When Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast almost three years ago, everything within me wanted to pile supplies in my ancient 1979 van and head down to help. Unfortunately that was not available since my 87 year old mother lived with us and I was her official caregiver. I prayed daily for those whose lives were devastated by the storm, and I knew from having lived down there the horrible impact that hurricane would have on countless lives.
As the images of destruction started appearing on television, the impact of the storm was far worse than anyone could have predicted. Initially the majority of the news coverage was coming from the Mississippi coast where a 25’ storm surge had literally wiped buildings and homes off the face of the earth. But then the levees broke in New Orleans and Katrina’s legacy would be forever changed.
Once the flooding of New Orleans started, the destruction in Mississippi became an afterthought. While most of the nation’s attention was focused on the horrible and needless loss of life taking place in New Orleans, the unbelievable devastation in Mississippi was hardly noticed and the problems in Alabama were totally neglected. Not to diminish the horrific loss of life in New Orleans, but the loss of property in other places was the story of Katrina as much as the senseless flooding of a city whose reputation preceded it.
Millions of people were in one way or another impacted by Katrina and a few weeks later by Rita. The people whose lives were turned upside down by these storms had endured many storms and most of them saw no reason the storms of 2005 should be any different. Even though experts had been warning of the looming catastrophe ready to swamp New Orleans; little had been done to prepare for a direct hit by a major hurricane. The city’s trust was put in ancient levees and pumps that would take the water out of their city and put it back in the nearby lakes.
Little had been done along the coast of Mississippi to prepare for a major storm. From the time casinos brought new wealth to the Mississippi coast, there had been a great building boom which had seen huge numbers of eating and lodging places spring up along with other businesses catering to the influx of gamblers who would flood the area, especially on weekends. Gulfport and Biloxi were two cities which experienced great growth during the past twenty years and many other smaller areas were getting ready to join in the boom.
No one ever thought a storm would actually come in with a 25’ storm surge. Everyone knew it “could” happen, but nobody believed it ever “would” happen. The apathy and arrogance which ran rampant in both New Orleans as well as the Mississippi coast was staggering. Everyone from the top elected officials down to the individual home owners thought they were invincible. Building codes were lax and official preparations for a major disaster were merely words on pages and never practiced.
The perfect storm of Katrina was not so much in the physical storm as it was in the combination of a fierce storm, public apathy and spiritual filth. Between the evil of every kind and nature which fills New Orleans with a spiritual stench that can be smelled for miles and the greedy commandeering of the Mississippi coast by huge casinos; the entire area had become a cesspool of spiritual iniquity. In one sense, it is truly amazing that the number of fatalities from Katrina weren’t fifty times what they were.
Little has been learned from Katrina in the almost three years since it hit. The first things rebuilt in Mississippi were the huge casinos. The rationale was that jobs and income needed to be provided. Anyone believing that can buy some property I have for sale on Mars. New Orleans made a huge attempt to make sure the nation knew that Bourbon Street was still open and not wiped out by Katrina. All that led New Orleans downhill to begin with was quickly back up and running.
If another major hurricane came ashore next month in the same areas as Katrina, the results would be about the same. Although new building codes and regulations prohibit the building of homes and businesses directly along the coast unless able to withstand a gigantic storm surge; if nature decided to push a true category FIVE hurricane into the area the results would be catastrophic.
I remember when there was the possibility of a hurricane in the late summer of 2006 talking to the various charities doing the rebuilding work. I asked what would happen if another storm came in and wiped out everything again. Their response was that they would start over and do it all again. This struck me odd then and still does.
How many times will man insist on defying nature? Man is intent on building his dwellings and businesses on top of fault lines, next to volcanoes, in the middle of huge forests with histories of fires, along rivers that flood, and worst of all—along the coastlines where tropical storms and hurricanes hit somewhere almost every year. The absolute most insane thing is to build a huge city BELOW SEA LEVEL and then depend on pumps and levees to keep the water from one of the biggest lakes in America from swamping the city during a major hurricane.
Man’s stubborn stupidity and beligerant arrogance allows him to receive the recompense of his error which is appropriate. Jesus said that the person who builds their house upon the sand is a fool, for the storms come and wash it away. People who build houses on flood plains, fault lines, deep in forests which are prone to burn, on the sides of volcanoes and directly along the coastline of areas known to be prone to hurricanes must live with the risks attached to their choices.
Don’t we all tire of seeing destroyed homes rebuilt time and again in disaster prone locations? Between private insurance and government help, these people have been able to get away with doing this for years. I am glad to see one major insurance carrier after another back away from even offering insurance to those who insist on building homes directly on the coast of Florida and Mississippi. I think the same thing should be done in regard to flood plains and other disaster prone areas.
Hey, it is free country and if a person wants to build a home on top of the New Madrid fault, they should be allowed to. But, if they do, they are responsible in full for any damages and rebuilding costs. If a person insists on living on the Mississippi coast, they should be allowed to, but with the understanding they pay for any damage to their property and rebuilding expenses. If a person wants that cabin deep in the woods of any one of our Western states, they should have it; with the understanding they are responsible for any expenses if it burns in one of the yearly forest fires.
People need to take responsibility for their decisions instead of expecting everyone else to pay for their privilege to live in a scenic, yet disaster prone area. If a person has enough money to build their dream house in a place that could be wiped off the map next week, they have enough money to rebuild it over and over again if they like that place so much. I think New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast are pretty much in this category.