Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Katrina to Gustav - A Study In Contrast

Three years ago, when Hurricane Katrina reached the Louisiana Coast, it began the darkest week in the history of New Orleans. The unnerving power of Hurrican Katrina turned out to be much stronger than anyone imagined. The hurricane tore through the Gulf Coast like a ferocious living thing with 127 mph winds and a 27 foot storm surge.

The people of the Louisiana Coast did not expect Katrina to be so powerful, and had been betting that through the night Katrina would move in a northeastern bend, and slam into the Mississippi Gulf Coast instead.

The storm drifted west, and though the Mississippi and Alabama shores were hammered as well, New Orleans got her fair share of the fury Katrina wrought.

The Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, hadn't moved fast enough, many felt. The fury of the storm was underestimated. Rather than evacuate the entire city, thousands of city residents and tourists sought shelter in the Superdome as Katrina approached. After the city was pounded by the hurricane flooding, the people remained trapped in the Super Dome under increasingly horrific conditions.

Finger-pointing ensued. The mayor blamed the governor who blamed the federal government. Regardless of fault, something had gone wrong, and people had died.

To this day New Orleans has not completely revived. In the course of the hurricane the people of New Orleans experienced what many argue to be the largest natural disaster in U.S. History.

The final toll of Hurricane Katrina left 1,464 Louisianians dead (most of them in the New Orleans), one hundred and forty square miles of New Orleans flooded for six weeks, and in all, 160,000 homes destroyed or substantially damaged.

Note that the Mississippi Coast was also devastated and entire towns were wiped out. However, we didn't hear about that region's hardship because rather than depend federal assistance, they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps (something Obama argued against in his convention speech) and got things done locally.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the Democratic leadership in the Governor's mansion has been replaced by conservative Republican Bobby Jindal.

Now, three years after Katrina, Gustav has set its sights on New Orleans, and Louisiana has a governor completely on the case. He was quick to declare a state of emergency, and highly involved in ensuring the federal government provided assistance in getting the people out of the danger zones. The evacuation effort has been incredible, and the most successful in recent memory.

A storm surge of up to 14 feet is expected, but a loss of life will not be the tale of the tape. However, property damage is expected to be great.

Part of the success is the lessons learned from Katrina, and part of the success is Governor Jindal's direct involvement and urgency.

As New Orleans braces for Hurrican Gustav, the Republican National Convention has decided to tone down the first couple days of the convention, suspending most of the activities, out of courtesy and concern. The Democrat response has been quiet for the most part, though former National Chairman of the DNC Don Fowler, and Congressman John Spratt actually think the timing of the storm is funny, considering it is due to hit when President Bush is scheduled to speak, and as a result Bush has decided not to attend the Republican National Convention. Ultra Liberal film-maker Michael Moore has said, "This Gustav is proof that there is a God in Heaven." He said it with a chuckle in a televised interview.

In reality, the opposite will be true. As Gustav hits the Gulf Coast, the Republican Governors in the states at risk will be seen as doing a fantastic job with preparations and evacuations. The loss of life will be, hopefully, at a minimum as a result. In the meantime, the liberal left will be looked down upon for their glee of the possible political gain caused by the potential disaster on American soil.

Gustav is expected to hit the Gulf Coast in the morning hours of Monday, Labor Day, September 1, 2008.

No comments: