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Where sensible people built a century or two ago!

Posted Oct 22 2008 9:31pm

Growing up in New Orleans and Metairie, I always knew to prepare for the big hurricane -- the one that would go up the Mississippi River. break or topple the levees, flood the City and cause tremendous damage!  Well, Mother Nature fooled us and Katrina did not go up the river, instead she passed just to the East of the City and the flooding came through Lake Ponchatrain instead.

I left New Orleans within a month of finishing my Masters program at Tulane University to blaze a new path in my hospital administration career.  As time went on, I guess I got a little sentimental so a few years ago I bought four books on a trip home to visit the family.

The first book, New Orleans Yesterday and Today (1983) focuses on the history of the city.  The second book was Louisiana A History (1984) and this book helped me to learn about other areas of the state (West and North) and put New Orleans into context, as well as, explain some of the quirky customs.  New Orleans As It Was:  Episodes of Louisiana Life(1895) takes you way back into the history of the city.  But,Frenchman, Desire, Good Children --- and Other Streets of New Orleans! (1949) did the most to help me make sense of Hurricane Katrina's destruction.

Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children takes the reader through the process of building the city, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood.  All you have to do is look at the pictures in the front of the chapters and look at the areas labeled "swamp"!  This is where the flooding occurred!

So, Walter Isaacson had a June 8, commentary in the NY Times titled Go Southeast Young Man!   and he had some really sensible advice for the people of New Orleans.  Below are the comments that I liked the most based on my new found knowledge of the City of New Orleans!

  • The Army Corps of Engineers helped bring some clarity last week by issuing a remarkably forthright report accepting full blame for the design flaws and negligence that caused the breaks in the levees it built.
  • The Corps is also providing New Orleanswith an opportunity to create a safer city. It has been authorized to build fortified levees that should not break again, far stronger than ever, but it will not be spending the billions that would be needed to build ones that would prevent all overtopping.
  • That means people should be physically safe, but low areas will still experience occasional flooding.
  • Residents of many flood-prone areas whose homes were destroyed will have to be convinced to move to higher ground.
  • Nurture the older neighborhoods, the ones on higher and safer ground (which is where sensible people built a century or two ago). There are a lot of vacancies and underused space in these areas, rich and poor.
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