As remnants of Hurricane Ida brush across Atlanta, Louisiana again awakens to devastation.
New Orleans' rebuilt levees held, but millions of people in my native state lost power and water. Many suffered damages to homes and businesses. Services won't be restored for weeks.
While New Orleans escaped the collapsed levees and flooding that all but destroyed the city after Hurricane Katrina 16 yeas ago, a familiar scenario from that disaster returned when people farther south had to be rescued from their attics.
In recent years, massive hurricanes have hit Louisiana and Texas with more frequency than in the past. Lake Charles, west of New Orleans, is still recovering from two hurricanes that struck in 2020. Now, Houma, Grand Isle, Lafitte, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other Louisiana places must repeat the state's now regular rebuilding ritual.
After Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers spent billions to strengthen New Orleans' storm protection system. So far, the enhanced levees have withstood Ida's fury.
But the city's future remains bleak, as the New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert pointed out. The increased protection won't hold for many years as the intensity and frequency of storms increase and sea levels rise because of climate change.
The threat is worsened because most of New Orleans lies below sea level, and much of it was built upon marshland that is now sinking, as Kolbert pointed out. Also, southern Louisiana loses massive amounts of land to the encroaching Gulf of Mexico each year. Even if billions more are spent on bolstering storm protection, New Orleans' vulnerability will increase.
As the rain grows heavy outside my window, I grieve for my native state.