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What are the prevailing concerns that must be considered as the nation moves forward with the rebuilding of New Orleans?

Improved protection of life and property should be an overriding concern. Katrina proved New Orleans’s vulnerability to Category 4 and 5 storms. The current Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain levee system was built after Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and is only designed to protect against Category 3 storms and the 100-year flood that usually accompanies such events. Higher flood protection standards are readily justified. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others will give consideration to structural options such as raising the levees, and will also investigate the feasibility and impacts of building gates similar to those used in the River Thames in England and oceanic dikes like the ones that protect The Netherlands from 1,000-year events.

Building in an environment such as New Orleans is inherently risky, and
100 percent protection against coastal hazards such as hurricanes and flooding is not possible. Nevertheless, there are other ways of mitigating or reducing the risks to life and property from such hazards.

Flood hazards, for instance, can be mitigated by elevating homes and raising the minimum development criteria for building in high hazard areas. Consideration should also be given to public purchasing and abandoning previously developed areas, and allowing these areas to revert to wetlands or other buffering land use.

Wind damages, too, can be mitigated by developing and enforcing a new unified building code system modeled after the one that Florida adopted following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In 2004, Louisiana’s Legislature approved such a higher standard (buildings that can withstand 146 mph winds), but it did not require communities to adopt the new standard. Some did, including New Orleans, but many local codes have not been updated in 15 to 20 years, and enforcement is lax.

Another measure for mitigating damages is to rehabilitate coastal wetlands and barrier islands to help buffer from storms. The Coast 2050 plan developed in 1998 proposes several projects and has an estimated cost of $14 billion. Coastal wetlands provide buffer for storm surge and an apron of protection around critical infrastructure such as levees.

(Mike Liffmann, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program) 9-21-05

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Do coastal parishes have a universal building code for minimizing wind and flood damages from hurricanes and tropical storms?

In 2005, the Louisiana Legislature mandated that all parishes in the state use the International Codes, or I-Codes, that were developed by the International Code Council. The I-Codes adopted by the legislature include the International Building Code (IBC), International Existing Buildings Code (IEBC), International Residential Code (IRC), International Mechanical Code (IMC), and the International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC). Post-hurricane rebuilding will result in stronger and safer structures that are better able to survive natural disasters because they are based on the latest technology and state-of-the-art requirements. Thus, buildings will have impact-resistant windows, better garage and door protection, shutters, and hurricane-resistant roof tie-downs and exterior cladding. For more information, visit

Act 12 (79KB PDF)

(Rod Emmer, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program) 4-4-07

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How will the recent hurricanes affect the community in which I live?

Catastrophic events, like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, can have long-term effects on communities. Disasters change local social structures as neighborhoods are destroyed, people are displaced and social institutions (such as churches and schools) are closed or relocated. Citizens can become dissatisfied with governmental responses and politicians in the aftermath of disaster. The economic impacts of business losses and structural damage are compounded by unemployment, reduction of public services, costs of cleanup and recovery, damage to crops and livestock and public sector budget deficits.

The important thing to remember is that communities will recuperate. Communities go through a process of recovery. The heroic phase, which begins immediately after the disaster, is characterized by dramatic responses to the immediate crisis. The honeymoon phase, in which communities receive an outpouring of assistance and resources from the outside follows. The longest phase of recovery can be the disillusionment phase, caused by the withdrawal of first and second responders. It is normal for communities to feel bitter and ignored at this point. The final phase of recovery, which may take a year or longer to reach, is characterized by “a new normal.”

For more information, contact

(Deborah M. Tootle, Dept. of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, LSU AgCenter) 10-3-05

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