LA - “Celebrating resilience is glossing over the deep harm and repetitive trauma these communities are experiencing”
16 years to the day that Katrina tore through Louisiana, Hurricane Ida reversed the flow of the Mississippi River and blew thousands of roofs off buildings. Ida’s 150 mph winds in August 2021 tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland US and left more than a million households without power.
For Louisiana’s residents, such events are now part of their existence; life has become an endless cycle of climate disaster and recovery that compounds the state’s chronic poverty and deepens the widening gulf between rich and poor. After Mississippi, Louisiana has the second highest rate of poverty and child poverty in the US.
In 2016, 54 out of 64 Louisiana parishes were declared a national disaster due to a combination of weather events, from tornadoes to the Great Flood of 2016, which flooded over 145,000 homes and cost an estimated $15 billion.
The road ahead will not be easy, but for Camille Manning Broome – President and CEO of the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) – an organization that delivers visionary planning processes to communities across Louisiana – a happy ending is possible.
To find out more about CEPEX’s work, please click here.
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It’s an outcome, she says, the state can only accomplish if the collective reigns over the individual, near term thinking gives way to long term planning, and equity drives the race.
Charlotte Owen-Burge: What is the current situation in Louisiana?
Camille Manning-Broome: Climate change is unavoidable here. We are on the frontlines, experiencing an amalgamation of threats, from relative sea level rise; heavier rain events coupled with longer periods of drought; more intense and longer, lingering hurricanes; and extreme heat coupled with high humidity.
In the past decade alone, our state has had annual disasters that have put us in a constant state of disaster response. We never fully recover.
Climate vulnerability is compounded by economic vulnerability. Every economic shift and climate disaster reveals long-standing disparities along the lines of race, income and health, with poor and marginalized communities bearing the brunt of these shifts.
Our vulnerabilities make it hard to get ahead of these compounding disasters. Hurricane Katrina brought a tremendous amount of money to New Orleans for flood protection, and that investment paid off during Hurricane Ida. But the reality is that Katrina was not a once-in-a-lifetime event and New Orleans is just one of the many highly vulnerable places that need protections in place. It still has not rebound its population.
The Great Flood of 2016 flooded over 145,000 homes and cost an estimated $15 billion.
Every hurricane season has the potential to be more active than the one before. We see communities like Lake Charles still struggling to recover a year after a string of disasters in 2020 — two hurricanes, major flooding and a devastating winter storm. This doesn’t bode well for the communities that were also just recently hit by Hurricane Ida. More than six weeks have passed and many people are still living in tents; there are some communities that haven’t had power restored.