are the prevailing concerns that must be considered as the nation moves
forward with the rebuilding of New Orleans?
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.
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.
Liffmann, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program) 9-21-05
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
12 (79KB PDF)
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program) 4-4-07
will the recent hurricanes affect the community in which I live?
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
For more information,
M. Tootle, Dept. of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, LSU