It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina carved its path of destruction through the Gulf Coast. Some areas are still rebuilding, and some will never be the same again. Author Gary Rivlin, who has written a new book, Katrina, about the storm and its aftermath, outlines five little known facts about the hurricane in a brief promotional video.
Many people think that Katrina was a powerful “monster” storm when it struck New Orleans. It wasn’t. Rivlin says that if it wasn’t for the flood protection system that failed following the hurricane, the media would have been reporting on “a bit of roof damage.” Instead, the failure of a weak and inadequate flood control system caused a catastrophe.
Rivlin says that Katrina shouldn’t be considered a “natural disaster.” By doing so, he says, it absolves the federal government of any responsibility for what was the near destruction of a large American city.
Rivlin also takes issue with those who say that Katrina was an “equal opportunity disaster” that affected both black and white residents equally. He says that the flooding was much worse in black areas of the city than it was in white areas. Black homeowners were four times more likely to find their houses flooded than whites.
Ben Casselman, writing at FiveThirtyEight, agrees. Casselman points out that Katrina almost destroyed New Orleans’ black middle class. Prior to the storm, there was a sizable population of black professionals in New Orleans. Now, Casselman says, while poor blacks remain, many of those black professionals are gone, leaving behind a middle class that is increasingly white.
Rivlin calls the post-Katrina renaissance of New Orleans a “partial miracle.” While there are more bars, restaurants, and music venues now, there are also a number of areas in the city that still, 10 years later, have not made a full recovery.
The lessons of Katrina are many, but there are two things that everybody should take away from this disaster:
- If you are poor, and/or a member of a minority, the effects of a natural disaster are likely to be much worse for you than for whites, and the well off.
- Those who argue that we need less government in our lives, and less money should be provided to federal agencies that are responsible for disaster prevention, are inviting more Katrina style disasters in the future.
Here’s the video, via Gary Rivlin’s website:
Featured image via FEMA/Wikimedia Commons