Cities Journal
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New Orleans – Will The Rebuilding Ever End?

New Orleans - Will the Rebuilding Ever End?
Photo credit: nycgeo / Flickr

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive devastation throughout the city of New Orleans when the backlash of the Category 5 hurricane winds and waves slammed into the city in August 2005. Nine years later, the debate about funding, planning and completing the reconstruction efforts in New Orleans continues.

Immediately following the storm, extensive manpower and resources were directed to make the city habitable again. In February 2014, a group of 100 volunteers, including NBA and WNBA stars, participated in a project to repair homes that were damaged in the storm. These projects continue as volunteer teams visit the city to lend a hand to areas that remain in a state of disrepair.

On a citywide level, the debate continues about the source of funding, federal or state, that should be used to repair and improve the levees. Since 1927, the army corps of engineers has been in charge of the New Orleans levees. Following Hurricane Katrina, the army corps of engineers repaired all 53 breaches in the levees.

Work continues to mitigate the risk of flooding in low-lying areas that can experience flooding every spring when the Mississippi River overflows with water from upstream snowmelt.

In the two years following Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans population dropped to 67 percent of the pre-storm population. Heavily damaged areas, such as the Ninth Ward, remain under construction since entire neighborhoods remained under floodwaters for months. Areas with minor damage have been restored, and businesses have returned.

Large-scale volunteer projects are no longer taking place in New Orleans because of the other cities, including Joplin, Missouri and Moore, Oklahoma, that need assistance with rebuilding efforts. Debate continues about the ways in which New Orleans should be rebuilt to prevent lives from being lost when large storms make landfall from the Gulf of Mexico.

Local authorities continue to advertise the unique culture of New Orleans so that tourists will return each year. Mardi Gras is particularly important to the city’s ability to demonstrate the progress made in other areas of the city.

Business owners have been instrumental in providing jobs for people who lived in every area of New Orleans during the storm. Schools, hospitals and major shopping areas have been restored to support the tax revenue stream.

Federal, state and city officials recognize the unique challenges that face New Orleans in the quest to complete reconstruction. Discussions about preventing another devastating natural disaster surface often because of the distributed responsibility for the levees.

People across the nation recognize the importance of working closely with residents to restore neighborhoods to pre-storm condition.

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