Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In Other News…

There’s more going on in the world than just politics, hockey moms, and teenage sex.

You Can’t Go Home Quite Yet:

NEW ORLEANS — A mostly smooth evacuation from Hurricane Gustav turned sour on Tuesday as many New Orleans residents trying to return home were turned away at roadblocks into the city or stranded in parking lots across the region.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin said Tuesday night that most residents would have to wait until just after midnight on Thursday morning to return, because power and medical care were not back to normal. A curfew will remain in effect at night.

The delay in returning left many sweltering and frustrated at the city’s edges, out of gas, money and food after several days on the run. A dozen or so people waited it out in the parking lot of a closed Circle K gas station in LaPlace, 30 miles from New Orleans, and dozens of others were in the same situation across Lake Pontchartrain, in St. Tammany Parish, according to officials and local radio reports.

NATO Accused of Civilian Deaths:

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — NATO helicopter gunships attacked three houses near a stronghold of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region early Wednesday, killing at least 15 people, including women and children, according to local residents, a Taliban commander and the governor of the North-West Frontier Province.

The attacks were aimed at three houses in the village of Jala Khel in the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan, less than a mile from the border with Afghanistan, the Taliban commander and local residents said..

The helicopter attacks occurred at about 3 a.m. and killed 20 people, according to the governor, Owais Ahmed Ghanisaid.

The governor, the most powerful civilian leader in the province which abuts South Waziristan, condemned the attacks and called for retaliation by Pakistan.

An American military spokesman at Bagram airbase declined to comment on the reports. The spokesman did not deny that the attack had occurred. Often, a statement of no comment by American and NATO spokesmen in Afghanistan, where NATO and American forces are fighting militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, indicates that the coalition forces were involved in a cross-border attack.

Too Much Water: Lake Okeechobee has recovered from the two-year drought in Florida to the point that the Corps of Engineers need to pull the plug a little.

With three tropical systems looming in the Atlantic Ocean, the Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday it hopes to begin slowing the lake’s record-setting rise — and lowering the potential risk to its aging levee.

”We’re nowhere near a crisis situation,” said Stephen Duba, chief of engineering in the Corps’ Jacksonville district.

But with hurricane season heating up and still a week from its statistical peak, another hit from a storm system even half as wet as Tropical Storm Fay could sharply rachet up concern.

In the two weeks since Fay made landfall and snaked soggily up the peninsula, the lake has rocketed from record lows to a record rise. It’s climbed three feet to 14.6 feet above sea level, and the water, while slowing, is expected to continue going up for at least a few weeks.

”Fay was kind of a monster as far as lake level rise,” Duba said.

By week’s end, when Tropical Storm Hanna is forecast to be skirting the coast of Central Florida, the lake could be close to 15 feet.

That is still two feet below the point where the Corps starts seriously worrying about leaks, seepage and more serious ruptures to the 75-year-old earthen levee ringing the lake. But it is only six inches from the 15.5-foot high point of a management plan the Corps adopted in April. The new scheme, adopted largely to reduce pressure on the levee, aims to hold the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet, with the level rising and falling with the wet and dry seasons.