Saturday, September 6, 2008

Getting over Gustav

There's still plenty of folks in New Orleans who still don't have power, but you can see progress is being made. I was reminded again of the many months following Hurricane Katrina, when I would return to the city on a sporadic basis from my home base in Cleveland. Every single major intersection in the city had stop signs. Many of those same busy intersections were again without power after Gustav and stop signs were hastily erected to prevent accidents. Incredibly, in a city marked by horrible drivers, the low technology worked. Normally disagreeable red light runners would slow, stop and give way to slower vehicles at the all-way stops. It was one of the good things that came out of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort. No one was going any particular place very fast, so why bother driving like a maniac? It all seemed so clear then. The winds of Gustav may have created more damage than Katrina over a larger area in the state. Of the 64 parishes in Louisiana (every other state calls them counties), only two suffered no damage from Gustav. That's an amazing fact. The hardest hit area continues to be where the storm came ashore, including Grand Isle and Cocodrie, and north of that point in Houma. Many residents who have chosen to return will face lack of power, potable water and sewerage service for several more weeks to come. School districts are having to deal very harsh conditions for students as many facilities are now destroyed. In the end many students will have to be bused or will have to be driven to more remote locations while the recovery effort continue. In the meantime, city and state officials continue to make progress as we all cast a wary eye on the other major storm in the Caribbean, Ike. Hurricane Ike is a dangerous category 4 storm churning up seas with 140 miles-per-hour winds. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced several locations that are in need of repair before Ike gets much closer to New Orleans. Some of these projects are already being undertaken, while others need to be started immediately. The biggest danger seems to be in Grand Isle, where 85% of an 8,000 square foot area on the island's eastern area disappeared after the storm passed. We are all busy getting things back in order, but not all of the boards placed along windows have come down. It would seem silly to take them down only to have to put them back up in another four days time when Ike could be threatening offshore oil operations and moving towards landfall somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. For those interested in looking at statistical data in a graphic presentation as to the impact of Gustav's storm surge, here's an excellent link prepared by the Times-Picayune, whose award-winning reporter and author Mark Schliffstein has been on top of his game again. 

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