Lessons From Hurricane Katrina: Hurricane Harvey

 

Today, August 29, 2017, is the twelfth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes and the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. As we note this anniversary, we watch with horror as Hurricane Harvey continues to drop unprecedented amounts of rain on southeastern Texas and, now, Louisiana. Hurricane Harvey is now the wettest hurricane ever recorded in the U.S., surpassing Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978. There are places in Texas where more than 50 inches of rain have fallen.

The tragedy in Houston, TX cannot be calculated. It will take years, perhaps decades, for Houston, our fourth largest city to recover. It is impossible to know how long it will take for the water to recede. The rivers and streams are still rising. The reservoirs are failing. The underpasses and bridges are failing. The number of homes that are destroyed cannot be determined yet. We don’t even know how many people have died. The ongoing tragedy in Houston, Texas is not over. In fact, Hurricane Harvey has moved back off into the Gulf and is expected to move back onshore. Houston may yet get more rain..

Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 Hurricane when it came ashore in southeastern Louisiana. Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm when it landed north of Corpus Christi, around Victoria and Rockford, Texas.

Hurricane Katrina took over 1200 lives, primarily in New Orleans. The storm caused the levees to fail in New Orleans. The city flooded and the flood did not recede for many weeks. Many fled New Orleans and many of those went to Houston. Those from Houston who could flee and wanted to flee could not go to New Orleans. That city is already flooded. The new pumps installed by the Corp of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina have failed, at least some of them. The flood in New Orleans had nothing to do with Hurricane Harvey at that time.

My question. Why have the pumps in New Orleans not been repaired? Prior to hurricane season?

New Orleans had not recovered before Hurricane Harvey. Now, a flooded New Orleans is getting the rain from Hurricane Harvey. One has to wonder what is going to happen to that wonderful city this time.

Houston is using a large center much like New Orleans Superdome to house people who had to evacuate and they may have to open more large facilities. Will the lessons learned from the Superdome tragedy help the mayor of Houston make appropriate decisions? Do you agree with the decision not to evacuate Houston? How would you evacuate a city of 6.5 million people?

Hurricane Harvey is ongoing. The scope of this tragedy is hard to wrap one’s mind around. Did Hurricane Katrina teach us some lessons about how to cope with a tragedy such as Hurricane Harvey?

Full disclosure: I have three cousins who live in Houston, all in different parts of the city. So far, they are all right. One is without power. We’re keeping in touch and there is water very close to their homes. We have no idea yet what will happen.

 

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