Monday, March 12, 2012

Gone With the Hurricane

This morning we took a tour bus out to the Oak Alley Plantation, which is about 45 minutes north-west of New Orleans along the Mississippi River.

As fabulous as the house is, it is this magnificent double row of majestic oaks that puts this plantation on the top of the list of must see properties in this part of the world.

Shirley will no doubt have lots more to say about our tour to Oak Alley Plantation, but it was this place that inspired the title of today's blog post... "Gone With the Hurricane."  On one day we see the destruction of Katrina... the greatest natural tragedy and most expensive disaster in US history... and the next day we see affluence above and beyond.

We drove by blocks and blocks of condemned houses.  We learned how to read the spray painted inspection notes on the front our each house.

My heart goes out to so many people who can never come back to life they once knew.  Our tour bus driver said that since the evacuation caused by Katrina, 25% have never returned... and likely never will.  A quarter of this city is gone!  ...and there is a huge mess left behind that is not getting cleaned up.

Why are those people not coming back?  The cost to live here has changed.  Before the hurricane taxes and home insurance were reasonably low.  Now insurance rates have literally skyrocketed.  Most of those who lost their homes had little or inadequate insurance.  The billions of dollars Bush gave the state to help out the victims are not getting thru to those who need it.  The state apparently has so much red tape that those who really need help give up in frustration over the endless road blocks.  Plus, there appears to be corruption in the government... contractors are getting paid and not doing the work... and there is likely kickbacks to key government workers. The money is being squandered.  Very sad.

The cost to tear down the old house and rebuild is beyond most of those who once owned a old home here... so they just walk away.  Thousands of condemned homes just sit here... and even the government says it doesn't have the money to clean up the damaged properties.

The broken levy's have been rebuilt... but will this prevent a re-occurance of a future catastrophe?

Many who own property here want to come back to live here... and to protect your home it needs to be built up on posts.  The higher you can be off the ground the safer.  But with every foot you lift the house it adds costs... more money that these poor folks just don't have.

We were told that this street of homes was made possible by Oprah... and it looks very nice.  But it is built close to the ground on low land... and could be just a disaster waiting to happen.

Lorne and I went to see an IMAX film called, "Hurricane in the Bayou."  Bottom line was that the levy's which protect the city are destroying the bayou's.  The trees are dying there... they need the low level flooding that years ago allowed the silt coming down the Mississippi River to help the trees flourish.  Once again, the engineers in their great wisdom have designed a system that forgot a key component.   It is similar to the dam that got built on the Nile... which wrecked the agriculture in the lands downstream.

So all around this devastated community there are various solutions being tried.

I think Brad Pitt has the best formula of helping people here.  He doesn't give them all the money... but he helps them get what they need to get their home rebuilt.  His homes are higher off the ground on posts... they have solar panels on the roof to save on energy costs in the future.

But the saddest part of this whole scene is how the government seems incapable to come to the table and spend the relief-aid money in the way in which it was intended... to reach out and help those who desperately need help.

"The big lesson I learned from Hurricane Katrina is that we have to be thinking about the unthinkable because sometimes the unthinkable happens." -Mike Leavitt

1 comment:

  1. An interesting day you had! Great photos of the plantation, and all the other houses too, though very sad about the ones that are sitting, with nothing happening to clean them out, clean them up, or whatever they need...

    What's on the docket for tomorrow? Can't wait to see!