Sunday, January 6, 2013

When will we become proactive rather than reactive when it comes to storms impacting our communities?

I was fortunate to spend New Year's Eve and the Sugar Bowl (despite the Gators' peformance) with my cousins in the Big Easy! I have always loved New Orleans, particularly because many of my extended family members live there. My husband and children, however, had never visited the city so it was nice introducing them to iconic places like the Franch Quarter and the Garden District and all the city's amazing places to eat.

The course of conversation one night turned to Superstorm Sandy and the inevitable comparisons with Katrina and New Orleans' fate came up. My children listened to stories of how their cousins each lost their homes to Katrina. When we sat in the Superdome, we couldn't help thinking about the thousands of people who had called that stadium home for far too long and some of the atrocities that took place there. New Orleans lost 1,800 of its citizens and suffered a staggering $100 billion in damage thanks to Hurricane Katrina.

When we visited plantations outside of New Orleans we saw levees built up outside the gates of those stately homes where none had previously existed. In fact, New Orleans now has one of the largest storm surge barriers in the world thanks to a $14.5 billion project paid for by the federal government. The Crescent City is now protected by 350 miles of stronger levees and higher flood walls. Some of my relatives remarked that the northern folks who thought the city of New Orleans should be abandoned due to its geographically vulnerable location might now think differently.

Superstorm Sandy has inflicted $80 billion in damage in New York and New Jersey alone. The difference though is that this storm was accurately predicted and well in advance of actual landfall. Experts now have data proving their theories that super storms are becoming more frequent and more powerful. Perhaps the time is now to assess all areas that could become potential targets to these kinds of storms and "weatherize" them in the same manner that New Orleans underwent so we can all rest a little easier.

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