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Living, leaving, and dying for New Orleans—an insider’s perspective on Katrina

William Monfredo, PhD

Abstract


This article discusses Hurricane Katrina’s meteorological setting and history, surrounding evacuation issues, and aftermath. The author, who lived in New Orleans for more than three years, taught and researched climatic hazards at the University of New Orleans, and was no stranger to evacuations, began driving to Tucson 18 hours before Katrina’s landfall and returned five months later. The article raises important considerations, including recommendations for the future. The results of flood-damage surveys conducted in Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward districts of New Orleans reveal an intriguing aspect: unlike in Lakeview, which filled with water over a period of hours, intense and widespread flash flooding occurred east of the Industrial Canal, yielding damage similar to that from an F4/F5 tornado. Perhaps more importantly, the article explores various reasons for why some people from these areas did not or will not evacuate when faced with imminent danger. Analyzing the events leading up to and following Katrina’s landfall can help us understand how such senseless tragedy resulted from several fatal flaws: denial, woeful preparation, and poverty. Given that Gulf Coast residents now live within a climate pattern of enhanced hurricane frequency and intensity compared to the three-decade period pre-1995, the best advice for those asked to evacuate is to just say yes.
While this piece reads as a more personal account than most on the subject, it is hoped that it offers an intriguing perspective on the cultural issues impacting evacuations.


Keywords


flood, hurricane, Katrina, New Orleans, storm surge

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.2007.0051

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