Five years ago, on August 29th, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coast of Louisiana with sustained winds of 125 mph. In what Republicans at the time claimed to be an utterly unrelated event, New Orleans was devastated by a flood around the same time. Apparently, New Orleans remains pretty much still devastated. Well, the poor parts do, other parts have been fixed up, I hear.

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Scientists had predicted that a hurricane like Katrina would hit New Orleans and do pretty much what it did. So, we call August 29th “Oh fuck, we should have listened to the scientists” day.

So, happy “Oh Fuck” day.

Comments

  1. #1 Flubber
    August 29, 2010

    The glib tone is not appreciated, but maybe that’s just because I live in New Orleans.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 29, 2010

    Flubber, that was not a glib tone. That was reeking cynicism over the fact that we KNEW this was going to happen, we COULD HAVE AVOIDED much of what happened, we LET IT HAPPEN and then when it happened we DIDN’T DO ENOUGH.

    Are you of the opinion that Katrina was OK? That we are glad it happened, that it was OK for us to be UNNECESSARILY unprepared for it? That is it OK for us to have dropped the ball post-hurricane to the extent that we did?

    Or perhaps you think every word spoken in relation to Katrina be somber. I would disagree with that. Somber is easy to quieten down. Somber is easy to shut up and shut out.

    Perhaps the next Cat 5 hurricane that hits New Orleans, but just a tiny bit different in angle and position, that does five times more damage will convince you that this is quite serious. Nothing glib here.

    I don’t appreciate your dismissal of my criticism. Perhaps because you live in New Orleans and I’m in a patronizing mood or something.

  3. #3 Mims
    August 29, 2010

    Actually, the eyes of the Hurricane did not hit Louisiana. It hit Mississippi. I am a New Orleans native who was living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at the time of the storm. It is complicated, but New Orleans actually survived Katrina, only to succumb to the effects of bad levee construction and maintenance and the destruction of protective coastal land. Decades of bad decisions by humans. It is closer to what the disaster experts term a ‘technological disaster’, like the oil spill, than a natural disaster.

    Mississippi, on the other hand, suffered a natural disaster. You can argue that we should have known we were vulnerable to a hurricane, that we should have all built away from the coastal areas, and so we are just as guilty of a lack of foresight as New Orleans. The fact is, a lot of people had done just that after Camille, moving back to the north side of I-10. They still got hammered. The fact is, the economic engine of the Gulf Coast starts at the water’s edge and goes south from there. To make matters worse, unlike every other state impacted by Katrina, the federal money given to the state to help people rebuild was restricted to those homeowners who suffered flood damage, not wind damage or water damage not due to flooding. This left 70% of the homeowners who suffered damage out of the loop. The people who did live on the coast, like me, did so because that is where our livelihood was. Those who made their living working on the water or in the tourism industry, as well as those who made a living sustaining them, lived close to the water and took their chances. It is unfortunate that the recovery response in Mississippi had been slow and inadequate. I still work in the recovery effort, and I know a lot of people who still do not have permanent, secure housing five years after the storm. Many have been living in FEMA supplied tin cans for almost five years now.

    I don’t mind your attitude at all. If anyone is touchy about it, I advise you not to listen to Harry Shearer’s Le Show.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    August 29, 2010

    Mims, let me ask you a couple of questions.

    First, you say “New Orleans actually survived Katrina, only to succumb to the effects of bad levee construction and maintenance and the destruction of protective coastal land. ” … Are you actually saying that if Katrina had not existed at all, the levees should still have broken? Because by separating the landfall of Katrina from the events in New Orleans can only be done if you don’t think there is a causal link.

    Second, have you ever been in the eye of a hurricane? The eye of a hurricane never destroys anything. It is the part around the eye that does the destruction, and that part can be hundreds of miles out from the eye.

    And that hit New Orleans.

    You can argue that we should have known we were vulnerable to a hurricane, that we should have all built away from the coastal areas, and so we are just as guilty of a lack of foresight as New Orleans.

    Right. Mississippi got slammed by the leading edge … the “right” (wrong!) side of the cyclonic storm, and had New Orleans taken THAT particular part of the storm (as I say above) it would have been much much worse there.

    But in both cases, people decided to build inadequate housing and infrastructure in the path of future hurricanes, and a hurricane came along and hit them. The hurricane Katrina hit you in Mississippi, and it hit New Orleans. Katrina did not miss New Orleans, and the damage and devastation and death an destruction in New Orleans were caused by Katrina, but were much worse because of bad decisions by humans previously. Same with Mississippi

    And, … (and I remember thinking this at the time) … Mississippi got the short end of the stick in a way. The devastation there was really bad, but New Orleans got somewhat more attention. Maybe that was necessary because there were more people there, but there are large areas of the coast of Mississippi where nothing was left standing.

    Anyway, it was one event, one hurricane, it did one big whopping job on the region, and some of the damage caused by the hurricane could have been reduced or avoided by better planning and smarter actions taken in advance, mainly in terms of long term decisions, as you mention.

    But Katrina did hit New Orleans. No kidding. It also hit Alabama, for chrissakes.

  5. #5 Mims
    August 30, 2010

    You are right, this was a massive storm. I evacuated to Florida and the morning of the storm, I was on a beach 180 miles from the eyes, which came to shore in Waveland, Mississippi, about 15 miles west of where my house and business stood. Even that far from the storm, I had trouble standing in the gale-force wind. The eye of the storm is the calm part. The area around it is, unfortunately, the strongest part of the system. Wherever the eye goes, it is preceded and followed by the worst of the storm. Yes, Alabama was hit. However, because it was farther from the eye, the damage from the storm was not as severe. And because Alabama committed its federal Katrina Community Development Block Grant money to help all impacted homeowners, and because they committed some of these funds to support non-profit long-term recovery committees that could coordinate recovery, they recovered more quickly and thoroughly than Mississippi. New Orleans would have been similar if the levees hadn’t broken. I remember listening to the news as I spent the first couple of days after the storm gathering emergency supplies to take back to Mississippi. The storm had damaged the city, but everyone there was thinking they had dodged a bullet until the levees broke. Yes, they broke due to the storm. That is a causal link. But it would not have been the disaster it was if it wasn’t for 50 years of corruption, ineptitude, and greed leaving the city vulnerable to the storm. This is my home town. We had been talking about how bad the levees were since I was old enough to understand the issue. Nothing was ever done. It angers me. I blame people more than I blame Katrina. As to the Coast, you are never going to keep people away from living in a hurricane zone. Ports, the seafood industry, the off shore oil industry, these are powerful economic engines for the whole country. We have to be smarter about living in a hurricane zone, and I am disappointed we obviously haven’t learned enough from the storm to make us much safer. Most housing is going up in the same manner it did before. We have stiffened our building codes a bit, but we are not taking advantage of a lot of new technology, materials, and techniques that would make us much safer and make recovery less expensive. I rebuilt several miles back from the water, using Structural Insulation Panels. The structure is wind rated at 170mph, is 70% more energy efficient than a stick-built house, is made of all recycled materials, mostly steel and styrofoam. It contains nothing made of wood, is mold-resistant, so if it floods, you can just mop it out and let it dry. It went up in five days and cost half as much as a stick-build house. You can put one up with one trained person and five unskilled volunteers in days instead of months. You would think this would be a good model for rebuilding after a storm. Unfortunately, no one is listening.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    August 30, 2010

    I agree, espcially blame the people rather than the storm for the ill prepared nature of the city and the infrastructure.

    In New England and other parts of the Atlantic, barrier beaches now (more or less) have a new rule: If it breaks, you can’t fix it. If your house burns down or falls down or is blown down, it stays down. As a result, every year there are fewer homes on the barrier beaches.

    However, once you are inland, the land usually rises quickly, so while flash floods from rain are a big problem, the storm surge is not, once you are off the barrier beaches, and if no one or almost no on lives on them, the you’re fine.

    What is going on with barrier beaches in Miss? And, I am assuming your house and buisness were damaged badly?

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