Those geniuses at Google are at it again, now providing satellite photos of the areas of New Orleans, LA, that were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. If you do a Google Maps search for New Orleans, LA, you’ll get the map of the city with an extra red button, labeled Katrina, in the upper-right corner. Click on that and you’ll get satellite photos from August 30. Click on the Satellite button and you can see the “before” pictures for comparison.
(Right now the Katrina satellite photos cover just a portion of New Orleans; I wonder if they are working on expanding the coverage to show other hard-hit areas like Biloxi or Gulfport, MS. New Orleans is getting all the press right now, but there are other areas that have been virtually wiped out and could benefit from the publicity that Google Maps could give them.)
Some areas of interest are the Superdome, a shot of Highway 610, with abandoned cars all over, and one of the breached levees.. From that last link, zoom in and scroll around to see all of the houses that are flooded. Again, clicking on the Satellite button will show you what things looked like pre-Katrina.
It’s astounding to see how much of the area is under water. Not surprising given the fact that much of the city is below sea level and protected by levees, which failed to hold up against a Category 5 hurricane.
Now allow me an editorial comment about the New Orleans disaster…
I’ve been a homeowner long enough to realize that water can be your worst enemy. Harnessed in pipes and sinks and hoses it’s a necessity. Routed away from the house by way of shingles, gutters, downspouts, and landscaping, that’s fine as well. But let water get into places in a house where it’s not meant to go — sheetrock, plaster, wall cavities, insulation, carpet, etc… — and you’re in trouble.
Here in South Dakota, most houses have basements, and a couple of the houses I’ve owned have had landscaping issues that have led to water in the basements during heavy rains. Water and basements — especially finished basements — don’t mix. When it happens, it’s ugly, time consuming and expensive to deal with. I tend to be rather difficult to work with and use much more colorful language when dealing with wet basements.
The homes in New Orleans that right now are flooded will never be the same, I’m sure that many who survived will want to restore their homes and places of business, but that will be extremely expensive. Even those that have only a few feet of water surrounding them will need to be gutted to remove all of the wet wallboard & carpet so that the framing can be allowed to dry properly. Without doing that mold will quickly make those places inhabitable. The biggest challenge facing those property owners wanting to rebuild is finding good, reputable contractors to do the work. It will be a scammer’s holiday.
But the real question is whether the cost of rebuilding can be justified. I don’t think so.
Now is the time for those in city leadership to make some tough decisions about the low-lying areas in New Orleans. While it may be possible to upgrade the levees to protect against another storm of this magnitude, will the cost of that plus the rebuilding of all the homes and businesses exceed the cost of relocating everything? Indeed, some of the historical buildings lose out if the city is relocated, but how many more storms could those buildings withstand if they are restored?
In the pioneer days, one of the primary considerations when choosing a building site was proximity to things that are needed and respectful distance from things like potential floodwaters. It seems to me that it was a bit foolish and irresponsible to buy property in an area that is below sea level and continues to sink.
Following Katrina, it would be even more foolish and irresponsible to rebuild those areas that are flooded, and likewise for those areas that weren’t flooded but were damaged by the storm and are still below sea level. Given the likelihood that much of the money being spent on either rebuilding or relocation will be Federal tax dollars, my tiny little vote would be for relocation.