FIVE YEARS AFTER

August 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

It was five years ago today — August 29, 2005 — that Hurricane Katrina brought death and devastation to New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and south-central Mississippi.

The news this weekend cast the familiar images of flooded homes in the Lower Ninth Ward, Bay St. Louis reduced to piles of debris, the Superdome, victims clamoring for help, and on and on.

The storm was still powerful when it crossed east Mississippi near Newton, bringing 85-mile-per-hour winds with gusts to 105 here in Meridian.  More than one thousand homes in Meridian suffered serious damage.  It took nearly two weeks to restore electric service throughout the city and county, and the damage to structures took years to repair.  The devastation was astonishing considering that Meridian is nearly 200 miles inland. 

In the years since Katrina the Mississippi Gulf Coast has rebounded well.  Rebuilding is a continuing process, and there are ongoing battles between property owners and insurers, but the resilience of the Coast makes all Mississippians proud.

New Orleans, on the other hand, has struggled.  The dysfunctional near-anarchy of the Big Easy that has always been one of its most endearing features as an entertainment center has not served it well in its efforts to recover.  The city’s population is significantly reduced (the poverty-plagued Lower Ninth Ward had 18,000 residents before the storm and now has around 1,800), and many damaged neighborhoods, particularly in the east, remain mostly boarded up and abandoned.  There are still 50,000 abandoned homes in the city.  Convention business and tourism, the lifeblood of the city, are greatly diminished.  New Orleans is down, for sure, but not out.  New Orleans is now the fastest-growing city in the US.  The New York Times has an interesting article, with video, showing evolution of two streets near the Industrial Canal in the Lower Ninth both before and since Katrina [Thanks to nmisscommentor for letting us know about it].  There is a University of Southern California study of damage in the area, with video, here.  

Today, three tropical cylones are churning across the Atlantic, with yet another tropical wave trailing them out of Africa.  Is our next Katrina among them?  We pray not.

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