Today marks 10 years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, setting off what was among the most significant catastrophes to strike the United States in the 21st Century. New Orleans' flood defenses failed, causing the loss of over 1,400 lives and billions of dollars in property damage.
Naturally, such a disaster takes some time to recover from, for individuals but also for a city as a whole, and so for the past decade New Orleans has been a case study for cities to show them how to recover, rebuild and move on - at certain times serving as both an example of good practice and a warning of "what not to do." On the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here's a round-up of stories about the rebuilding of a city from around the web.
The New York Times
The results of 10 years of rebuilding on New Orleans neighborhoods
In a stunning multi-media long read, the New York Times profiles the way that the rebuilding process has changed the nature of the city by looking at seven of the city's key neighborhoods:
Ten years later, it is not exactly right to say that New Orleans is back. The city did not return, not as it was.
The city that exists in 2015 has been altered, by both a decade of institutional re-engineering and the artless rearrangement that occurs when people are left to fend for themselves.
From the gentrification of the "birthplace of jazz" in Tremé to the new-urbanist rebuilding of social housing areas such as B W Cooper; and from the Lower Ninth Ward that (despite the best efforts of Brad Pitt) is now a virtual wilderness to the wealthy neighborhood of Lakeview that over a decade has "come back richer," the New York Times offers an intriguing cross section of the city after a decade of dramatic changes. Read the full article here.
New Orleans' new infrastructure
As part of their wider series of stories about Katrina's 10-year anniversary, NPR takes a look at the city's new $14.5 billion flood defense infrastructure. The new measures include "largest pump station in the world" that can "fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in three seconds," but despite this investment the future of the city is far from guaranteed:
Now that the flood control system is nearly finished, Washington and Baton Rouge are arm-wrestling over who will pay to maintain it. The Corps has agreed, in theory, to pay for a portion of its upkeep, but most of the cost is supposed to fall to local government. In St. Bernard Parish, voters have twice voted against raising their taxes to pay for better hurricane protection.
"We're talking about $5 a month to the average taxpayer. That's a six-pack. That's a pound of crawfish in April," Estopinal says, frustration evident in his voice. "This is a country that's run by the citizens. The citizens decide they don't want to have flood protection, then we're not going to have flood protection."
Read the full story here.
How New Orleans hopes to offer leadership in resiliency
In contrast to NPR, GreenBiz takes a look at a totally different type of infrastructure. With New Orleans taking part in the Rockerfeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities program, their article looks at how the city plans to make more use of the "soft infrastructure" that not only promises to provide relief in the event of another disaster, but helps the city's environment in the constant fight against man-made environmental stresses:
As devastating as Katrina was, hurricanes and floods are only two of the (big) environmental risks facing the city. Also at issue are “cumulative physical stresses,” such as land subsidence and the loss of coastal wetland buffers. Roughly 1,900 square miles of coastal land have been lost since 1932, and 1,800 more are expected to be lost without remediation by 2060.
Given that urban sprawl in New Orleans and elsewhere already has severely constricted the surface area where large amounts of rain or flood waters can be absorbed, the new resilience plan seeks to avoid sole reliance on hard infrastructure such as levees.
Also brought under scrutiny is the city's plan to address the social iniquities, as part of a wider view about what makes a resilient city. Read the full article here.
Civil + Structural Engineer
10 lessons that have strengthened storm and flood resilience
Make a model — Understanding clearly what happened during Katrina helps engineers develop better resilience strategies. Data from Katrina and other Gulf storms, such as Ike and Gustav, contributed to state-of-the-art computer models that recreate how wind, storm surges, and tides behave and interact. These computer models provide ways to study and analyze risk. Over time, each additional storm produces new data that continually improves understanding.
These models can be used to run scenarios to test ideas for infrastructure designs or determining flood hazards such as a 1 percent likelihood hurricane storm surge. They also allow us to look at a range of possible future conditions, accounting for sea level rise and subsidence variations.
Read the full article here.