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The Recovery

Caught in the headlights of history
Caught in the headlights of history
Once in the city, the Corps patched the levees and pumped the water out. Thousands of utility workers converged on the city clearing the streets, restoring power, water, and phone services. Firms with FEMA no bid contracts brought in thousands of Latino's with chainsaws.

One month after Katrina the still flooded city was threatened by Hurricane Rita, but that storm veered west, causing a panic in Houston before slamming into southwest Louisiana near Lake Charles.

In September the President appeared in Jackson Square at the heart of the empty city and pledged "...we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again."

Later in the year Hurricane Wilma and then the storm dubbed Alpha, because all the names for 2005 had been used, threatened briefly. The season didn't end until 2006 when tropical storm Zeta which had formed on December 30 dissipated on January 6.  In the end, 2005 was  the most active year ever for storms. But it wasn't the last year for storms, and in 2008 Gustav caused another evacuation before hitting Cocodrie, and Ike threatened before heading west like Rita.

Reconstruction remains slow and uncertain. Leadership is lacking. The land use controversy remains mired in politics as group after group tries to convince the citizenry that some low lying areas aren't worth rebuilding. Funding for critical infrastructure repairs is being withheld. Wetlands are not being restored.

Flood control remains the dominant issue of the recovery. If we can provide adequate flood control we can stay, otherwise lets pack up and move out before the next event drives us out. Real protection will require the wetlands and barrier islands to be restored. The Corps of Engineers needs to add ecology to its bag of tricks, engineering alone won't make us safe.

The Mayor remains committed to an unrealistic policy of "Rebuilding Everywhere First." The Governor is continuing to work at the same doggedly determined (and incredibly slow) pace she always has. The President has other problems on his mind. Consulting groups, commissions and experts of all types are planning a bright future, but all are assuming there are more sources of money to be tapped. Other forces are quietly saying that it just isn't worthwhile to rebuild.Watch the video to get an idea of how its going after two years. 

The real recovery action continues at a snail's pace, one house at a time. Everything is urgently needed, more expensive and more difficult to accomplish than before the storm. We are making progress.

  • Good Progress : These services have been restored since the storm and are approaching normalcy (locals call it the "new Normal"). :: Continue reading...
  • John F. Kennedy : "to the moon" at Rice University  Sept 12 ,1962  :: Continue reading...
  • Lingering Problems : 18 months after Katrina these issues remain tough to solve. :: Continue reading...
  • Recovery Timeline :  Month by month review of the most important developments. :: Continue reading...
  • Recovery Funding : These numbers still don't add up properly...... :: Continue reading...
  • Recovery Methodology : La. government problem-solving: :: Continue reading...
  • The Plan for Recovery : Blue Ribbon commissions jumped all over the recovery offering plan after plan. Each contained its nuggets of truth and understanding. Each in turn ignited opposition and disbelief. :: Continue reading...

  • When I returned to the city at the end of September I saw something new to New Orleans. Latino workers were everywhere. Most had trouble with English. I didn't know where these people had come from or how they got here before I did. I have now come to understand that FEMA's contractors brought them in to clear the rubble and do the work. INS ran a raid or two, but halfheartedly. Talking to a few guys, they are from all over Central and South America. Two painters were from Brazil.  Long lines have sprung up at the grocery store customer service counters. Why? It's because you can wire money home. The forms are difficult to enter and it takes a while. I guess we needed to add a bit to our diversity.

    Where are our traditional workers? Well many of them haven't come home. Speculation is that it's easier to stay in Houston, Atlanta or Memphis in a FEMA supplied apartment and live on disaster relief, food stamps, disaster unemployment, and welfare than it is to come to New Orleans and work in the heat. As these benefits run out what will happen?

    Unfortunately the criminals have come to the opposite conclusion. With its criminal justice system in disarray, New Orleans has experienced a spike in crime since the beginning of 2006. The police seem to view it as a realignment of turf as elements across the city battle to gain control over the drug trade.

    The city's population rapidly returned to 200,000 bringing the metro area back to 1 million, but has stalled there. It may be growing or not. Controversey over census data is another part of the new normal.

    The Rescue Miscellaneous

    Created : 10/26/2005 9:08:22 AM Updated: 7/19/2010 9:28:05 AM

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