Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

> Infrastructure is invisible, as long as it works. And only when it fails do you realize just how much we are all dependent on it and how badly we are able to cope with such infrastructure being unavailable for any length of time.

I grew up in hurricane country. We are born and mostly live our entire lives suspended in a giant web of infrastructure and support systems. When you're born into it, it's natural take it for granted and treat that as the baseline. But every now and then you have an experience that makes you realize just how far down below the ground really is, how far it is to fall, and how few cables need to fray before people start dropping.

I'm not one of those doomsday preppers who seems to relish preparing for the zombie apocalypse. I think the much more rational approach is to strengthen the web itself so that we don't fall in the first place. But I'm definitely aware how quickly and how badly things can go.

Hurricane Katrina is the canonical example. Over a thousand people died in the middle of a well-developed urban area, in the richest country on Earth, from a disaster that everyone knew was coming some day. The hurricane didn't kill those people. The city and state's complete failure to engineer robust infrastructure did. If that same hurricane had hit an equally populated city elsewhere, the outcome could have been entirely different.




Not a prepper either, but recently our water turned brown and I realized how water-dependent we are.

Went out and bought two “life straws.” We have enough food to last a month without infrastructure just by virtue of large pantries, but when the water goes out, it’s gone.

My wife laughed at me, but from my perspective, if infrastructure is down for more than a month, I’m probably toast anyway. ;)


Life straws suck to use as a primary means of getting water...

The USGov has failed in the past at an individual response level, but they're really good at compiling resources to help you and your family be independent. In fact, in San Francisco, the Emergency Response mindset for The Big One has shifted (since loma prieta) from "the government will come help you when it happens" to "do everything you can to survive for weeks without government help, when it happens."

So in your case, do more than buy life straws - store many gallons of water somewhere in your house. This can be done really easily and cheaply - save your used water bottles if need be, or just go buy a big giant plastic drum and drop some purifying tablets in it.

Keep bleach and eyedroppers in your house for when that water runs out and you need to refill with questionable water.

https://www.ready.gov/ has shitloads of easily digestible resources to prepare.


Have a look at Berkey water filters. These are meant for prolonged home use in tough circumstances.


Are they really, though, or are they meant to appeal to folks who want to change the taste of their municipal tap water? This is a good-faith question--I don't get a strong sense of science or testing from their website.


Berkey filters have some degree of water purification from dirty sources, but something like the Katadyn [0] filters seem to be more suited for higher use.

[0]: https://www.katadyn.com/us/us/products/water-filters#/1/filt...


You should get ones that are hand or foot operated. Life straws barely surpass the effort it takes to use them, especially after it has been used already in shit water.


I own a small electric water distiller for such circumstances, although drinking pure water is not supposed to be good, either (needs some minerals or it will leach them out of your system I was told, could be false).


Distilling water takes tremendous amounts of energy.

Filtering with bacterial (or if necessary, viral) grade filters, and additional chemical treatment (chlorine or iodine) is vastly more efficient.

A backpack filter does double-duty (have a few spare filters and can treat a litre or so of water in a couple of minutes without too much effort. Larger filters can be used (foot-pumped) for larger quantities.

Keep in mind that if the water's out, power may well be too.


You can die from drinking distilled water


Hurricane country here too (Houston). If you take Harvey as an example no city in the US could withstand that kind of rainfall. The difference is no one expects Phoenix to get 51 inches of rain from one storm. It was roughly 14 to 15 trillion gallons.

Not a prepper but living here several decades I have come to value preparedness. My family has 3 months of food supply and food safe storage for over 200 gal of water, water filters that can filter raw stagnant water to something safe and drinkable, a safe full of guns and ammo, and two years of vegetable seeds in the freezer.

I'm not expecting an EMP or "the big one" or whatever, I'm not really even worried about it. I've just seen how ugly it gets when folks aren't prepared.


>>No city in the US could withstand that kind of rainfall.

Florida gets that kind of rainfall all the time from all the hurricanes! There are water retention ponds built everywhere that are empty all-year-round right up until a hurricane comes. They’re built mainly for hurricanes and heavy storms. This is especially true in the Florida counties with Universities due to the higher population of cough smart people cough. I know that’s inappropriate to say but some city planners design cities on a whim or because “it seemed right”, while others appoint some rather smart local engineers to design it.


>* The city and state's complete failure to engineer robust infrastructure did*

As New Orleans was designated an asset strategic to the national military and energy interests, ACOE is in charge of engineering the infrastructure in and around the city. The issue was that at landfall 2005 the project was only 60-90% complete. (Depending on the section.)

Critical to identify the problem correctly when you're searching for mitigations.


> the project was only 60-90% complete.

Despite starting that project in 1965.


The MRGO project concentrating storm surge also didn’t help matters


As levees.org expounds on at length, the failure was federal. Orleans Parish had responsibility for maintenance, not checking the design. The full inquiry report with all drafts and appendices is still available at an LSU webpage (the Corps has only the final version up)


> The city and state's complete failure to engineer robust infrastructure did.

Don't leave out the Army Corps of Engineers (the Federal government). They bore more responsibility than the city for making that infrastructure safe.


The Army Corps of Engineers and New Orleans politicians have been pointing fingers at each other since before I was born and will continue to do so until after I'm dead and gone.

The USACoE is a federal organization, but keep in mind that there is no "federal territory" full of "federal people" that floats separate from the states that make up the US. Ultimately, these were human failures and most of the humans who made these errors in judgement likely lived in southern Louisiana.

Also, keep in mind that the USACoE and state and local governments are not as isolated as you might imagine. Funding for projects comes from a mixture of them. Local government is on the hook to maintain engineering projects after they're built. The UASCoE can only build to to the degree that they have funding. Case in point: the levee main project approved in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy was supposed to take 13 years. Katrina struck 40 years later, and the project was still only 60–90% complete. Of course, there were design failures too, but you can imagine that this puts pressure on the engineers to accept a cheaper, inadequate design because some levee is better that no levee at all.

Note also that USACoE and local politicians and employees are real people who know each other and work together. I wouldn't underestimate the impact of social pressure (and outright corruption) for the USACoE to agree to certain things they might not otherwise because powerful people on the local side are pushing them too.


> The city and state's complete failure to engineer robust infrastructure did.

No, people not leaving the city when they had ample time to do so killed them. Individuals need to take responsibility for themselves.


Many people lacked transportation -- either not having cars, or not having sufficiently reliable ones.

A full city evacuation still takes days, and given the uncertainty and wide possible zone of destruction of a major storm means that both a wide area has to be evacuated, and it's not clear precisely where landfall will be until a day or so immediately prior.

Mass evacuation via buses or rail is far more efficient, but can only be organised effectively by, or at least strongly coordinated with, government.


Any localized event that kills over a thousand inviduals points to a systemic problem, not an individual problem.

Transportation, communication, education, and to some degree even culture are also infrastructure.


Hurricane Katrina was exacerbated by bonkers priorities on the part of the US Government. Having the national guard protecting property in the middle of a disaster where people were dying from the elements was the peak of capitalist insanity. They were threatening to shoot looters. Madness. As if a life is worth less than some business owner's television set.

Not to mention locking everyone in a stadium and threatening to shoot anybody that tried to walk across the bridge. I tried to find a video I saw once of a newscaster live at the superdome begging for the government to let people evacuate, about how conditions at the superdome were fucked.

People generally help eachother during disasters - then the national guard comes in, treats everyone like they're animals, and make everything horrible. A great book that's documented this happening again and again throughout history is "A Paradise Built in Hell" by Rebecca Solnit.


The national guard is not the US gov't. That's the state of Louisiana. Those troops report to the governor.


Whoever flagged me should know those were all real quotes from Blanco. (Just watch that campaign ad or footage of her immediately after the storm)


The people blocking the bridge were the (ur-fascist) Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the (fascist) Gretna Police Department. It should be mentioned that the nearby Oakwood Mall was in the process of burning down due to fires set by looters (that still being no excuse)


> Having the national guard protecting property in the middle of a disaster where people were dying from the elements was the peak of capitalist insanity.

Calling it like it is: this was mostly about white people protecting their personal interests at the expense of black people. Many of the people making those decisions cared more about their property than they did poor black folks. After all, only a couple of generations ago, many of those people owned black people as property.

Note:

> Fifty-three percent of deaths 51% were black; and 42% were white. In Orleans Parish, the mortality rate among blacks was 1.7 to 4 times higher than that among whites for all people 18 years old and older.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18756175


> The city and state's complete failure to engineer robust infrastructure did

Specifically, the system of levée districts, wherein the rich area finances proper maintenance of its section of the levee, and the poor vote not to, on their section. As if water and gravity care (though poorer areas tend to be lower and thus floor more)

> in hurricane country

For non native English speakers, the lack of an article between 'in' and 'hurricane' here refers to a part of a country prone to hurricanes


While the Orleans Parish Levee District had its share of extracurricular casino shares and real estate deals, there’s not really a smoking gun here




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: