As East Coast residents begin their cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Monday marks the sixth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in southeast Lousiana.
And so begin the inevitable comparisons between Irene and the unforgettable storm that ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.
In terms of size, Irene was larger than Katrina, although the former lacked the latter’s intensity. In cost, Katrina’s $93.7 billion in damage trumps Irene’s $14 billion (and counting) price tag. In terms of death tolls, the two hurricanes can’t be compared: Hurricane Irene is responsible for the deaths of at least 26 people, but Hurricane Katrina took at least 1,836 lives.
When it comes to emergency management, evacuations were ordered in advance of Irene throughout the East Coast. Katrina, on the other hand, seemed to take the residents of Gulfport, Biloxi and other Gulf Coast cities by surprise; reports of stricken residents rushing to evacuate when it was nearly too late gripped the nation for days in 2005. And in terms of recovery efforts, FEMA is already shuffling money from the tornado-ravaged city of Joplin, Mo. in order to aid communities affected by Irene; communities affected by Katrina, on the other hand, are still reporting lopsided relief efforts biased toward the wealthy. As a whole, our government’s response to Hurricane Katrina — and the discussion of treatment of disaster victims based on class and race the response brought — lives on in our collective memory as a blemish.
In light of heavy media coverage and the government’s quick handling of Hurricane Irene, and as the “K” storm to follow Katrina, Katia (now still called TD 12), brews in the Atlantic, do you think we’re getting any better at disaster response, relief and recovery? View current photos of the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, one area hit particularly hard by Hurricane Katrina six years ago, and decide for yourself: