On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, anger over the stalled rebuilding was palpable Wednesday throughout the city where the mourning for the dead and feeling of loss doesn't seem to subside.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane that flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.
New Orleans churches staged memorial services, including one at the historic St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square, and ring bells in honor of the victims. People throughout the city will hold their own private ceremonies to remember where they were when Katrina hit, and what they lost.
"We ring the bells today for the 17, 1,800 people who have gone on to a better place," Mayor Ray Nagin said after large bell tolled a dozen times and a crowd wordlessly sounded handheld bells for more than a minute. "We ring the bells for a city that is in recovery, that is struggling, that is performing miracles on a daily basis."
1. RevK wrote:
I could be wrong or it may just be my perception of things, but after Hurricane Hugo destroyed much of South Carolina, I didn’t see this kind of pressure put on the Federal Government to rebuild - it seems to have been left up to the locals.
August 30, 10:39 am | [comment link]
2. Mike Bertaut wrote:
Absolutely correct. The New Orleans “position” has always been that since the Fed (through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) put the state out of the levee business (after the ‘27 flood) any tragedy befalling the area due to levee failure implies a federal responsibility to set aright. If the Army Corps had passed on taking over the Mississippi River Levee system in the early 1930’s, New Orleans area would have never been home to 1.2 Million people, it would have remained a curious port town with a European/South American culture. The implied safety of the federal levee system and guarantees meant security for investment, and that’s essentially how New Orleans got big in the first place.
Remember that law of unintended consequences? New Orleans is a prime example of it.
August 30, 10:52 am | [comment link]
3. John316 wrote:
I believe I remember complaints after Hugo which led to investigations of FEMA and some reforms. There were also plenty of complaints after Andrew which led to even more reforms at FEMA.
Some perspective can be found in the loss numbers:
August 30, 12:18 pm | [comment link]
Hugo deaths = 82 and $10 billion in damage
Andrew deaths = 65 and $26.5 billion in damage
Katrina deaths = 1,836 and $81.2 billion in damage
4. Rolling Eyes wrote:
#1, #2, another thing to consider is that South Carolina isn’t as dependent upon ALL forms of assistance from the federal government as New Orleans is. It’s not just the levees, but welfare, etc. Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember lots of news stories after Katrina pointing out how a MASSIVE percentage of New Orleans citizens completely lived off the government. They were completely dependent upon government help in every aspect of their lives, including, evidently, preventing acts of God. That’s why you see all the pressure on the Government to fix them. They don’t know any better.
RevK makes a great point about South Carolina. And what about all the huge hurricanes that have hit Florida in the past 20 years? All the sudden, when NO gets hit, all you hear is “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”, and other nonsense.
August 30, 12:22 pm | [comment link]
5. Mike Bertaut wrote:
#4 RE you are correct. About 48% of Orleans Parish residents were on some type of public assistance pre-Katrina. For reasons I’ve stated before, if you can overlook the crime and horrible schools, New Orleans was a paradise for the urban poor pre-K. The current political administrations were heavily invested in protecting that voting block, and vice versa (notice William Jefferson re-elected even after $100k was found in his freezer). They really have never had to fend for themselves, and had always seen the government as their security blanket, tattered and moldy as it was.
That’s also why 30k folks got stranded at the Superdome. When a hurricane came, you either left town or went down to the Dome. The city said explicitly that the Dome was NOT a shelter for Katrina. 40,000 people showed up anyway, so they went ahead and opened it, without planning or supplies, anticipating a 24 hour stay at most and certainly no flooding.
It’s all very sad. It’s the Great Society come home to roost, in its worst possible manifestation.
August 30, 12:29 pm | [comment link]
6. HowieG wrote:
The only reason that I see that Katrina is still in the news is that the Mayor of NO and the Governor of LA, are highly incompetent leaders who still believe that the welfare state (aka Fed. gov. handouts) is a natural entitlement. Billions of Tax-payers dollars have been sent to NO and LA for recovery work with little to show for it. It’s very strange that groups like the Vietnamese in NO, and others in next-door Mississippi, can significantly rebuild in the two years since Katrina, but those who expect handouts (welfare) are incapable. Blaming Bush and FEMA for their own laziness is disgusting and worthy of scorn.
August 30, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
7. RevK wrote:
In my earlier post, I was not trying to make a Republican or Democrat talking point; I was merely asking why Katrina’s effect on New Orleans seems to be the federal government’s problem. As posters have pointed out, there have been other hurricanes that have devastated areas before - even the other parts of Katrina’s wake. I knew the director of one state’s FEMA during Hugo. What he has told me is that FEMA’s policy and orientation toward disaster relief is to help the locals solve their own problems, but not to take over from them. Somehow during Katrina, this doesn’t apply to New Orleans, but it does to Pascagoula. Hmmm.
I don’t buy the N.O. argument that the Army Corps of Engineers owns responsibility because they didn’t ‘turn it over to the locals’ in the 1930’s. The Dams and Rivers section of the Corps of Engineers has responsibility for all of the nations dams and levees, as well as other structures. Using that argument, it becomes the Army’s problem to clean up and fix after every disaster. Even so, my understanding is that the fed gov put a ton of money into levees, but much of it got diverted to other projects because the levees were deemed to be ‘good enough.’ If that is true, who diverted it and for what purpose?
Finally, for a practical matter, engineering is like anything else in life, it has trade-offs. I suppose the Corps of Engineers could have built 500 foot high, half-mile wide levees in N.O., but at what cost to the city and to other projects? They seemed to think the levees were good enough; and they almost were.
Which still begs the question, “Why does N.O. require federal bail-out (read: my tax dollars) and not Pascagoula?
August 30, 12:58 pm | [comment link]
8. Mike Bertaut wrote:
Excellent points. I find this so interesting that I am arguing FOR New Orleans when on the eve of Katrina I couldn’t care less. something about taking care of 22 people for several months, 10 for over a year at my home put me with “boots on the ground” in New Orleans. So here are a few things to consider. I don’t necessarily agree with all these arguments, but they are the basis for what is happening now.
The Levee thing. The Corps was SO enamored with their levee system that they encouraged FEMA to remove flood insurance requirements on some 50% of the city that was below sea level. Only 40% of the homes that flooded had flood insurance, and over 40% of the total that flooded were not REQUIRED to have it, even though they were below sea level. My home, 50 miles north of New Orleans is 14 feet ABOVE sea level and I have to have flood insurance to get a mortgage.
Now, I don’t know about you, but, in the absence of an unimaginable (to them anyway) disaster like Katrina, if the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and your mortgage banker tell you that your property doesn’t flood, the average Joe is going to believe them. And so they did.
No such guarentees have ever been made before, not in Florida, South Carolina, and certainly not in Pascagoula Mississippi. Yet, that exact warranty was made by the U.S. Government to the people who live inside those levees in New Orleans.
I believe one of the reasons the Fed has put up $81B so far is simply because they recognize their own liabilities and are in effect “admitting guilt”. Otherwise they would certainly not have compensated the area at anywhere near the level they have.
Now, to be clear I want to state a few unequivocal positions that I personally hold, after living in this area for 46 years.
First, to me, pre-Katrina New Orleans was not somewhere I would ever have lived. Bad schools, bad politicians, bad roads, bad crime, bad attitudes, and bad traffic held no attractions for me at all. Then again, I wasn’t the current government’s target demographic. It was a morass of corruption, bribery and graft, peopled by a poor urban population who was heavily dependant on the government for everything from food to health care. It was Mexico—North.
But that doesn’t change the fact that an agency of the federal government gave the city assurances that it failed on. Why that happened is up for debate. THAT it happened is not.
My 2 cents…..mrb
August 30, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
9. libraryjim wrote:
They played a clip on the news tonight that brought the issue back to NO and Ray “School Bus” Nagin: he was actually saying that he didn’t want the federal government telling HIM how to rebuilid HIS city—send the money but keep out, in essence! Now he is yelling the loudest about the failings of the feds in this case.
Someone called in from NO and was asked “Why in the world did you re-elect this clown?” and the answer was “the clown was better than the crook running against him.”
September 1, 10:36 pm | [comment link]
10. Mike Bertaut wrote:
Yeah, and he’s got the nerve to think about running for governor. Truly out of touch with reality. Anyway, once the fed is finished putting away William Jefferson, Nagin will take over his seat in Congress and then he can make poorly worded comments in the national press. Then I guess Maxine Waters will have some competion for quotes.
Wish them luck…mrb
September 4, 11:04 am | [comment link]