Ain’t easy bein’ the Big Easy

Its been a week since the Hurricane Katrina disaster hit New Orleans. With the two breached levees finally secured, flood water has finally begun to recede. Enormous pumps throughout the city are siphoning the putrid, rotten water back into Lake Pontchartrain and the surrounding waterways. At the bottom of the flooded streets will be hundreds, if not thousands, of dead bodies. Victims of the high winds and raging storm surge that razed the city.

Total destruction. Hurricane Katrina flooded nearly 80 percent of a major metropolis. Not since the Great Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco has a natural disaster destroyed an entire city so absolutely. Like San Francisco, which lies on the very active San Andreas fault, New Orleans has been asking for trouble since it was built. Much of New Orleans lies several feet below sea-level. It also resides in an area which is very prone to hurricanes. The Crescent City has gotten lucky in the past… not this time.

With a debate raging whether or not global warming is causing more intense storms, one has to wonder when this will happen again. Another hurricane like this could hit the same area again next year. Shit, another one can hit in late October. From here on out, the region will be on edge from June 1st to November 30th. The length of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. That’s half of the year! There is nothing we can do to prevent hurricanes. This much I promise you.

So I ask the very difficult question: Why rebuild?? The damage has already been done. Yes, there is loads of history in New Orleans and people have lived there for generations. Yes, there is the necessary catharsis of rebuilding and healing after a great cataclysm… but the chance for another disaster like this hitting the city is too great.

Photo by Corbis/Bettmann from the New York Times

Are plans going to be implemented to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again? After the earthquake of 1906, San Francisco built its buildings to be “earthquake proof”. On the River Thames, complex flood barriers have been built to prevent massive flooding. These things are turning up all around the world in high risk areas. Are these futuristic looking levees in New Orleans’ future?

But again, why bother? New Orleans is already ruined. The land was a poor place to build a city in the first place and they’re finally paying the price.

I’ve been half joking for the past week that New Orleans is the new Venice. But I don’t think its such a bad idea at all. New Orleans has always been a niche city anyway. Why not rebuild with water in mind? Build up everything, and then intentionally flood the city. No need for tricky levees. No need to worry about when the next big one will hit. There would never be a great flood again. We can have Mardi Gras on the water. A city of canals would give even more character to a metropolis filled with it already.

Give it a thought!

One Comment

  1. Hurricane! September 7, 2005

    Ain’t Easy Bein’ The Big Easy

    How will New Orleans be rebuilt?…

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