New Orleans: City of Humid Sins?
By: E. Magdalena
The city of New Orleans is located on the verge of the famous river Mississippi, in the state of Louisiana, in the United States. The Mississippi River, like the body of a large and dark snake, meanders through the state of Louisiana and borders a part of the touristic city of New Orleans, also known as “the big easy”, probably because its legal restrictions are very much relaxed when compared with other American cities (it is one of the few cities in the USA, perhaps the only one, in which drinking alcohol on the streets is allowed by the authorities).
The city of New Orleans is also sadly known worldwide by the damages and the loss of human lives (some 1.500 and numerous people unaccounted for) caused by hurricane Katrina.
Today, the Engineering Corps of the USA Army, responsible for the construction and maintenance of the water contention structures, known as levees, is increasing the height of the levees and reinforcing their structure, also increasing the capacity of the bombing equipment, to reduce — not to eliminate, which is not possible — the losses that another storm could cause to the city and its surroundings in the future.
So, you will be asking, why is it that the city was constructed in such a location?
Why then does the USA Army maintain the city there?
Well, first of all, catastrophes happened only once in a long while. New Orleans is where it is, for the same reason that cities in California, along the San Andres fault, are built in a seismic zone, and everybody knows that, but still people live there.
Besides, hurricanes do not always cause a lot of deaths or major damages and after every disaster, the USA Government almost always provides the resources to improve the water-control systems of the city. For instance, hurricane Betsy, in 1965, caused the flood of one small part of New Orleans but “only” 20 deaths. Thirty years later, in 1995, floods caused by torrential rains, resulted in a substantial improvement of the water-pumping system of the city.
Because of hurricane Katrina, the Engineering Corps of the USA Army, as we said, is improving even more the anti-flooding city’s systems. In any case, in 1718 the French founded the city in that strategic location because it facilitated the fluvial commerce with other cities of the then Colony and the maritime transport with France.
But then of course, New Orleans then was a small city, limited to what it is today “The French Quarter” and little more, built almost all in the so-called “highlands”, in general, less subjected to flooding, while, at the beginning of the XX century to accelerate the city’s growth, the limiting swamps and marshes were drained with pumps and building on the new land took place.
Today, more than half of the city and surrounding areas are below the sea-water level. In fact, the Great New Orleans forms a concavity similar to a cup of wide mouth upstanding, with the waters of the Mississippi limiting one side, and the lake Pontchartrin limiting the other, with the salad waters of the Gulf of Mexico lurking nearby. In fact, lake Pontchartrin is not a “true” lake but a sort of estuary, fed by a few minor rivers and by the filtrating salad waters of the sea.
New Orleans is also famous by the quantity and quality of its food, a mixture of the French, Spanish and Creole cooking, characterized by its good flavor and by the generous use of species and to a lesser extent of hot sauces
The carnival festivities of the city are also well known, with Mardi Gras (the official carnival festivity of the city) attracting worldwide visitors.
Without a doubt, the music — in particular, jazz music — represents one of the main attractions of the city. The annual New Orleans’ Jazz Festival attracts multitudes, drawing visitors from all over the world to the city.
Strolling by the fun areas of the city, it is possible to listen to very good live music, at any time day or night, in any of the many bars of Bourbon Street, in the French Quarter of the city. Even on the streets, there are good street-artists entertaining passers-by with their music or perhaps with the acrobatics of tap-dancing.
We fervently wish that the next big hurricane hitting New Orleans, occurs in at least 150 years more. By then, it is highly probable that height adjustable, unbreakable titanium levees exist, so those natural events will probably not affect the city. Just in case, and to protect it from heavy rain, the city will also possibly have available last generation nuclear water-pumping equipment of great capacity, able to drain water out of large land’s tracts in minutes.