Investments in levees saved New Orleans

Levees constructed following Hurricane Katrina mitigated the damage from Hurricane Ida. The lesson is: being prepared matters.



September 1, 2021 - 8:53 AM

Kraemer, Louisiana, resident Elton Hotard stands in front of his wind-damaged home on Aug. 30, 2021. Hurricane Irma caused extensive flooding in the small community in rural northeastern Lafourche Parish. Hotard's home was also damaged by wind, which caused his carport to collapse on his wife's vehicle and portions of the roof to fly into his neighbor's yard.

Hurricane Ida, the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to hit the mainland United States, slammed into New Orleans on Sunday, bringing to Louisiana’s southern coast 150-mile-per-hour winds and a 16-foot storm surge exactly 16 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. The difference between 2005 and now, however, is dramatic, as well as a tribute to lessons learned and investments made after that earlier tragedy.

Ida’s impacts are by no means small. The storm destroyed a major transmission line over the Mississippi River. Along with other damage, this left 1 million people in Louisiana and Mississippi without electricity and no firm sense of when the lights — or the air conditioning in swampy New Orleans — would come back on. 

Hospitals packed with covid-19 patients had to evacuate, and the virus may spread among people who took refuge in shelters. The death toll rose Tuesday to four, and will likely ascend further as cleanup continues, but will come nowhere near the 1,800 lives that Katrina took.

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