Ike ignored New Orleans, except for flinging some rain and some very intense winds our way (couldn’t drive to BR yesterday because it was so difficult keeping the car on the road, especially on the spillway Thursday night and yesterday morning, it’d only gotten worse). Lots of people in Baton Rouge who’d just gained power after Gustav lost it again.
And Galveston. I can only imagine how that city fares after Ike and I hope they recover as best and fast as they can.
I’ve been hearing from Baton Rouge an old (and valid) complaint, “There’s more to Louisiana than New Orleans!” Hurricanes are an entirely different matter in Baton Rouge. I hadn’t completely anticipated that when I moved to New Orleans. Baton Rouge, before Gustav, hadn’t been hard hit for years. They’d forgotten how to protect themselves and how to recover – Baton Rouge is the most likely place to evacuate, after all! Not the place that gets hit. So we forget how hard it can be brought to its knees. I lived there for seven years and I was shocked, SHOCKED, by the amount of damage while I was evacuated there and as I’ve been going back for work. Downed trees everywhere. Demolished houses on Park Blvd where enormous old oaks with shallow roots gave up the good fight and toppled into houses they’d sheltered for years. The house right next to a former boss of mine, so badly damaged that it made me shake.
It’s entirely understandable why so much attention goes immediately to New Orleans whenever a storm even threatens to go into the Gulf. We’re a bowl, so susceptible to flooding and we’ve never recovered from Katrina completely, never covered from any storm the way that we’ve needed to in order to stand an honest chance against a direct hit. Add in the economics of it all (hello, tourism), we are generally understood to be the cultural center of the state, not that makes us superior, just incredibly important in terms of economics and culture and you can see why, not that that makes it right that other places lose focus. Let’s not forget how Katrina made the world extremely aware of New Orleans’s vulnerability. Nobody wants to see that again…
Anywhere. Gustav and Ike remind us that no, it’s not just New Orleans. We need drastically better protection against these ever-increasing storms all along the coast, especially the Gulf. We need better plans. New Orleans had a handle on it this time… nobody dreamed Baton Rouge would be hit the way it was, but we need to start assuming that anyplace can and will be hit, ferociously and without mercy.
And in the end, there’s always going to be times when there is something we can’t anticipate, can’t protect against. We have to try, but we can’t guarantee.