Today when a hurricane turns toward the Louisiana coast, it kicks off a comprehensive $2.5-million-per day evacuation system designed to move up to 46,000 residents who lack transportation from New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. It will use as many a 700 chartered highway coaches as well as airliners. And yes, pets are included in the plan.
Of all the questions being asked about New Orleans’ progress 10 years after the disaster that killed nearly 1,500 residents and clouded its future, the most persistent has been this: Is it safer now? Interviews with storm experts resulted in answers filled with caveats. The best summation: It’s safer for houses, but not necessarily for the people who live in them.
Like many Hurricane Katrina survivors, former Louisiana State University research scientist and instructor Ivor van Heerden sometimes tears up at certain memories. He didn’t lose a house or a family member. He lost his career. That still hurts because it was taken from him by the people he was trying to help.
New Orleans leaders long believed that the city’s safety lay in draining the soggy mud sponge it was built on. But as it drained, it also shrank, pulling most of the city below sea level. Officials now say the best way to control the damage roiling the area is by keeping that sponge full. First, they need a way to monitor what’s happening below.
These are nervous times for some supporters of the RESTORE Act, the law that will divert 80 percent of the fines BP will pay for polluting the Gulf of Mexico from the federal purse to projects intended to restore the Gulf ecosystem and economy. They want to ensure that big money will pay for big projects.