Ten years ago next week, a terrifying hurricane stood perched atop the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina. It had rapidly intensified from a Category 3 into a deadly Category 5 monster and began its northward turn towards the Gulf coast—weakening, fortunately, but still driving a tremendous wall of water.
Many in New Orleans thought they were protected by levees and seawalls. Instead, there were several breaches, and water streamed in to fill New Orleans’ geographical “bowl.” And we all watched, on TV, what happened after that—including 1,833 total deaths in the storm across its path of destruction, and an estimated $ 108 billion in total damage.
There has been growing attention to Katrina’s ten year anniversary, and now, the White House has announced, President Obama himself will travel to New Orleans, on Aug. 27, to meet with mayor Mitch Landrieu and city residents, using the occasion to highlight the impressive rebound that the city has seen. Additionally, several top members of the administration, including FEMA administrator Craig Fugate and OMB director Shaun Donovan, will either accompany the president or pay their own Louisiana and Gulf Coast visits.
A key theme will be the achievements of recovery—with federal aid since the start of Obama’s presidency. FEMA has spent $ 5.2 billion aiding Louisiana and other Gulf coast states since 2009 to spend on public works projects, and another $ 1.4 billion to Louisiana and Mississippi for projects to heighten resiliency to future disasters.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education has spent $ 100 million on Louisiana schools during the Obama years, even as the Department of Transportation has helped with climate adaptation measures for coastal roads and infrastructure and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has spent nearly $ 20 billion in Gulf coast disaster recovery grants.
New Orleans is in a much better position to weather future hurricanes as well, thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gigantic $ 14.5 billion new protection system for the city. However, the local New Orleans Times Picayune recently reported that there are still great uncertainties about how Louisiana will fund its $ 50 billion coastal plan to restore a huge volume of lost wetlands — a key step to protect it from a future of rising seas.