July 8, 2006

The Faith-Based Recovery on the Hurricane Coast, Part I

Filed under: Katrina — PolitiCalypso @ 1:36 pm

How the government has failed hurricane victims… repeatedly

Part I: Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was an unusual storm in many ways. It was the first hurricane that killed over 1,000 people in the United States since 1928, when a Category Four storm struck Florida. In fact, there have been only five such hurricanes since the U.S. became a nation: two hurricanes in 1893, the Galveston, Texas hurricane of 1900, the 1928 Florida hurricane… and Katrina, in 2005. And its toll in human life and property is not even finalized yet.

As of July 2006—ten months after Hurricane Katrina–over 1,800 people in Mississippi and Louisiana remain reported missing. Certainly some of these are duplicate names, and some of the people likely have been found (dead or alive) but not removed from the missing persons databases. However, for a number of this magnitude, this cannot account for more than a fraction of the total.
Engineers and building experts have determined that most of the total destruction on the Coast occurred because of storm surge. Storm surge in the hurricane acted as a “reverse tsunami” and slowly flooded the coastline, only to be “sucked” back into the sea as the storm passed—pulling buildings and people with it. It is grimly easy to make a guess as to the fate of many of the missing.

The number of missing, ten months after the storm struck, is as high as the number of confirmed dead. This is yet another way that Katrina is, shall we say, different. After most recent major hurricane strikes, the number of reported missing is fewer than 100, and the death toll is finalized far earlier than ten months after the storm. It begs the question, “What’s taking so long?”

After a natural disaster of this magnitude, unknown in the United States since before the Great Depression, surely the relief agencies would make an unparalleled effort, one would think. Following the catastrophe of 1928, which resulted in more than 2,500 deaths along Lake Okeechobee, what disaster relief existed did a notoriously poor job of handling the recovery. For years after that terrible storm, the death toll was listed as significantly less, around 1,800, because hundreds of victims had been poor, often black, and their bodies were not identified before burial. It was a disgraceful scandal that was finally acknowledged when the storm’s death toll was officially raised in the records. Surely, in these modern times, the country would not allow gross negligence, racism, and classism to interfere in the aftermath of a tragedy. Surely the government would take proper care of the survivors this time.

Obviously, I would not be writing this piece, had that been true. As has been documented in the media, the government, on multiple levels, utterly failed the residents of the city of New Orleans. What is less commonly known is that the negligence was not limited to that city, nor, in fact, was it limited to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Part II: "Nothing Left"–A Volunteer’s Perspective
Part III: The Priority List
Part IV: A Warning Shot in 2003?
Part V: Fiasco in Florida
Part VI: A Dire Situation


  1. I enjoyed your post.

    I have many friends whose homes were damaged by Katrina, and the lack of help for people who didn’t have flood insurance (because they were told they didn’t need it) is unbelivable

    And when the insurance companies did pay the money was kept by the mortgage companies and doled out to the homeowners as work was completed. The people who didn’t have the money in savings to make down payments coudn’t get work done because the insurance wouldn’t pay until the work was done and the contractors wouldn’t take a job without a down payment.

    Comment by Alasandra — July 8, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  2. Don’t forget the fact they are raising insurance rates and whatnot down here. My mother can’t even buy a house. When the insurance goes from two to six percent, it puts a considerable visegrip on those that are lower to almost-no-income familes…with jobs and homes damaged by the hurricane.

    Lets not forget the fact that 2006 might promise to be as deadly as 2005…

    Hello, Erin.

    Its been a while.

    Comment by Dania — July 9, 2006 @ 4:39 pm

  3. Wow… yes, I knew about the insurance issues (or should I say “middle finger to homeowners”) and the lawsuit to force them to pay up, but the part about payments going to mortgage companies was news to me. Our tower was damaged, possibly my mom told you, and to my knowledge it’s still not repaired.

    There will be a part about the insurance industry. This piece has actually been written for awhile, about a month and a half. I’m just spacing the parts.

    Comment by PolitiCalypso — July 10, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

  4. I agree.

    That’s going to be addressed in later sections, and you must own a crystal ball, because the last section of it *is* about the 2006 season, already off to an early start. I’m going to be blogging about the progress of this season, because honestly, what is happening in the Gulf right now chills me. If it keeps warming without an occasional minor storm to stir things up, it could spawn something stronger than any of last year’s storms.

    And yep, it’s been awhile. I’ve been rather busy.

    I’m really sorry to hear that about your house and your mom. It makes my blood boil that our governor put million-dollar industries ahead of the people of the state. Obviously, I did not vote for him, for whatever it’s worth.

    Comment by PolitiCalypso — July 10, 2006 @ 6:26 pm

  5. Two years ago at this exact day and exact minute, Hurricane Katrina made its first Gulf landfall on the Louisiana coast.

    I would like to mark this day by providing a series of links to recent news about the recovery, or what passes for it. First i

    Comment by PolitiCalypso — August 29, 2007 @ 4:14 am

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