Friday night my family attended a Saints game in the Superdome. Katrina was expected to hit Apalachicola, Florida. Saturday morning, it was aimed at New Orleans.
WHAT DID CITIZENS DO? Many evacuated before noon. Many finished obligations: –I led an environmental orientation tour of New Orleans for new Loyola faculty –The Louisiana Children’s Museum held its fundraiser that evening –Most restaurants were open Hundreds of thousands evacuated by Sunday Tens of thousands ignored the storm
WHAT ARE OUR LEARNINGS? Dire poverty exists in America, and we’ve simply looked away. America is ignoring warnings that are based on scientific fact. America’s great economy is not large enough to sustain major catastrophes. America’s emergency preparedness is ill-equipped for large disasters. If one knocks out our communications, we are inept. Partisanship and personal relations don’t disappear during emergencies. Americans are good people who pitch in to help one another.
WHAT CAUSED THE DAMAGE? Inattention to priorities by certain public officials Wind damage Direct flooding – a 30 ft tidal surge Indirect flooding – failed flood walls Lack of preparedness Loss of communications Over time, the loss of components of our population
PLAUSIBLE RUMORS The multitudes who remained did so because they had no way out Some leaders disappeared Prisoners were released There are more than 10,000 fatalities Bodies were being tied to telephone poles so they wouldn’t drift away
OUTLANDISH RUMORS Gangs from other cities invaded New Orleans Rapes and murders in the convention center and Superdome The police killed several thousand bad guys Snakes were envenomating people Alligators were pulling people underwater Sharks were attacking people Environmentalists are responsible for NO not having proper levee protection
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO PEOPLE? This was a sudden storm – 48 hours warning Most thought that they would be “inconvenienced” for 3-5 days Many people are simply in denial
RESULTS FROM KATRINA? Alabama coast is damaged Mississippi coast is simply leveled – Waveland has lost most of its buildings St. Bernard Parish (66,000 citizens) is gone – no livable homes, no open stores, no electricity/water/sewerage – nothing! Most of New Orleans was flooded – possibly 60,000+ buildings may have to be bulldozed Though there is much damage, Jefferson Parish is bustling with rebuilding.
RESULTS FROM RITA? Southeast Texas is badly damaged – Port Arthur and Beaumont are mostly destroyed Southwest Louisiana is leveled and flooded All of coastal Louisiana was badly flooded and many small towns may be ultimately vacated – many people will simply move north.
HOLLY BEACH, CAMERON PARISH: BEFORE RITA (L), AFTER (R)
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS 60+ oil spills Flood waters contaminated with bacteria & viruses Sewerage failure & associated water contamination Lead/asbestos/etc and loosening of EPA regulations to accommodate their disposal Various chemicals in the water and soil Lake Pontchartrain again polluted from draining the city New Orleans at greater risk because of additional loss of coastal wetlands
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS? Not allow a rebuilding of New Orleans Allow rebuilding at owners’ expense Recognizing the strategic importance of New Orleans, the government assists in its rebuilding –Make every effort to rebuild the old New Orleans –Rebuild a new New Orleans that better serves the national interest while retaining the charm, character, and culture that Americans love about the city
BASIC DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS Who evacuated? Who will leave? Who has gone to your city? How are the FEMA parks affecting communities? The people who live in them? Who will return – now or eventually? How will the demographic changes affect voting? Poverty? The workforce? The focus of the economy?
CENTER FOR PROGRESSIVE REFORM SUGGESTIONS: Address the source, not the victims Reduce ignorance – democracy demands disclosure Better safe than sorry Be fair Public resources belong to everyone Make government work http://www.progressivereform.org/Unnatural_Disaster_512.pdf
WHAT CHANGES ARE BEING “TALKED” ABOUT? New NO will be gentrified – no place for poorer people Most small businesses will close due to no employees and no customers There should be a major thrust for exporting what we do – wetlands restoration, oil field technology, etc. NO’s lower cost of living will allow “in- sourcing” businesses to compete with work now being exported overseas
OVERRIDING ECONOMIC FEARS Our convention business will fade Literally thousands of small restaurants will close for good Can New Orleans capture new forms of business? San Antonio Saints Oklahoma Hornets
OVERRIDING SOCIAL FEARS Will our beloved “gumbo” culture disappear? Will there be forces pushing for gentrification? Will we lose our funky architecture that spans centuries? If the Lower 9 th Ward doesn’t repopulate, will we lose our music? Will fishing communities dissolve? Did we treat our citizens with dignity and respect? How will today’s politicians react to the possibility of a white majority?
OVERRIDING ENVIRONMENTAL FEARS Have we lost the critical mass of our coastal wetlands – America’s WETLAND? Were these storms enough to decimate our fisheries diversity? Will the contaminants in the water leave a nasty legacy? Will the loosening of environmental regulations have a lasting effect?
ACCEPT THAT... Large natural disasters usually disrupt the national economy and always have a devastating impact on citizens’ lives It is in the national interest to be prepared for these inevitable natural disasters, so DO IT NOW!
DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT DISASTER PLANS FOR ALL THREATENED ZONES IN THE U.S. Hurricanes Tsunamis Volcanoes San Andreas Fault New Madrid Fault Yellowstone Tornado allies Alluvial flood zones
OF PENDING AMERICAN DISASTERS, HURRICANES ARE DIFFERENT - One can see them coming and (presumably) prepare.
FOR THE SHORT-TERM, WHAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED? Better inform the citizens about calls for evacuation Reduce the number of sources giving advice Organize and enforce a workable evacuation plan, including provisions for the poor Prepare certain evacuation centers in advance (food, water, cots, etc) Make sure all existing levees are stronger than before
FOR THE LONG-TERM, WHAT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED? Elevate the levee system to handle a Category 5 storm Place flood gates at all canal entrances Build a rapid transit system connecting New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette (allows for evacuation and for people to live inland and work in New Orleans) Construct an improved drainage operation Create and enforce more stringent building codes Privatize flood insurance
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE MONTHS TO COME? New Orleans will re-gather her citizens “Reconstruction” will begin - again We will have a Mardi Gras – it will be mostly for New Orleanians and will be our first family celebration of continuing traditions We will host the best Jazz Fest ever that will allow the city’s fans to return and hug her culture