One Year Ago

A year ago at 11:25 p.m. CDT on August 28 Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph near the tiny fishing village of Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. Sometime during the early morning hours of August 29, the Levees protecting the City of New Orleans failed causing one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history which killed over 1,800 people.

A year later the Army Corps of Engineers has rebuilt the 169 miles of Levees and flood walls that were breached due to Katrina and Rita. They have been rebuilt to Pre Katrina design specs, and although use of better materials and construction has made them technically stronger than what existed before Katrina, they are designed at best to the low end of a Category 3 Hurricane. Katrina was a Category 5 Hurricane but by the time it made landfall it was a Category 3.

To me, the simple pragmatic lesson learned from Katrina is this. In the immediate aftermath following a big disaster, don’t expect the government – be it state, local or federal to do anything soon. The size and inertia of government by its very nature prevents immediate action. “Be prepared” – as the Boy Scout motto states. For a while at least, following any disaster, you will be on your own, and your survival and that of your loved ones depends on it. And remember, the bigger the disaster, the longer the time you will have to depend on your self.

Secondly, heed the warnings. They are given out for a reason. That’s one arm of the government that did its job, and did it well. Here’s the infamous NWS warning. When trained professionals at the NWS give out warnings like this, it is indeed time to run for the hills. Of course, for so many in New Orleans that fateful week a year ago, it was already too late.

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