Hurricane Katrina Post-Mortem

Posted by Sappho on September 7th, 2005 filed in Katrina, News and Commentary


Here, I’m collecting links relevant to assessing what went wrong in our response to Hurricane Katrina. Some of them will be about Hurricane Katrina itself, and some will be, for comparison, about successes and failures in disaster response in other countries or in earlier hurricanes.

There’s lots of continuing outrage about Hurricane Hugo response in the blogosphere, but I’m going to settle for linking Sunday Sermonette: Cold Fury. And Naked Writing collects instances of FEMA turning away assistance.

Continuing response to Katrina: Atrios discusses the Senate Democrats Relief Plan.

Post-mortem of Katrina response:

Bill Cork points to an LA Times article on structural problems that led to the FEMA failure.

The NOAA Coastal Services Center has post-storm assessments for other hurricanes, including hurricanes Alicia, Andrew, Bertha and Fran, Bonnie, Camille, Emily, Floyd, Georges, Hugo, Iniki, Isabel, Lili, and Opal. This may be worth looking at. What have we done right before, that we handled worse now? Can we learn from past successes? And are there things that we’re consistently bad at, that may be systemic problems in our emergency response systems?

The New York Times has an article about high tech flood control, with nature’s help, in Europe (including, obviously, the Netherlands, but also other countries).

Experts in the United States say the foreign projects are worth studying for inspiration about how to rebuild New Orleans once the deadly waters of Hurricane Katrina recede into history.

“They have something to teach us,” said George Z. Voyiadjis, head of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University. “We should capitalize on them for building the future here.”

Innovations are happening in the United States as well. California is experimenting with “smart” levees wired with nervous systems of electronic sensors that sound alarms if a weakening levee threatens to open a breach, giving crews time to make emergency repairs.

Wired has an article on Building a Better Levee.

Bruce Schneier points to the Digital-ER mailing list dedicated to dicussing technical solutions to emergency and crisis management.

Broader philosophical reflections on Hurricane Katrina:

Jim Henley points to this post by Blood and Treasure about Hurricane Katrina, government and private response:

The scenes in New Orleans haven’t exactly been a great advertisement for government’s ability to fulfil the responsibilities it claims to undertake in return for the right to tax. But libertarianism’s also been having a hard time down there on the levees. When government broke, voluntarism and mutual aid didn’t step forward to fill the gap. Instead, gangs emerged to fill the power vacuum – a classic 4GW scenario, by the way. I’m sure there were innumerable acts of kindness and individual solidarity, but for the most part the “thousand points of light” turned out to be muzzle flashes.

And yet, this was an example of government failure at every level, from the Republican White House to the Democratic State House. Could you really say that Katrina’s aftermath justifies giving more powers to the old gang?

What seems to be lacking is a sense of institutional solidarity.

More at the link above.

blog.bioethics.net points to an essay on the lessons of the Katrina aftermath for bioethics.

The Gutless Pacifist points to a post on Pacifism, Fear, and the Collapse of Social Order.

Joe Guada: “We are all thieves…”

Crystal hijacks the friendly skripture study blog for a historical lesson on leaving “the least” behind “whether it be in New Orleans or on the raft of the Medusa, on the seas off the coast of Africa.”

Next up: more Katrina relief links. Non-Katrina links are being saved for tomorrow.


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