Katrina – 10-Year Anniversary

katrinaBy Ed Riley
Hurricane Katrina came aground in the United States for the second time at 11:10 UTC (6:10 CT) on August 25 having previously attained a Category 5 status at approximately 13:00 CT the previous day. Its peak strength showed sustained winds of 175mph and a minimal central pressure of 902 mbar. This made Katrina the 4th most intensive Atlantic hurricane in recorded history at that time. Recorded detail states that the first landfall of Katrina after being declared a hurricane was between Hallandale Beach and Aventura, Florida. The second ‘hit’ by Katrina was as a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 125 mph near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. Buras-Triumph is within the federal hurricane protection levee system and is around 70 miles south east of New Orleans, via LA-23S. All of this is statistical and can be found by using Internet search engines.

The 10-year anniversary of Katrina hitting land in Louisiana is being ‘celebrated’ with a number of TV shows hosted, and supported, by celebrities who can claim some level of belonging to the area affected by Katrina. The occasion certainly deserves recollection, and many of us have experienced the effects of a disastrous hurricane here on our peninsula.

Earlier this week, in watching the first of the documentaries that recalled what happened 10 years ago, I was yet again disappointed that the concentration of the content of that show was in New Orleans with little to no mention of other areas that, in my opinion, deserve more attention than is being given now, and more attention than those areas were given 10 years ago.

The people of New Orleans suffered badly due to the failure of the man-made levee system which caused disastrous flooding, loss of life and a total loss of personal worth. In New Orleans, there was no potable water for days after the storm and bodies were found in the flooded streets and in attics. Those who had refused, or were unable to evacuate, were marooned and took refuge in the New Orleans Superdome which had been designated as a refuge for up to 800 people. One estimate is that 30,000 people showed up at the stadium before subsequent evacuations.

Film crews moved in to New Orleans and recorded flooded areas, rescues and the plight that many suffered under the intense sun that followed the storm, as well as the chaos in the home of the New Orleans Saints. “It is not an overstatement and in no way an exaggeration to say that people are dying and will continue to die,” Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, during a live broadcast from New Orleans. “We know that because we have seen it.”

What about elsewhere? Further east of New Orleans, the hurricane-force winds that reached coastal Mississippi lasted over 17 hours, with 11 recorded tornadoes and a 28-foot storm surge flooding as far as 12 miles inland. The worst property damage from Katrina was seen on the coast of Mississippi, where all towns flooded over 90% in just a few hours. The surge destroyed many historic buildings, with others flooded as high as the 3rd story. Over 235 people died in Mississippi. Where were the film crews?

More than one million people in Mississippi were affected, and almost 6 months after the storm, the devastation in Mississippi was still described as “staggering”. Statistics show that more than 1 in 6 people required FEMA assistance in Mississippi. Did I miss the documentaries featuring Mississippi?

In Alabama, a storm surge of up to 18 feet, as well as hurricane force winds, devastated coastal areas, destroying marinas, boardwalks and beachfront homes and hotels. The city of Mobile was flooded to a depth of up to 6 feet and 22 counties in Alabama were declared disaster areas. Did the crews of CNN, Fox News and other national channels descend upon Alabama? I didn’t see that.

The Superdome was unavailable during the entire 2005 NFL season following the storm. Both external and internal repairs to the stadium required extensive attention. The first home game of the 2006 NFL season for the Saints, deservedly so, is heralded as being a significant event that bolstered the recovery of the city and its residents. I remember watching that game and experiencing the emotional uplift that so many more in New Orleans, and Louisiana, must have felt. I didn’t see any such morale-boosting and heart-lifting occasions elsewhere.

Lois and I visited both New Orleans and Biloxi soon after Katrina had dissipated. Downtown, The Big Easy was dry but businesses were recovering. Evacuees were returning to work in the restaurants and bars to aid in the resurrection of the tourism industry that is essential to the city. It would not be too long before that city was throbbing with festivities and parades. The 9th Ward remained under water but the planning for a new housing development intended to receive 9th Ward evacuees was already under way. Federal assistance was plentiful, especially as the government was staving off criticism for the situation in that city.

In Biloxi, the devastation was still evident when we arrived – and remained so for many years after. As we flew over the city, the first two to three beachfront rows still glittered with shards of glass that were reminders of what used to be. The locals of Biloxi were determined to continue the recovery of that city but the empty lots, lone pylons sticking up like rotten teeth and formerly decorative trees and foliage bent and brown with little chance of coming back to their prior beauty were still evident. When we visited there some 3 months after the storm, street signs were still missing, roads blocked with detritus, and local hotels and casinos fighting to survive – not to mention the locals who were left to clean up their properties, despite having no work to keep the income coming in. There was also federal help in Biloxi, but the concentration of that aid belonged to New Orleans.

There is no doubt that the city, and the people of New Orleans suffered, but so did many other cities and populaces of states outside of Louisiana. Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas and locations as far north as Quebec recorded damage and deaths, but the concentration of reporting and media coverage was in New Orleans – and it remains so 10 years after.


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