by Eva Amsen

Levee breaches
Nature news has a comprehensive FAQ on the levee breaches:

Did experts know this might happen?
Yes. (…) the system’s 565 kilometres of walls were built to withstand only category-3 hurricanes. So a direct strike from a severe storm has long been anticipated as one of the worst natural disasters that could befall the mainland United States.

Is climate change to blame?
It is impossible to say for certain.
(…)Hurricanes tend to be stronger when sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are higher. But data on these temperatures only stretch back a couple of decades, since satellites began to be used to monitor the oceans. “

A team of flood experts from the Netherlands has offered help in repairing the New Orleans leveel system. About a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level, and the country has the worlds largest levee system, constructed after the North Sea flooded a large part of the south-west provinces in 1953.

Lost research
What can you take along when you have to evacuate? Certainly not your entire lab. Science NOW daily news has a report on one of the labs at Lousiana State University.

“Rather than let the animals starve, dehydrate, or overheat, Pincus euthanized them with pentobarbital. Then he packed what he could into insulated containers, hoping to keep cell lines and microbial collections cold until they could be transported to Baton Rouge.”

The LSU Health Sciences Center website has updates on the move to Baton Rouge, where scientists will attempt to salvage their research. Keep in mind that a lot of them might also have lost their home, so this will be harder than starting up a new lab in any other case.
Meanwhile, there are several eerie emergency job openings on both the websites for the LSU Health Sciences Center and the regular LSU homepage. Emergency positions for phycisians, and academic instructors for various classes. The latter is a bit unsettling.
However, while LSU (in Baton Rouge) continues their scheduled classes, Tulane University in New Orleans has been forced to cancel their entire fall semester, relocating students to other universities in the area where they will be accepted and credited for courses.

References and links:

tags: Science, Katrina, Hurricane

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