Friday, September 09, 2005

The MSM Katrina Death Game

The MSM is ghoulishly anticipating the worse, forecasting tens of thousands of deaths in the Gulf. History and some basic math suggests under 2,000.

Some of the reporting is naive:

The stench of death is everywhere in New Orleans: drifting off the water, floating in the warm breeze...

Which tells you nothing about the scale or source - one small dead rat pollutes the air for yards around it. And then there are those body bags:

MORE than 25,000 body bags were sent to the New Orleans area as the city’s putrid, receding floodwaters began to give up their dead yesterday.

This is bureaucrats padding estimates - the Brits had 2 million cardboard coffins ready for the London blitz in which 20,000 died.

So, here's my estimate based on 45 minutes research. There were two separate disasters - Katrina & the flooding of New Orleans.

Katrina

An authoritative summary of every major hurricane hit on the US since 1900 is available here. Deaths, as you'd expect, fell as the century progressed - from 6,000 to 12,000 in the Galveston category 4 in 1900, down to 23 in 1992 in Andrew, the immensely damaging category 4. That's because forecasting got better, the ability to give warnings improved as radio & TV ownership rose, and peoples' ability to run rose with car ownership.

I take the end of WW2 to mark the point at which these three survival technologies became widely available in the Gulf area. The worst toll since then was Category 4 hurricane Audrey in 1957, which killed 390 people.

The main impact was from 8 to 12 ft storm surges that penetrated as far inland as 25 miles over portions of low-lying southwestern Louisiana.

Katrina hit to the east of Audrey, and more closely resembles the 1960 category 5 hurricane Camille - it hit Mississippi, then went up through Kentucky to the Virginias. Death toll was 256.

In the past 45 years populations in the effected States will have increased, but this will be offset by better forecasting and transportation.

My worst case guess for direct Katrina deaths is the combination of the two deadliest hurricanes since WW2, adding the Camille and Audrey numbers to give a total of 646.

New Orleans

People died because they didn't (wouldn't or couldn't) evacuate. I recall (but don't have a link) the mayor saying 80% of the population of 485,000 got out, so that leaves 97,000.

Of these, 42,000 were evacuated as of Sept 3, mostly from the Superdome and Convention Center. Today, Fox News reports:

Between 5,000 and 10,000 residents are believed left in the city...

Which suggests that between Sept 3 and today a further 45,000 to 50,000 were evacuated - a bit high for what was by then a piecemeal evacuation, but not ridiculous.

Whatever, the high-end of 10,000 non-evacuated people must be the source of all possible deaths.

Here are my guesstimates of worst-case deaths from the various causes, using estimated demographics and first-hand news stories.

Drowning, as a result of being either immobile, or trapped (for example in an attic without an axe): (200).

Premature death of old or chronically sick people caused by stress and/or lack of medication. (500).

Lack of safe sustenance - dehydration and food poisoning, mostly young children: (100).

Civil disturbance - killing of or by criminals: (50).

Which gives a total of 850, or 8.5% of the at-risk population, which seems plausible.

Adding the Katrina and New Orleans estimates gives 1,496.

So I'd be surprised if the deaths exceed 2,000.