A Look Back at the Damage of Hurricane Katrina on 10-Year Anniversary

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

10 years after Hurricane Katrina, U.S. needs to prepare for the next big one.

Former U.S. On Thursday (Aug. 27), I traveled to New Orleans to mark 10 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated communities across the Gulf Coast and shook America.ON THE “SLIVER by the river,” the stretch of precious high ground snug against the Mississippi, tech companies sprout in gleaming towers, swelling with 20-somethings from New England or the Plains who saw the floods only in pictures.

A decade after one of the costliest and deadliest disasters slammed into New Orleans, many communities remain dangerously vulnerable to future storms akin to the next Hurricane Katrina. President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit the southern U.S. city of New Orleans Saturday to attend ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded 80 percent of the city and killed 1,800 people. A visit to the Lower Ninth Ward would have seemed unimaginable in the storm’s immediate aftermath, but today the waters have receded — replaced by a region that is moving forward. But, parenthetically, experts say, the storm gave the reeling city no choice but to hit the restart button on some of its broken systems that were long overdue for repair, including education, low-income housing and health care. A new $1 billion medical center rises downtown, tourism has rebounded, the music and restaurant scenes are sizzling, and the economy has been buoyed by billions of federal dollars.

Our recovery is a story of perseverance and commitment from the people here to confront the problems that existed before the storm and demand better by making our region more resilient than ever before. Councilwoman Audrey Salvant of Ironton, La., said her community remains under threat from floods and hurricanes because funding never materialized to allow residents to elevate their homes so floodwaters can flow under the structures.

But on the porch stoops of this place so comfortable with the cycles of death and decay, they still talk about living in some kind of Atlantis-in-waiting. In addition to lagging behind academically when she started at Cohen College Prep, Simmons also lived in a homeless shelter for a year in eighth grade, after her father lost his job, making concentrating on her school work even more challenging. Even more alarming, in the largest-ever study of power outages in the U.S., a group of UC Berkeley scientists found blackouts are getting chronically longer because of severe weather. If Katrina was an example of what happens when government fails, the recovery has been an example of what’s possible when government works with local communities as a true partner. We remember the unease and deafening silence driving back, wondering if our homes had been flooded or how bad the damage would be, still praying and hoping our neighborhood might be spared.

Together, we’ve delivered resources to help Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida rebuild schools, hospitals, roads, police and fire stations, and historic buildings and museums. Simmons’ story represents that of many students who might not have succeeded to the same degree without the post-Katrina education system changes, experts point out. Looking back and knowing how far we have come, how much we have grown, we are also aware of how our strength, faith and resilience got us where we are today.

And we’re building smarter, from elevating homes to retrofitting buildings to improving drainage, so that our communities are better prepared for the next storm. For Simmons, that meant attending a charter school, where she said her teachers pushed her even more once they found out about her compromising situation.

The plan is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Yet the city’s very survival as an inviting and vibrant space has made it into a symbol of resilience, an inspiration for other places savaged by nature’s whims and man’s mistakes. Education, awareness and resources aim to battle disasters and their after-effects such as high unemployment, inefficient public transportation, and food and water shortages, among other shocks and stresses. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the overall health of the public charter school movement in Louisiana now ranks second in the nation. Our goal was to rebuild a city and a region as it should be — a place where everyone, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how much money they have, has an opportunity to make it.

But supporters didn’t expect to see any swift changes. “There would’ve been incremental government change,” Patrick Dobard, superintendent of the Recovery School District, told HuffPost. “We never would’ve made the long systemic changes we see now.” Compounding the issue was the fact that critics were reluctant to accept what they viewed as a “top-down” costly system. If climate forecasting models are accurate, this year will see a record-strength El Niño rear its head and unleash violent weather throughout the world. We’ve come a long way in that respect, but there’s more work to do when too many of our children live in poverty and when, in New Orleans, typical black households earn about half the income of white households. The long-term impact of the conversion of its schools to an all-charter system and the decision to demolish large public housing developments in favor of new mixed-use housing will be debated for years.

But when Hurricane Katrina hit, — taking down 106 schools and sparking a fierce debate about poverty and race with it — advocates seized the chance to start over and build a stronger system. The two met with students at the school’s gymnasium, where he was also greeted by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, who was in office during Katrina. The entity was created to transform failing institutions into high-performing charter schools. “It was a horrible catastrophe, but as we try to look for silver linings, if there’s any glimmer of hope, we were able to wholesale, put changes into place that have systemically improved the quality of schools,” Dobard said. But the people who now populate the city aren’t necessarily the ones who fled it. “The Chocolate City” that the bungling and corrupt Katrina-era mayor, Ray Nagin, famously described in the wake of Katrina is still majority black, but its African-American population has shrunk by nearly 100,000 — to 59 percent from 67 percent. His administration was roundly criticized in the days following the storm for a slow emergency response to the thousands of people needing shelter, supplies and security amid the flooding.

Administrators have been criticized for being quick to resort to suspending and expelling students who misbehave, which has helped boost figures and has also disproportionately affected minorities. It’s why we believe in programs like My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative devoted to making sure that all young people, especially our boys and young men of color, have the opportunity to achieve their potential. Louisiana schools are twice as likely to suspend black students as they are white students, according to a 2010 study conducted by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the Family and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. “The unfortunate reality of ‘three strikes you’re out’ and other unnecessarily harsh policies [is that they] have escalated the pushing of young people out of school and down a pipeline to dropout, unemployment and prison,” Julian Heilig, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at California State University, Sacramento, told HuffPost. The other concerning issues, advocates say, is that too few minority teachers were hired in the aftermath and that systemic issues that pertain specifically to underserved students weren’t addressed.

We completely overhauled the way our levee boards oversee the construction and maintenance of the flood protection systems that failed us so miserably. He is the National Geographic author of “The Extreme Weather Survival Guide: Understand, Prepare, Survive, Recover” and the NG Kids book ” Extreme Weather: Surviving Tornadoes, Tsunamis, Hailstorms, Thundersnow, Hurricanes and More!” Follow him @weathersurvival, or email kostigen@theclimatesurvivalist.com.

Because of the grit and determination of the American people, our businesses have created 13 million new jobs over 65 straight months, and our unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent to 5.3 percent. They say that more money should’ve been invested in early childhood education and increasing parental engagement, as well as access to health, social and other services at-risk students need to stay on track.

Five minutes down the road, at the opposite end of Tremé, Dianne Honore, 50, rented half of a brick double across from Louis Armstrong Park a couple of years back. But Dobard continues to stand by the charter school model New Orleans has pioneered — noting that the district plans to address issues related to expulsion and is gearing up to roll out a robust program for students with special needs. When a school is up for renewal, it goes through an extensive review process and if it’s not meeting expectations, the RSD has the power to shut it down or transfer its leadership, Dobard said. They also have more control over budgets, transportation and meal plans than standard public schools do. “The teachers actually taught us instead of just giving us work, and helped us with anything we needed,” Simmons said. “They actually challenged me instead of just giving me the answers.

Honore, who lived in Texas after being flooded out, just “got gentrified,” six years after coming home, she says. “Some days, you feel like your culture is still drowning.” On the Friday before Mardi Gras, Patrick Comer and 150 of his friends, entrepreneurs all, spilled out of Arnaud’s, a venerable French Quarter restaurant, and onto Bourbon Street. In fact, we strengthened our resolve to not be defined by Katrina, and instead we embraced even more closely the things that make our culture so unique. On this 10-year anniversary, we remember what it took to get here — all the hard work, determination and resilience that has made this recovery such a success. URBANbuild collaborates with a number of local groups, including Brad Pitt’s Make It Right nonprofit, to build homes for people in need in the area.

On a single night in January, there were 1,703 people without homes, still much higher than such comparably sized cities as Chicago and Baltimore, but a notable decline. Residents are then connected with case managers who oversee their medical needs, and other issues, to ensure that they can remain living independently. And on their shopping list was almost everything that could be had in these neighborhoods — a collection of Creole cottages, shotgun doubles, warehouses, and small manufacturers at a humpback bend of the Mississippi River.

In the evolution of post-Katrina New Orleans, few phenomena have been more striking than the dramatic demographic shift of places such as Bywater from majority black to majority white. One census block group in Bywater dropped from 51 percent African-American before Katrina to just 17 percent afterward; the largest went from 63 percent to 32, according to an analysis of U.S. census data. “You saw all these white people. Obviously they were displacing black people who were here before,” said Medley, an African-American historian who lives in the Marigny house where he grew up.

The market, which opened in 1875, sold po’ boys and shrimp-by-the-pound in an atmosphere of rotting charm before Katrina; it now houses pricey food stalls. After Katrina, there was a rush to buy up properties in the sliver-by-the-river neighborhoods such as the Marigny and Bywater — anything that didn’t flood.

Among its multi-thronged approach, the city reopened negotiations with FEMA to demolish 919 units, prioritized city funding for the rehabilitation of dilapidated properties and fixed up 520 homes belonging to low-income owners who didn’t have the funds to do so. But after the hurricane, when Charity Hospital was forced to close its doors because the cost to repair the institution was too great, the medical community was compelled to reevaluate how it could rebuild a more resilient system that better served its entire patient population. On Aug. 1, with $1.1 billion in federal, state and private rebuilding money, the city opened the doors to the 2.3-million-sqaure-foot University Medical Center New Orleans, which replaced the destroyed Charity Hospital. An empty foundation next to a spruced-up place with bright, clean siding next to a sagging wreck with a hole in the roof next to a house with a brand-new deck. Jesse Perkins, a 54-year-old sewer manager who grew up in the Desire public housing development, lives across the street from a large seniors’ apartment complex that was devastated during Katrina and now sits 10 years later with caved-in roofs and smashed-out windows.

Many of those clinics have direct links or affiliations with UMC, which allows patients to book appointments within one to two days, according to DeBlieux. While Louisiana’s largest teaching and training hospital boasts state-of-the art equipment and striking designs, DeBlieux, who worked at Charity Hospital for more than 20 years, says the mission to serve as a safety net hospital hasn’t changed one iota.

But this year, there’s been a spike in violence, and the city registered its 100th murder nearly two months earlier than the year before. “The city, on balance, is far better off than before Katrina,” says the writer Jason Berry, who’s accustomed to the nightly symphony of sirens that has spread beyond the poorest sections. “But it’s still a break-your-heart kind of town.” Today’s private-public model will allow UMC to still serve indigent populations, while also making itself a competitive option for Medicaid, Medicare and commercially insured patients in order to “attract all payers.” Every room in the hospital is private, with ample space for family members to stay over. The only exception is in the behavioral health section where sharing a room was deemed “therapeutic.” The hospital has also set a goal of developing programs that will enable patients to seek out specialty care locally at UMC, so they don’t have to travel out of state, or out of the region.

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