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New Orleans

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For sheer diversity of experience there is nothing like New Orleans. An American city with crime, poverty, disease and unimaginable wealth, it stands with the best of them, but for how long will it stand? There is no bedrock, and this low lying city is slowly sinking. Like jello on a brick it is squishing slowly flatter and there is nothing below.

In 2005 the city was brushed by Hurricane Katrina. Some levees failed.  It took 42 days to pump the city dry. Over 200,000 homes and buildings flooded. That is about 1/3rd of what was there. About half of the 200k were so badly damaged they could not be repaired. Vital infrastructure was destroyed. Trees died. Underground gas lines filled with saltwater began to corrode. Very little in a modern city can survive prolonged immersion in brackish water. Even the big concrete and glass high rise buildings filled with mold. Debris was everywhere. No one could return until the roads were cleared.

Over one million people evacuated ahead of Katrina. About 200,000 stayed behind. Of those who stayed 100,000 had to be rescued in one way or another (most walked out). 1,836 could not be saved (1,833 will become the official death toll, 3 who died during evacuation will be excluded). Most of the survivors came back within two months. About two hundred thousand have not come back.

Five years later as the city struggled to emerge from its encounter with Katrina, disaster struck again. This time the damage was caused by an oil leak 40 miles offshore at BP's Macondo well. Oil gushed for three months before the well was capped. 205,000,000 gallons of crude escaped into the Gulf. That is far less than a drop in a bucket, but government reaction shut down not only fishing and tourism but also prompted a moratorium on deep water drilling.

In May, 2011 we were reminded of the power of the river. With the ability to deliver 3 million cubic feet per second of water, the Mississippi can never be underestimated. For the first time since 1973 the Morganza Floodway was opened, this time to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Seven years after Katrina we faced another threat. Hurricane Isaac brushed Haiti and Cuba, disrupted the Tampa Bay Republican National Convention then took direct aim on New Orleans. Isaac came ashore at the mouth of the Mississippi on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 then backed off drifted west and came ashore again at Port Fourchon with 105 mph winds. Isaac's effects lingered over the city for more than 24 hours. By Wednesday evening we were exhausted. Winds blew from the North first,then the East and finally from the South. Only the Wicked Witch of the West remained silent. Power was off for a week during which time the city was noisy with generators. The flood control system operated flawlessly.

So far it's working, but living in this city has its risks and they take their toll.

As difficult as all this seems, the city is not just recovering from a storm, a flood and an oil spill. There was trouble before the levees failed.

Many people would like to know if the city can be fixed. They've heard about New Orleans and want to know what will emerge in its place at the cost of over $100 billion in federal assistance at least that much more in private funds and now tens of billions more from BP.

This site searches for answers to these questions and in the process reveals a bit of New Orleans. Exploring more than just the storm, it looks at geography, economics, culture and demographics. Along the way some of the city's political history is exposed, but political personalities are not the focus. Driving forces and underlying factors are. 

This city stands apart from other American cities in a way that is hard for other Americans to understand. The difference engenders fierce loyalty among those who call it home. Learning how it stands apart and why is a way to begin to know New Orleans.

Through New Orleans it may be possible to see America more clearly. This city lags America by years on many scales. Sociologically it may be decades ahead, foretelling a future in which racial discontent, environmental destruction, poverty, corruption and crime must be faced every day. Hopefully this possibility can be avoided with solutions discovered reinventing New Orleans.

In 2005 the problems of the city were brought into harsh focus, and for a time the public paid attention  Civic activism was at an all time high. Starting with coastal erosion and the levees, continuing with the leadership and politics as usual, and trickling down to the people themselves, there seemed to be a chance that the city would use this opportunity to redefine itself and emerge as a better place to work and live. But the energy dissipated. Scandals, corruption, and distrust reasserted their hold. Only the federal prosecutor's office seems to be experiencing growth.

Use the topic menu on the left side of the page or select from the topics below to explore the New Orleans section of this site more fully. Use the menu bar across the top of the page to switch to another topic. There are nearly 2,000 information packed pages with lots of links and external references to help you get around town:

  • Geography : The story of New Orleans is dominated :: Continue reading...
  • Headlines : New Orleans is getting on with life. Festivals and food :: Continue reading...
  • Infrastructure : Roads, bridges, hospitals and much much more are essential to the well being of a modern American city. :: Continue reading...
  • Katrina : Katrina made landfall near the mouth of the River in southern Plaquemines Parish. :: Continue reading...
  • Neighborhoods : New Orleans metro area contains much more than the French Quarter. :: Continue reading...
  • People : Who were the one and a quarter million people living in the New Orleans :: Continue reading...
  • Recreation : What can you do for fun? Tourism is New Orleans #1 business. The :: Continue reading...

  • What you'll find in this website

    The Katrina section follows the storm from the earliest warnings. We've summarized the experience, added a few personal touches and linked to lots of resources with exhaustive details. Look hard at the Katrina / Recovery and Reconstruction section to get an idea of what's working and what's not. Learn how big organizations like government and giant NGO's like the Red Cross act.

    Once you have absorbed this stuff you might wonder how we got to this point. The Geography section talks about our low lying, slowly sinking natural surroundings. The People section will show you who lived here before and who lives here now, how they are organized and what they want. Neighborhoods lays out the whole metro area and the individual communities that make it what it was and is. Infrastructure gives you a clue about the physical investment we have in the city. Recreation talks to the quality of life and hints at the culture of New Orleans.

    As you read, one issue will stand out as the most important facing New Orleans today. You might think it would be flood control, or government corruption, and those are certainly important, but there is nothing that comes close to Race as the issue that will determine the fate of the city. The old approaches aren't working. Either the city, and perhaps the country, finds a way to address this mega issue or it should plan on continuing its economic and social decline. Real solutions in New Orleans would have broad application worldwide.

    The Headlines page feeds into the Recovery Timeline in the Katrina / Recovery and Reconstruction Section. As each month progresses we capture the leading interests throughout the city and record them as Headlines. At the end of the month the Headlines page moves into the Recovery Timeline and Headlines starts again. We use the information behind the  Headlines to update the topics so they stay fresh. Look near the bottom of each page and you'll see when the page was created and when it was last updated.

    There are a few cool sections in this website that you might not find too easily.
    • Food is a big deal in New Orleans. We've got restaurants, recipes and more.
    • Global Warming is discussed at length and its role in hurricane formation, sea level and climate change is examined for New Orleans in particular.
    • Public primary and secondary education is analyzed in detail and a proposal for an improved delivery system is laid out in detail.
    • Streetcars get a deeper than average look including some highly detailed drawings
    • The Danziger Bridge affair is dissected. Most people still confuse it with the incident on the CCC between Gretna police and citizens trying to flee the city on foot.
    • Finally there is a big section on National Issues affecting all of us.
    • The business process improvement techniques developed in Eliyahu Goldratt's business novel The Goal find application to several unusual topics including Education and the Criminal Justice System and even Race.

    Every page has one of the comments buttons you see below. Comments give you a chance to sound off. Your comments will be forwarded to the organizer and if I like them, they will appear on the page. If they are really good, we'll try to incorporate your comments into the topics.

    Created : 8/2/2005 11:46:05 AM Updated: 10/3/2014 6:59:28 PM

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