Tag Archives: levees

Katrina – 10 years later

new orleans post katrina VIII

From the Center for American Progress:

Tomorrow marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in New Orleans. The storm flattened entire communities, took the lives of 1,800 people, displaced more than one million others, and caused more than $100 billion in damages, making it the costliest national disaster in our nation’s history. Hurricane Katrina drew attention to the consequences of poverty, segregation, and police brutality, a decade before Black Lives Matter activists began fighting to protect and invest in black communities. (Editor’s note – Although Katrina was a Catergory 3 hurricane, the real damage to New Orleans came from the Levees failing. This should never be forgotten. Most if not all of the pain and severing that is associated with Katrina was man-made. )

The storm devastated the city of New Orleans, but the damage was not equally distributed. As a result of years of segregation and disinvestment, the city’s poor and African American communities were disproportionately harmed. Today, most of the city’s neighborhoods have restored 90 percent of their pre-storm populations, but in the Lower Ninth Ward, the city’s poorest neighborhood, only 37 percent of households have returned. The Lower Ninth Ward also suffered the most in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. For weeks after the storm, up to 12 feet of water remained stagnant, leaving many people stuck without power or water service. Under those dire circumstances African American residents were quickly labeled “looters,” and automatically seen as criminals.

The chaos after the storm led to police brutality not unlike the kind that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. In the time immediately following the storm 11 people were shot by law enforcement officials. These incidents helped sparked a wave of activists speaking out about the relationship between police and African American communities. Indeed, there is a connection between today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the violence seen after Katrina, as Tracey Ross explains here.

Yesterday President Obama visited New Orleans to commemorate Katrina and celebrate how far the city has come. In his speech at a new community center in the Lower Ninth Ward he spoke of the city’s resilience in the face of the storm and the growing threat of extreme weather events. Across the country, as in New Orleans, African American and poorer communities are much more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including the risk of being permanently displaced from their homes.

And as climate change threatens to make severe storms more extreme, these communities are increasingly at risk. Because of its disproportionate impact on African American and poor communities, climate change has become a civil rights issue, but it is one that can be addressed with investment in at-risk communities. In this video, Sam Fulwood, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, discusses the aftermath of the storm and what we’ve learned since.

BOTTOM LINE: Hurricane Katrina was the costliest storm in our nation’s history, but climate change threatens to make storms that severe the new norm. Without investing in our most vulnerable areas the same issues of poverty, segregation, and police brutality will continue to devastate communities across the country.

Hurricane Katrina – six years later

It was six years ago today that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast. I remember the dire warnings prior to Katrina. I remember the initial news reports suggesting the damage wasn’t as bad as we expected. Six years ago, I had just moved to Asheville, North Carolina. I was sitting in a rental house exchanging e-mails with some friends in a discussion group. This was a medical discussion group which was made up of people throughout the world. There are approximately 1000 people who participate in this discussion group. It was around midnight when someone suggested that the levees had broken. I looked everywhere. I looked at every single website that I could think of but couldn’t find any information about the levees. Even the New Orleans Times Picayune which, as I recall, had moved its headquarters from New Orleans and most of its staff writers were in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, had nothing about the levees breaking. I remember saying something like we need to stick to the facts and we shouldn’t speculate. The member of the discussion group was insistent that his information was correct. I remember having an extremely sick feeling in my stomach. Over the next several days, we saw a city, a region of the country, cry out for help. For five days there was no response.

Over the last six years I’ve written on Katrina many many times (herehere, here and here. This last one is an interview with James Perry who was running for mayor of New Orleans at the time.) I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this disaster. I’ve been to New Orleans twice in the last six years. New Orleans is a city that I truly love. New Orleans is a city that is completely different than any other city in the South. It’s not like Atlanta or Miami or even nearby Houston. The only city in the United States, in my opinion, that comes close to the feeling of pre-Katrina New Orleans would be San Francisco. There was something wonderful about New Orleans. It wasn’t simply a great mecca for music. It wasn’t simply one of the best places in the United States to eat. It wasn’t the unique architecture of the French quarter or even the garden district. It wasn’t brunch at Commander’s Palace or the fabulous art shops where we can buy original paintings from national and internationally known artists at prices the 10th of which you’d find in New York or Chicago. It wasn’t the abject poverty or the wealth of the financial district. It was all of this and more which made New Orleans a great city.

The tragedy of Katrina is that it exposed a dysfunctional political system. New Orleans politics has been famously dysfunctional for decades. Louisiana politics is almost laughable. It was nearly impossible to get anything done in Louisiana unless you “knew somebody.” Then, on top of this dysfunctional system you had the Bush administration. You had an administration that actually hated government. You add all of this together and tens of thousands of people suffered needlessly. My conclusion after reading tons of information on Hurricane Katrina is simply that we need to treat each other better.

I found this article in the New Orleans Times Picayune:

In April 2010, four and a half years into recovery, the Census Bureau found that Katrina cost New Orleans 29 percent of its population; Jefferson, 5 percent; St. Bernard, 47 percent; Plaquemines, 14 percent.

Some of those people settled nearby. St. Tammany’s population grew 22 percent; St. Charles Parish grew 10 percent; St. John the Baptist grew 7 percent.

But census takers counted a net loss of nearly 150,000 people who were driven out of a metropolitan area of what was once 1.3 million.

Allison Plyer of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a co-author with Elaine Ortiz of “The New Orleans Index at Six,” an annual recovery analysis, said the region has showed unusual resilience in facing not only Katrina, but the 2008 recession and last year’s BP oil spill. (more…)

Update: Melissa Harris-Perry does a great job at summing up the lessons of Katrina.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lessons from Katrina (update)

We are all focusing on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as we remember Hurricane Katrina. Let me start by saying I love NOLA. I love the people and the culture. I started blogging just a couple months before Katrina. I knew that the levees had broken hours before MSN reported it because of discussion boards on the Internet.

I took this picture in 9th ward 3 years ago.

9th ward

So what are the lessons?

  • there should be no political considerations when doling out aid
  • experts are experts for a reason. They should be in charge of planning and resource management.
  • we as Americans do a bad job of planning for future problems. Money was consistently diverted from the levees into projects that would give politicians “more to run on.”
  • there is no excuse … We must get help to everyone within 48 hrs. There is no excuse.
  • this could happen again.

What are your thoughts? What lessons have you learned?

From HuffPo (written by Janet Napolitano):

We’ve also made tremendous progress since Katrina and Rita in improving our country’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from major disasters of all kinds.

An example of this progress is the recovery efforts this summer following the worst flooding in more than a century in Nashville, Tenn. These floods took the lives of more than 30 individuals, devastated communities, and threatened the safety and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of residents. Despite this historic damage, our swift and effective response demonstrated what a difference preparation, coordination between federal, state, and local governments, and the quick deployment of resources to local communities can make.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, played a key role in the government’s response. But as our FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate would be the first to say, preparing for — and responding to — disasters truly is a shared responsibility. While we continue to strengthen and streamline efforts to prepare for disasters at the federal level, citizens, families, communities, faith organizations, and businesses all have an important role to play in our collective response to emergencies.