10 Years After Katrina

26 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

For one family, togetherness kept hopes up through Katrina’s aftermath.

Another Katrina-like hurricane, or worse, is out there, and for New Orleans the big questions are: How soon before the next one hits? NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former New Orleans police officer convicted for burning the body of a man shot to death by another officer after Hurricane Katrina will learn in November whether he will get a reduction in his 17-year sentence.Reporter Jeff Johnson travels to the once-devastated city and talks to people who stayed, including Robert Greene, whose mother and 2-year-old granddaughter died in the storm.

ESPN The Magazine’s Wright Thompson embedded himself in New Orleans for the summer and bared the city’s soul in an ambitious story as we approach the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. How prepared will the city be? “We’re dealing with probabilities here,” said Gerry Galloway, a retired Army Corps of Engineers general who is now an engineering professor at the University of Maryland. “There is nothing that prevents a hurricane the size of Katrina or Katrina-plus tomorrow. Johnson also talks to community organizers who have pushed for new housing, school officials who have had to rebuild an education system from literal ruins and political and cultural observers. Sooner or later something like that is going to happen.” In the 10 years since Katrina killed more than 1,500 people in Louisiana and left 80 percent of New Orleans under water, significant steps to reduce the risk of future flooding have been taken.

Most of them accentuate the positive, though the clear subtext here is that rebirth is a work in progress, with some of the solutions bringing new challenges like gentrification. But the New Orleans Saints were featured prominently in sections built around owner Tom Benson, coach Sean Payton and former special-teams standout Steve Gleason.

And everyone in the story is tied together by the “tentpoles of biography” since Katrina. “All New Orleanians can describe three moments from the past 10 years in cinematic detail,” Thompson wrote. “Their escape from the storm, where they were when Gleason blocked that punt and where they were when the Saints won the Super Bowl.” The story opened and closed with Gleason’s battle against ALS, which he was diagnosed with in 2011. For those who would like to revisit the nuts-and-bolts of Katrina herself — how she formed, whether warnings were ignored, what else anyone could have done, exactly why she was so deadly — National Geographic will air an updated version of its earlier “Inside Hurricane Katrina” special Saturday night at 8. The crown jewel in this 133-mile, concrete necklace is the $1.1 billion Lake Borgne Surge Barrier, which measures 26-feet tall and is nearly two miles wide. It has an unnecessarily and distractingly melodramatic narration, but as a study of nature’s destruction and man’s challenge in responding, it’s not to be missed. Its job is to prevent what happened on Aug. 29, 2005, when a 15-foot-high surge of water tore through shipping canals and toppled levees, swamping the Lower Ninth Ward.

There were some great nuggets from Payton, including the fact that he had an assistant gather a list of everyone remaining from 2006, when they arrived together in Katrina’s wake — a total of four assistants and four players, Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Zach Strief. It’s a great foundation to build from but, no, it’s not enough.” A Katrina-like storm today could very well still overtop some levees and cause some flooding, said Link, “but I doubt it would be anywhere close enough” to destroy levees and cause massive flooding. Payton also shared some great memories from when he coached his son’s sixth-grade football team during his Bountygate suspension — including the band member who scored a touchdown. Many observers argued for a tougher 200- or even 500-year-storm standard, but that would have cost billions of dollars more to raise levees even higher. This “adaptive management” will keep engineers busy, since the forecast is for worsening conditions: rising sea levels, a New Orleans that continues to sink as groundwater is pumped from beneath it, and coastal wetlands being destroyed faster than they can be restored.

Louisiana does have a $50 billion coastal restoration plan to rebuild more wetlands, which act as natural storm buffers, and its share of the BP oil spill settlement will help pay for the initial work. The Corps also notes that flood damage costs could be significantly reduced by spending $28 billion to raise some 230,000 buildings that now sit below sea level to one foot above it. Moreover, the National Hurricane Center has a new warning system that relies less on talking about a storm’s category and more on showing maps of potential flood areas.

There was no electricity, he reported, and refrigerators had begun to smell so bad that the stench reached the street, but most of the houses were intact. Then, one morning, we were all gathered around the computer as Rene tried for the thousandth time to see if Google Earth had updated images of his home.

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