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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: History Repeating Itself

As Katrina headed northward across the the Gulf of Mexico towards New Orleans, I knew what the results would be. It wasn't a vision or premonition; it was simply an educated guess. I've been pretty lucky in the hurricane department. My worst experience was last year's marathon of tropical cyclones. Even then, while most of Florida suffered greatly, our family was spared any damage and we only lost power for four hours. So, how did I know what Katrina had in store for New Orleans and surrounding coastal areas? Last fall, the children and I watched Isaac's Storm on the History Channel. This documentary, which is based on the book by the same name, tells of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which killed over 6,000 people. Galveston was situated below sea level, surrounded by water, and located on the Gulf of Mexico. The same is true for New Orleans.

When evacuations were ordered in New Orleans, I knew many would not heed the warnings. Even with all the hurricane education out there, many people still think their biggest problem is high winds. It's not. The storm surge is what people should really be worried about. The three deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history were the 1889 Johnstown Flood (at least 2,209 dead), the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 (at least 3,411 dead). All three were so destructive because of flooding.

Currently, eighty percent of New Orleans is under water. Much of coastal Mississippi and Alabama aren't faring any better. I mourn the many lives lost in this disaster but I also shake my head and wonder why so many didn't evacuate or, in New Orleans, accept the city's free transportation to shelter in the Superdome. Some are saying Katrina is "our tsunami" but it didn't have to be. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami victims had no warning; we did. We also had warnings from our own history. Apparently, however, we didn't learn from our past and now many Americans have been doomed to repeat it.

How to help:

Local Red Cross contacts:

  • American Red Cross - Southeast Louisiana Chapter: 2640 Canal St. New Orleans, LA 70119 Phone: (504) 620-3105 or (800) 229-8191 Fax: (504) 827-2135 http://www.arcno.org/?id=5&sub=3
  • Regional Service Centers —
    NORTHSHORE REGION:Regional Office 619 N. Tyler, Suite D Covington, LA 70433 Phone: (985) 892-4317
    Boothville, LA: Phone: (985) 534-7449
    Slidell, LA: Phone: (985) 643-5608
    Hammond, LA: Phone: (985) 542-3469
    Bogalusa, LA: Phone: (985) 732-4227
  • BAYOU PARISHES REGION:Regional Office 1231 Canal Blvd. Thibodaux, LA 70302 Phone: (985) 447-3229 (Mail to: P.O. Box 102, Thibodaux, LA 70302)
    Houma, LA: Phone: (985) 872-6584
  • RIVER PARISHES REGION: 107 Maryland Dr., Suite D and E Luling, LA 70070 Phone: (985) 785-0647
    LaPlace, LA Phone: (985) 652-9963
  • American Red Cross - Northwest Louisiana Chapter 4221 Linwood Avenue Shreveport, LA 71108 Phone: (318) 865-9545 Fax: (318) 868-4111 Email: redcross@louisianaredcross.org http://www.louisianaredcross.org
  • Red Cross Disaster Assistance info: (866) GET-INFO (866-438-4636)http://www.redcross.org/contactus/
  • FEMA Regional Officeshttp://www.fema.gov/regions/
  • FEMA Region IV(Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) 3003 Chamblee-Tucker Rd. Atlanta, GA 30341 Phone: (770) 220-5200
  • FEMA Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) Federal Regional Center 800 N. Loop 288 Denton, Texas 76209 Phone: (940) 898-5399

State Emergency Organizations: