional scientist Dr. Felix Hoenikker in the novel Cat’s Cradle.  The character’s invention of ice-nine eventually destroyed the world. Kurt had briefly worked at GE as well.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

GE out; Langmuir still in

While GE was initially interested in the science of weather control, the worry that chemically-induced snow storms causing damage and the likelihood of subsequent litigation persuaded them to curtail such research.

December 11, 1950 Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, WV) ran a short article about Langmuir:

“Rainmaking” or weather control can be as powerful a war weapon as the atom bomb, a Nobel prize winning physicist said today.

Dr. Irving Langmuir, pioneer in “rainmaking,” said the government should seize on the phenomenon of weather control as it did on atomic energy when Albert Einstein told the late President Roosevelt in 1939 of the potential power of an atom-splitting weapon.

“In the amount of energy liberated, the effect of 30 milligrams of silver iodide under optimum conditions equals that of one atomic bomb,” Langmuir said.

While further experimentation continued—Langmuir was particularly interested in neutering hurricanes (Project Cirrus in 1952)—none proved effective and critics pointed out that they could explain any proffered “proofs” with more logical and meteorological explanations.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control

In August of 1953 the United States formed the President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control. Its stated purpose was to determine the effectiveness of weather modification procedures and the extent to which the government should engage in such activities. Captain Howard T Orville chaired the committee.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

The May 28, 1954 cover of Collier’s magazine showed a man quite literally changing the seasons by a system of levers and push buttons. Orville wrote the article. In it he said, “if investigation of weather control receives the public support and funds for research which its importance merits, we may be able eventually to make weather almost to order.

The July 6, 1954 edition of Minnesota’s Brainerd Daily Dispatch said:

It may someday be possible to cause torrents of rain over Russia by seeding clouds moving toward the Soviet Union.

Or it may be possible — if an opposite effect is desired — to cause destructive droughts which dry up food crops by “overseeding” those same clouds.

And fortunately for the United States, Russia could do little to retaliate because most weather moves from west to east.”

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Project Stormfury

Despite the lack of concrete observable results, interest continued. Project Stormfury began in 1956 and continued the attempt to control or mollify severe weather.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Captain Howard T Orville

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

In a January 1, 1958, article in the Pasadena Star-News Captain Orville warned that “if an unfriendly nation solves the problem of weather control and gets into the position to control the large-scale weather patterns before we can, the results could be even more disastrous than nuclear warfare.”

The May 25, 1958, issue of The American Weekly ran an article by Frances Leighton using information from Captain Howard T. Orville. Leighton wrote,

“Behind the scenes, while statesmen argue policies and engineers build space satellites, other men are working day and night. They are quiet men, so little known to the public that the magnitude of their job, when you first hear of it, staggers the imagination. Their object is to control the weather and change the face of the world.

Some of these men are Americans. Others are Russians. The first skirmishes of an undeclared cold war between them already have been fought. Unless a peace is achieved the war’s end will determine whether Russia or the United States rules the earth’s thermometers.”

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Kennedy’s Weather Race

September 25, 1961: President Kennedy spoke at the UN.  Among his various points, he stated: We shall propose further cooperative efforts between all nations in weather prediction and eventually in weather control. (text of entire speech)

Less than a year later, on May 27, 1962, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson presented the graduation address at his alma mater, Southwest Texas State University (today Texas State University) in San Marcos.

Among various points, Johnson spoke about weather control and stated that, “..to control the weather and ultimately he who controls the weather controls the world.”

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Committee on Atmospheric Science

In November 1963, the Committee on Atmospheric Science appointed a Panel on Weather and Climate Modification “to undertake a deliberate and thoughtful review of the present status of activities in this field.” 

The Committee issued its report in October 1964. In it the Committee stated that, “We conclude that the initiation of large-scale operational weather modification programs would be premature. Many fundamental problems must be answered first….We believe that the patient investigation of atmospheric processes coupled with an exploration of the technical applications may eventually lead to useful weather modification, but we emphasize that the time-scale required for success may be measured in decades.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Project Popeye

Despite such pessimism, Project Popeye happened nonetheless. Due to the weak science and questionable results, the military kept the project secret.

August 10, 1966:  the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed a weather modification program for selected areas of Laos. The Command of US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) and the Commander in Chief of US Pacific Command (CINCPAC) concurred. (see Global Security dot com for more)

September 1, 1966:  the Joint Chiefs of Staff granted approval of the project and issued  the execute order on September 17, 1966.

September 29 1966 — October 28 1966: the US military began Project Popeye in a strip of the Laos panhandle east of the Bolovens Plateau in the Se Kong River valley. Naval personnel eventually conducted 50 seeding cloud experiments. Project leaders claimed that 82% of the clouds produced rain within a brief period after having been seeded and that one of the clouds drifted across the Vietnam border and dropped nine inches of rain on a US special forces camp over a four hour period.

They declared the project a success and on January 13, 1967 a “Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk” Its proposal stated, ” The Department of Defense has requested our approval to initiate the operational phase of Project …. The objective of the program is to produce sufficient rainfall along these lines of communication to interdict or at least interfere with truck traffic between North and South Vietnam. Recently improved cloud seeding techniques would be applied on a sustained basis, in a non-publicized effort to induce continued rainfall through the months of the normal dry season.” (entire text of proposal

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Operation Popeye-Make Mud, Not War

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

March 20, 1967: a highly classified weather modification program in Southeast Asia called Operation Popeye began. It was an attempt to extend the monsoon season, specifically over areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail maze. The military seeded the clouds over the Trail to create floods and wash out supply routes to hinder North Vietnam’s supply chain into and from South Vietnam.

The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron carried out the operation using the slogan “make mud, not war.”

 The initial area of operations was the eastern half of the Laotian panhandle. 

At times the program was also known as Operation Motorpool, and Operation Intermediary-Compatriot.  (V, see Mar 25; OP, see July 11)

July 11, 1967:  the Operation’s operational area was increased northward to around the area of the 20th parallel and included portions of far western North Vietnam.

September 25, 1968:  the southern region of North Vietnam was added to the operational area                          

November 1, 1968:  the southern region of North Vietnam was removed from the Operation concurrent with a halt to conventional bombing of North Vietnam.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Leaks

In 1971, leaks about the program began to appear in the press and in September 1971, Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island as
chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans and the International Environment requested the Department of Defense to provide information with respect to the program. 

April 18, 1972: regarding any US program to affect the weather/rainfall in Vietnam, Nixon’s secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird testified at a Senate that, “we have never engaged in that type of activity over Northern Vietnam.”

July 3, 1972: a NY Times article on Operation Popeye appeared. It’s lead paragraph stated that “The United States has been secretly seeding clouds over North Vietnam, Laos and South Viet nam to increase and control the rainfall for military purposes.” 

That same day, another NY Times article quoted Dr. Matthew Meseison, a professor of biology at Harvard University, from the June 16 issue of the magazine Science:

“It is obvious that weather modification used as a weapon of war has the potential for causing large‐scale and quite possibly uncontrollable and unpredictable destruction. Furthermore, such destruction might well have a far greater impact on civilians than on combatants. This would be especially true in areas where subsistence agriculture is practiced, in food‐deficit areas, and in areas subject to flooding.”

Also on the same day, a third NYT article stated: Two former high‐ranking officials of the Johnson Administration said…that Robert S. McNamara, while Secretary of Defense, specifically ordered the Air Force to stop all rainmaking late in 1967….

But other officials, who served in both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations, said they recalled no such clear‐cut order.

It was not clear whether Mr. McNamara’s order was dis obeyed, ignored, or—as one of ficial suggested—“there was a kind of slippage” in putting it into effect.

July 5, 1972: Operation Popeye ended.

July 28, 1972: sponsored by Senators Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and Clairborne Pell, the US Senate voted for an amendment to cut off Defense Department funds for any use of rainmaking or creation of forest fires as a weapon of war.

The US Dept of Defense continued to deny such operations and also refused to discuss the operational aspects in Vietnam. (NYT article)

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Declassified

March 20, 1974, the Defense Department provided Senator
Pell’s Subcommittee with a top secret briefing on weather modification activities in Southeast Asia.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Environmental Modification Convention

The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques is an international treaty prohibiting the military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects. It opened for signature on 18 May 1977 in Geneva and entered into force on 5 October 1978.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Fixing the Sky

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Contro

In  September 2010, James Rodger Fleming published Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control. In it he wrote: Although some claimed that [Operation Popeye] induced from 1 to 7 inches of additional rainfall annually along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, no scientific data were collected to verify the claim. General Westmoreland thought there was “no appreciable increase” in rain from the project. Even if the cloud seeding had produced a tactical victory or two in Vietnam (it did not), the extreme secrecy surrounding the operation and the subsequent denials and stonewalling of Congress by the military resulted in a major strategic defeat for military weather modification.

Related: 2011 Smithsonian article

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

 

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Declan O’Rourke Mary Kate

Declan O’Rourke Mary Kate

As much as we listeners might want to skirt the pain and however gently O’Rourke  presents “Mary Kate” to us, it is an arrow to the heart.

Harp dominates. Acoustic guitar accompanies. O’Rouke’s voice holds us by the hand but be forewarned.

Declan O’Rourke Mary Kate

There is hope, but the unnamed sister is at a crossroads. Children should not have to make such decisions. Children should not have to be in a position to make such decisions. No sister, no orphaned sister, should have to leave behind her sister.

Declan O’Rourke Mary Kate

With Britain’s deliberate inefficient policy to deal with the Great Famine’s starvation, the cold choice to deport the problem became a solution. Deport the young women from the horrors of the workhouse to Australia where Britain had already deported its felons.

Declan O'Rourke Mary Kate
by Unknown photographer,photograph,1860s

Henry Grey, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies came up with the idea that these young women could settle with these felons and make a good wife or a good servant (likely both).

Declan O’Rourke Mary Kate

Records hardly exist about these young women, but we know that the policy,  in reality, forced many of these women into prostitution or abusive relationships merely to survive a different famine.  A famine of hopelessness in an unknown land as far from home as one could possibly be.

And whether any sister ever saw her sister Kate again or earned the money to send for his sister Kate is a story for which you can write the ending.

Declan O'Rourke Mary Kate

 

And Too-ria my Mary Kate

Forever now seet Mary Kate

you won’t see Australia

And we won’t meet in this life again.

Declan O’Rourke Mary Kate

There are those today who are trying to memorialize these young women, trying to have history remember them. (Irish Times article)

 

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