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New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana, is as colorful a city as any in the United States. It is famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations and for being the birthplace of Jazz, as well as for its Cajun food, paddle wheel boats on the Mississippi River, voodoo, and a rich and diverse history.

In 1682, the area now known as New Orleans was crowded with mosquitoes, alligators and Indians when first the French explorer La Salle discovered it. French explorers Iberville and Bienville officially founded the city in 1718 and named it Nouvelle Orleans, after the Duke of Orleans.

New Orleans became the capital of a French colony in 1722 and was passed to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In all, many flags have flown over the City, including the French, the Spanish, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. Originally, however, the land was inhabited by the Houma Indian tribe.

With a population of about half a million, New Orleans is located in southeast Louisiana between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. The City is also known as The "Big Easy" a nickname attributed to it by early jazz musicians, while on the road.

New Orleans remains a racially mixed city, with people of different backgrounds sharing many wonderful neighborhoods, cultures and palates. There is an unmistakable love of life in New Orleans which can be seen in its many festivals and fairs and the good nature of its citizens and visitors, in spite of the hot summers, hurricanes, mosquitoes, bad streets and other ailments.

French Creole architecture is one of the nation's three major colonial architectural traditions. It takes its place alongside British Colonial, as exemplified by the saltbox houses of New England and a later generation of Georgian houses, and Spanish Colonial, as seen in the missions of California and the Southwest. The French Creole building tradition appeared in New France, i.e., in the United States, the Mississippi Valley. Because the region was sparsely settled at the time, very little French Creole architecture was built outside Louisiana. And today Louisiana is home to the overwhelming majority of surviving examples.

The quintessential Creole cottage in New Orleans stands flush with the front property line and has no gallery. Also, urban areas had what is known as a Creole townhouse, a multi-story, typically L-shaped building standing flush with the sidewalk. The first floor served as mercantile space and the upper floors as the family's living quarters. Some Creole townhouses had a low mezzanine-type storage area known as an entresol located between the first and second floor. A wide carriage passage connected the street to a rear courtyard. Today surviving Creole townhouses can be seen mainly in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Creole floorplans are distinctive in the following respects. They tend to be asymmetrical and always lack interior hallways. Openings are placed solely for the convenience of the interior, and without any regard for a pleasing architectural effect on the exterior (i.e., producing an irregular schedule of openings). Often the rear range of rooms consists of an open loggia with a small room at each end known as a cabinet.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park was established to celebrate the origins and evolution of America's most widely recognized indigenous musical art form. A story rich with innovation, experimentation, controversy and emotion, the park provides an ideal setting to share the cultural history of the people and places that helped shape the development and progression of jazz in New Orleans. Through interpretive techniques designed to educate and entertain, New Orleans Jazz NHP seeks to preserve information and resources associated with the origins and early development of jazz in the city widely recognized as its birthplace.

The large body of water to the north of the city is Lake Pontchartrain, a 57 km (35 mi) wide (1619 sq. km; 625 sq. mi) inland, brackish (mildly salty) lake that connects by an eastward channel to Lake Borgne, which is a saltwater body joined by the Mississippi Sound to the Gulf of Mexico. Running through the city is part of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a continuous 1725 km (1072 mi) long water route from Carrabelle, Florida to Brownsville, Texas. It also connects with the Mississippi River to provide a protected canal-like passageway for pleasure boats and freight barges. Where it doesn't use the open Gulf of Mexico, the waterway is cut inland from the shore to an average depth of 3.7 m (12 ft) and width of 38 m (125 ft).

On 07 September 1965, Hurricane Betsy began to move due west and crossed extreme south Florida and the Florida Keys as a Category 3 hurricane. Betsy then accelerated to the northwest and moved into Barataria Bay on the evening of the 9th. This placed New Orleans on the worst side of the storm and sending the storm surge up the Mississippi River and into Lake Pontchartrain. A storm surge of 10 feet caused New Orleans to suffer its worst flooding since the hurricane of 1947 and proved inadequacies in the levee protection system surrounding the area. The resulting levee improvements spared the city from similar flooding in 1969 when Hurricane Camille impacted the area. Betsy claimed 81 lives and was the first United States hurricane to produce over $1 billion damage, thus becoming known as Billion Dollar Betsy.

New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, with the Gulf of Mexico, a large lake close by, and a river running through town. This type of construction has spread from Maine to Texas as we convince each other that we must live closer to the ocean. Eventually a mature hurricane would strike, and the storm surge will inundate everything in its path.

When a hurricane moves ashore, a 15-foot surge added to the normal 2-foot tide creates a storm tide of 17 feet. This mound of water, topped by battering waves, moves ashore along an area of the coastline as much as 100 miles wide. The combination of the storm surge, battering waves, and high winds is deadly.

The storm surge claims nine out of every ten hurricane victims. This great dome of water sweeps across the coastline as the storm makes landfall. Spectators, who should not be out there, are caught by the surge as the giant wave carries away everything in its path.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:54:06 ZULU