The Blob

Friday, September 09, 2005

Forty years ago in New Orleans

It’s happened before. Katrina was not the only hurricane to wreak havoc on New Orleans. Some of you may recall Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which not only hit New Orleans with winds of at least 125 mph, but also flooded large parts of the city.

From an article in USA Today:

All of this happened after Betsy did considerable damage in the Bahamas and southern Florida, including the Keys.

When all of the damage in the USA was totaled, it came to more than $1 billion in 1965 dollars, making Betsy the USA's first billion dollar hurricane. If you factor in inflation and put Betsy's cost into Year 2000 dollars, it cost $8.4 billion, which ties it for third in the list of the nation's most expensive hurricanes. Betsy is tied with Agnes, which caused major flooding in the Northeast in 1972, and behind only Hugo in 1989 and Andrew in 1992 in cost.

Betsy was blamed for 75 deaths in the USA, which ranks it 18th among the deadliest U.S. storms from 1900 through at least September 2003. The only storm to kill more people in the USA since 1965 was Camille, with 256 deaths in 1969.

Camille, by the way, came close to hitting New Orleans, but instead, the city felt the fringes of Camille's weather side when its eye came ashore about 60 miles to the east in Mississippi.

In addition to the people it killed and the damage it did, Betsy is famous for doing a loop the loop when it was about 350 miles east of Daytona Beach, Fla. and seemed to be on its way to hit the Carolinas.

Instead, it turned back to toward the southwest, passing over the Bahamas where winds on Great Abaco Island reached 147 mph. Soon after the eye moved over Nassau, the biggest city in the Bahamas, Betsy stalled for about three hours, allowing its winds to pound the city.

On Sept. 7 Betsy continued moving toward the southwest to pass over Key Largo at the eastern end of the Florida Keys, and then continued west along the Keys.

As Betsy continued across the Gulf of Mexico and turned toward the northwest, it grew into a category 4 storm with winds up to 155 mph.

As the hurricane moved ashore south of New Orleans it destroyed almost every building in Grand Isle, where the Coast Guard station reported gusts up to 160 mph.

Winds up to 125 mph were measured in New Orleans.

Betsy drove storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, which is just north of the city and is connected to the Gulf of Mexico, pushing water over levees around the lake. Flood water reaches the eves of houses in some places in the city.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Web site notes that "Betsy prompted Congress to authorize a ring of levees 16 feet high around the city — a project the Corps of Engineers is completing today. This level of protection was based on the science of storm prediction as it existed in the 1960s. The question remains, however, whether this level of protection would be sufficient to protect the city from a category 4 or 5 hurricane today — or even a category 3 storm that lingered over the city."

Sound familiar?

Sick joke of the week

It never ceases to amaze me what Photoshop can do. Given how tragic the past few weeks have been, humor, however dark, might be what is needed.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


To provide pure drinking water to victims of Hurricane Katrina, Anheiser Busch has rapidly produced cans of water like the one pictured here.

Hurricane Katrina – resources for help

Katrina Help Site: A wide-ranging resource for finding shelter, locating a loved one, applying for assistance and more.

Katrina Shelter: A Web site dedicated to finding homes and shelter for people made homeless from Hurricane Katrina. You can also register to provide shelter to a hurricane victim.

Katrina Information Map: A map providing information on the status of various communities in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Red Cross Family Links Registry: The Red Cross has set up the Family Links Registry to help reunite families separated by Hurricane Katrina. Families can also call the American Red Cross toll-free at 1-877-568-3317.


We’re just starting to see the economic and demographic impact of Hurricane Katrina. Over half a million people fled the hurricane and its flooding, some temporarily, others permanently. The result will change the future fortunes of New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport along with other towns and cities in the region significantly as the work begins to rebuild these ravaged communities.

Similarly, cities such as Houston and Baton Rouge have seen incredible population increases in a matter of days, and that has pushed the value of real estate through the roof. In a fascinating article on the emergence of overnight boomtowns and demographic shifts following Katrina, MSNBC is reporting that the population of Baton Rouge doubled in the wake of Katrina, pushing real estate values to twice what they were but a week ago. Rents have followed suit.

The BBC has an article on the exodus from southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to surrounding states. Of interest, as the graphic shows, are the states that have not offered refuge (or virtually none) to the victims of Katrina. With so much finger pointing going around, this is one likely to slip below the radar. And if you are the Governor of Texas, that’s a big problem.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops in the coming days, weeks and years.

Got Insurance?

Emergency Insurance Information for Hurricane Katrina Victims

To help victims of Hurricane Katrina obtain electronic access to a list of insurance carriers that have set up disaster hot lines to help their policyholders, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has set up an area of its Web site with useful information. I've added a link to an article listing insurance company toll-free numbers that Katrina victims can use to contact their insurer for assistance. Best of luck.

Now for the bad news. Residents of New Orleans, made complacent by too many years of seeing hurricanes miss them, avoided buying hurricane insurance.

Only about 40 percent of New Orleans homeowners have flood insurance, which is provided in the United States under a government program, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Standard homeowner insurance only covers damage from fire and wind while commercial or automobile insurance does cover flood damage. A high number of car claims are expected from Katrina with thousands of cars submerged. Private insurers, like State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Allstate Corp., which lead the home insurance market in the state of Louisiana, do sell policies for the FEMA and can settle the claims for policy holders.

But only 85,000 residential and commercial policies have been sold in Orleans parish, in which the city is located, by the NFIP, according to latest figures -- while the U.S. census lists about 213,000 housing units in the city in 2002. "We estimate about 40 percent of properties have flood insurance -- and virtually all the damage caused in New Orleans was by floods, not winds," a FEMA spokesman said.

The NFIP program also only offers up to $250,000 for homeowners to rebuild damaged properties, and up to $100,000 to replace contents. Risk modeller Risk Management Solutions has estimated that 150,000 properties have been flooded in New Orleans. But widespread flooding, debris, power outages and a lack of lodging could prevent damage assessments for weeks.

Early estimates expect Katrina to be the most costly U.S. storm, with insured losses of more than $25 billion -- topping insured losses of $21 billion from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. "This is going to be one of the, if not the, most costly natural disaster in the United states," said Jeanne Salvatore, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute. Salvatore said each claim would be have to handled on a case-by-case basis to see if the damage was caused by water, winds, or a combination of both. Some properties were destroyed by fire. Homeowners without flood coverage whose homes were water damaged will have to rebuild using their own funds.

In past catastrophes, insurers have covered about 60 percent of total economic loss, but this could be considerably less with Katrina because so much of the damage has been caused by flooding, which is not covered by the insurers. Instead, business claims, such as insurance for business interruption, could represent about 50 percent of claims, up from 30 percent after previous hurricanes.

Here come the scammers

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the scammers and con artists are coming out of the woodwork. Before you go to a Web site to contribute, be sure to read a very good article on the New York Times Web site about this. It might help you avoid getting taken.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina’s Outcasts

Of the many sad and miraculous stories resulting from Hurricane Katrina, myriad tales abound about the animals left behind. In many cases, it was the instincts of cats, dogs and birds that saved the lives of their owners. But in the first wave of evacuations, the animals were left behind. I don’t want to even think of what terrible and heartbreaking sights rescuers have seen as a result.

But I am grateful to the selfless efforts of organizations like Noah’s Wish, a non-profit organization whose aim is to create a Red Cross for animals. Click on this link for a wonderful story on the MSNBC Web site on what they have done to rescue countless pets left behind in the wake of Katrina. Volunteers from across the country have pitched in to create shelters for deserving animals. In my mind, man is no better than any other species, and from what I have experienced, I question if we are even the equal of other animals either.

I’ve given a lot to the Red Cross following this disaster. You can be sure I’ll be giving to organizations like Noah’s Wish, Best Friends, North Shore Animal League, ASPCA and the Humane Society. I hope you will too. For the sake of Katrina’s outcasts, I hope you will as well. For a list of organizations helping to rescue and provide veterinary help and shelter to animals left behind from Katrina, click here (be sure to scroll down for the full list of wonderful groups providing help).

More perspective on New Orleans

In a very well written article, Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News took a break from bashing the feds' initial mis-handling of Hurricane Katrina to single out the incompetence of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and his staff. Well before the hurricane struck, Nagin passed the word that the people of his city would essentially be on their own in the event of such a disaster.

Washing your hands of something does not excuse you, and does not give you the right to shift blame to others. But that is exactly what Nagin is trying to do. His negligence borders on the criminal. Add to that the fact that one third of the New Orleans police force went AWOL in a city with the highest murder rate in the nation, and you have a bad recipe.

To see people like the ever-loopy Howard Dean trying to blame an act of God on one man, and racists like Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters trying to use the event to spread hatred and FUD instead of trying to inspire people to come together, and it’s little wonder why the rest of the world is shaking its collective head. One need only contrast the ugly, selfish behavior of many citizens of New Orleans with the orderly compassion in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

No. This was not handled well at first. Most disasters never are. The scope of Katrina is hard to comprehend. The BBC in its excellent report on what went wrong following Katrina described it well: the swath of damage in the wake of Katrina is as large as the entire British Isles. Stop and consider what the world would think if all of Britain and Scotland were flattened by a calamity.

That is how large Katrina’s damage is, and it is little wonder that no society would be able to respond immediately.

I’m not trying to be an apologist. I’m just as angry with the Bush administration as you are. But I am also a realist.

If you read the first-hand accounts of journalist Josh Norman in his excellent Eye of the Storm blog, one of the most salient points he made was to admonish liberal maven Michael Moore to shut his piehole. Norman, a lifelong Democrat, posited that regardless of the problems so far, this is not the time to denigrate the leadership of the country, but just the opposite. The people who suffered from Katrina deserve no less. And right now, helping those who suffered is what matters, not using their suffering as a convenient conveyence for a cheap shot at someone you hate.

To those mentioned in this blog, I can only hope that they will get a clue.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

To the victims of Katrina

Now the hard work begins. After the dead are buried, the flooded cities and towns drained, the destruction bulldozed and the last survivors evacuated, the tattered Mississippi delta region so savaged by last week's hurricane will have to start again.

Scattered across the country are thousands Katrina survivors. Their stories aren’t covered by the major TV networks. Theirs is a personal tragedy. Below is an excerpt from an email forwarded to me from a friend. It tells a heartbreaking tale of a family displaced by the hurricane, and their attempt to fight numbness and pain, and to try to piece together shattered lives:

My brother is going to be coming up here next Fri. Not sure for how long - maybe moving here he says. His wife will probably be coming up right behind him. I have offered my Mom a place and my sisters, but for now they are all staying near New Orleans so they can go in when they are able to claim anything that is left.

My brother's house is under water, my sister's has water to the roof. My Mom's is in Metairie and we are hoping she is ok - we don't know. One Brother-in-law does computer work - self employed - and he will probably lose his business. They are in trouble. Don't know if they are planning to come up here, but I gave them the welcome. The other brother in law is an electrician - he may be ok if people decide to rebuild. His wife my sister works for my other brother-in-law with computers.

She is out of work. My Mom and brother are out of work. It is just so sad, my sister just cries and cries. Not a damn thing we can do.

It’s so sad. While the media remains fixated on what they can see from their narrow view of people evacuating New Orleans or in the Astrodome, across the country are hundreds of thousands of individual tragedies. So many people’s lives will be shattered by Katrina and the Great New Orleans Flood. The resulting depression, divorces, bankruptcies, ruined businesses will be heart wrenching. I spent the days following Katrina glued to the tube and reading, trying to get a better understanding of what took place and what is yet to come.

In a much smaller measure, all of us will soon feel a taste of their pain. With New Orleans evacuated, the largest port in North America will be at a standstill. So much of our agricultural commerce flows up and down the Mississippi, and many of the materials and finished products we import come through New Orleans. Until we can get the port back up and running, the economy of the US will feel the hurt. From farmers in North Dakota unable to ship this fall’s harvest to people bitching about oil prices or food shortages, we will all feel the wrath of Katrina. Cities such as Biloxi and Gulfport, even Mobile, and countless towns and villages will have to take stock of the destruction and loss.

I can only hope that families victimized by Katrina will start again. That is easier said than done. It is important for any victim to seek help. Whether it is with a counselor to deal with shattered emotions, to finding work, to applying for disaster aid, the time to start is now. CNN is but one link to a Web page with a number of resources for the victims of Katrina.

Many will never return to New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport or elsewhere, and will start again in a new place. Their departure will have a permanent impact on the region. But many will come back and pick up the pieces. If the examples of cities destroyed by wars and disasters are any indication, New Orleans will come back. It won’t be overnight, but it will come back. Home builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, computer networking specialists, entrepreneurs, engineers and insurance agents are some of the people who will profit greatly in the rebuilding of NEW Orleans.

My thoughts and prayers will be with the anonymous author of the email above, and so many like him. For anyone who has suffered a personal tragedy, I can only say this: don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Pick yourself up, dust off your butt and get moving again. You may have lost your home. Your job. Your loved ones. But you're still standing. If someone can survive Katrina, they can survive anything. And that which does not destroy you, makes you stronger. The future will only be better. Not today. Not tomorrow. But trust me: it will. It was for me some years back.

To everyone who has suffered, I believe firmly that your best days are ahead.

Flood control in other countries

The New York Times has a very good article about the practice of flood control in other countries. Some of you may recall the terrible 1953 storm in the North Sea that flooded an extensive amount of Holland, and at one point threatened the city of Rotterdam much in the way that New Orleans now suffers. In response, the Dutch built the most advanced seawall and flood protection system in the world. Perhaps we can take a page from what has been done in Holland, London, Venice, Japan and even Bangladesh. All of these low-lying countries have mixed engineering and nature to successfully fight the forces of nature. It's a good read. If we could do it all over again, I'm sure that the money spent to improve the levee system of south Louisiana would look cheap compared to the incredible cost to our economy and society.

Katrina damage report: Louisiana / Mississippi / Alabama landmarks

The Dallas Morning News published a story detailing the damage to landmarks in New Orleans and elsewhere in the region savaged by Hurricane Katrina. Apparently, most of the famous New Orleans restaurants, including Antoine's, Commander's Palace, Pat O'Brien's and Emeril's survived, some with considerable damage. The animals in the Audobon Zoo were not harmed. But the casinos of Biloxi were trashed. The damage to the tourist economy will be significant. But through it all, some bars in the French Quarter never closed. Go figure.

And Bayou La Batre, Alabama, the shrimp fishing town made famous in the movie Forest Gump, saw many of its boats destroyed in the hurricane's violent storm surge.

New views from above of Katrina's wrath

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has updated its Website with new satellite imagry of the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the Great New Orleans Flood. By clicking on individual squares, you can see close-up images of areas damaged, and areas that somehow emerged relatively unscathed. You can also see images of bus yards full of buses that could have carried people to safety, rail lines and train stations. If you have a loved one in the impacted area and know where to look, you can see the condition of their home. You can see images starting on this page. You can see image links for New Orleans here.

Also, Google just updated Google Maps with a Katrina Map tab. While not as broad in scope as the NOAA site, you can use the Google Maps' hybrid overlay to find precise locations within the city, then toggle to the Katrina tab to see whether the address is impacted by the flooding.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Thoughts on Katrina

I'm just as horrified as you are. Hurricane Katrina is a disaster that defies definition, much less comprehension. Desipite the rancor over how slow the response was to Katrina, the more I look at satellite images from the Internet and video from TV, the greater my understanding on how overwhelming the magnitude of the challenge for local, state and federal authorities in the first week following landfall of this unthinkable Category 5 hurricane.

Now for some thoughts.

Like everyone else, I can't stop thinking about the suffering of the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Today (Sunday, September 4), it is becoming visible that the tremendous effort to respond is visibly taking hold. The Superdome has at last been cleared. The focus is now on clearing people stuck at the New Orleans Convention Center. Louis Armstrong Airport has now been turned into a triage center, and the tarmac is covered with military air transport jets and helicopters. The cavalry has finally arrived.

Do I think it took too long? Absolutely. Do I think George Bush could have done a better job? Of course. He waited too long to go on the air. He did not jump on his subordinates to get in gear. Worst of all, the federal government reacted to the hurricane, instead of being proactive. Sadly, that is typical of American culture. We react instead of being proactive. The good news is that when we react to a crisis, we we do so with great effort. That we got off to a terrible start, in full view of the world, perhaps motivated people as much as anything else.

What is terrible is that in the first four days following the hurricane, the lack of organization and timely response caused countless lives to be lost. It's proof that bureaucracy can be deadly.

That does not mean that the state and local governments in Louisiana get a free pass. Just the opposite. Mayor Ray Nagin made a lot of news when he started swearing at the federal government's slow response to bring help to beleagured New Orleans. But I am appalled at the lack of organization by the City of New Orleans to plan for a Category 5 hurricane. All the griping by the Mayor cannot excuse that. I have seen a number of images of city busess and local parish school buses by the hundreds buried in water. How many people could have been evacuated before the hurricane had the Mayor ordered that these be used to transport thousands of people to safety? New Orleans is a major railroad destination, as the Port of New Orleans is the nation's largest port. Why could freight and passenger trains not have been used to get people to safety before the storm?

Then there is the Superdome. The city had at least 48 hours to get portable toilets, food and water, medicines and other necessary materials there to handle the influx in advance of the hurricane. None of that was present. Nor were doctors, nurses or police. Chaos ensued. People died. Mayor Nagin can bitch all he wants about the slow federal response. But I see no evidence that he did anything in the critical 48 hours prior to the landfall of Katrina to prepare the Superdome for the events that followed. Such negligence was inexcusable.

Likewise, Governor Kathleen Blanco was not aggressive enough. If she saw that the preparations by the city of New Orleans were insufficient, she should have put her foot down immediately. It's all well and good that she was saddened and horrified by the damage, but I saw little evidence that her state government was very effective. Further, the lawlessness that spread quickly the following day was evidence that before the hurricane hit, that marshal law should have been declared. It wasn't.

In the critical 48 hours prior to the hurricane, the Louisiana National Guard should have been mobilized. Knowing that New Orleans would likely be under water, why was a convoy of food, water, medicine, cots, boats, generators and other critical materiels not staged and ready to go? Why was it that neither the New Orleans police nor the National Guard were not equipped with satellite phones or walkie talkies? In hindsight, it is easy to see how little the city and state did to prepare for what many people for so long said would be inevitable.

The people of the City of New Orleans don't get a free pass either. To the credit of both the Mayor and Governor, both were unambiguous in their urging that people flee the path of the hurricane. It is estimated at 20 percent of the city's population ignored the order. While I think authorities should have gone door-to-door to urge this, people in the Big Easy took it easy, at the cost of their lives and safety. Having been to New Orleans a number times, and having been all over the city (in good parts of town and bad), I know from experience that people of all demographic levels have cars. In photo after photo, I have seen countless numbers of cars under water.

Like I said, Americans react. We don't plan.

The sad part is that the cost and effort to rescue those who disobeyed the Mayor's orders to evacuate is dramatically higher and more difficult. Even now, with the streets flooded with fetid, polluted water, volunteers who are traveling by boat to rescue the thousands still trapped on rooftops have encountered countless cases where people still don't want to leave their homes, asking only for supplies. Is it human nature to be so stupid?

Had the people of New Orleans reacted logically in response to the evacuation order instead of trying to ride out the hurricane, countless lives could have been saved. Had the city commandeered municipal buses and school buses to get the elderly and those without cars out of town, imagine how many lives could have been saved.

If only we planned.

The Bush administration should be chastized for not having Army and National Guard staging troops, equipment and materials in the hours before the hurricane. It did not help of course that all three airports were flooded. But the US Army and the Air Force Military Airlift Command are experienced in getting materials and manpower to difficult areas. There are many military bases near New Orleans, but at a safe distance from the carnage. That rapid response was not ready to go in the initial 72 hours following the hurricane is simply inexcusable.

Then there is Congress. Yes, the Bush administration should take it in the shorts for cutting funds to improve protection of the levee system. But Congress played its role too. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska saw to it that funds were cut for levee improvements in the Federal Highway appropriation bill. The $250 million requested got slashed. But Stevens saw to it that $258 million was earmarked in an appropriation rider that allowed for the construction of a bridge to an uninhabited island in the Aleutian islands. Of course, the airwaves are filled with members of Congress blathering on about how much they care about the people suffering in the hurricane from the comfort of air conditioned offices. But they share in the blame. How does pork feel now?

I could not help but to save some wrath for the media and pundits. Every time I see Horrendo Revolver on Fox I want to puke. Leave it to self-important TV newsidiots like Geraldo to not report the news, but to try to be the news. The people he interviews are merely props to make him the star. And too, the media have reported almost exclusively on New Orleans. But the hurricane's swath was much greater than that. Countless cities and towns in other parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi were also badly damaged. And the media is missing countless stories of personal tragedies of lives broken of the families who managed to escape. People will have neither homes nor jobs to return to, something the media have failed to report adequately.

Then there are the pundits. (Even though I'm just another schmuck, I guess I am one too, given that I'm blogging.) If I read one more pundit diatribe on how George Bush is the cause of the hurricane and how all this is his fault, I will go postal. Of course the Bush administration screwed up. But to blame him for the hurricane itself, an ACT OF GOD, for God sakes, is ridiculous. If another liberal enviro-whack job blathers on about how global warming is all W's fault, it only makes them more silly. Yes, I believe that the US should have signed the Kyoto Accord. And yes, we should take global warming seriously. But global warming is everybody's fault, not just George's. And yes, I've also read liberal diatribes about the New Orleans levee system and the barrier islands not being protected, and of course, guess who was blamed. But the destruction of the barrier islands at the hands of man has taken place over decades, not one presidential administration. As for the levee system, it was designed to handle a Category 3 hurricane at best. It was designed decades ago. Countless administrations, both Democratic and Republican alike, have had a chance to improve it. They did not.

I am worried about the coming weeks and months. In a time of disaster, the initial week is a week of numbness. Humans often react inadequately to a calamity. And the lost time in the first few days is often what determines whether people live or die. The longer term will impact many more not directly touched by the hurricane itself.

I mentioned earlier that the Port of New Orleans is the largest port in the nation. It lies at the foot of the Mississippi River, and is a junction of barge, freight train and truck traffic to this critical port. I read that 25 percent of our oil and gas flows through New Orleans, as well as a substantial volume of our agricultural products, manufacturered goods, chemicals and other major exports. With the Port out of action, farmers across the midwest will have no place to ship their harvest. The price paid to them will drop as grain elevators across the country have no place to store the fall harvest. Oil prices, already rising at a stunning clip, will doubtlessly go higher. Quite simply, every day that the rail lines, barge traffic and highways are brought to a halt by high water and a Port of New Orleans out of action, millions, if not billions of dollars will be lost every day. Suddenly, our grocery shelves will be thinner, and the prices we pay much higher. The impact on the economy in the coming months could be noticeable.

The long term impact of Katrina will be felt for years to come. With New Orleans under water perhaps for months, much of the city will be condemmed and bulldozed. Thousands of people have been dispersed, and many will never return. New Orleans will likely rise again, but not as we know or knew it. Many businesses will never return. For that matter, many businesses have been destroyed. Insurers will shoulder what will be the greatest single disaster loss in the industry's history, far worse than Hurricane Andrew. It will mean that each of us pay higher insurance premiums on our homes, as insurers who covered the damaged area will call on reinsurance to cover them. And each of us pay the tab for reinsurance. Despite that, many insurance carriers may experience losses that could render them insolvent. And too, banks covering mortgages on thousands of homes and commercial properties could be made insolvent by this disaster.

What matters now is that we act. What matters is that we learn from this tragic disaster. We're not even through the hurricane season yet. There is much for all of us to do to to right the wrongs and to deal with a disaster that will take years, if not decades, to repair. This is something we cannot handle with the tepid measured response we have shown so far. We have to respond like the US did in the wake of Pearl Harbor, or how the British did following the World War II blitz. An entire region, not just New Orleans, has been destroyed. Recriminations and finger pointing aside (something we seem to do better than anything else, especially more than planning for disasters and preparing for them), how we respond will be how history measures us. If we return to business as usual, we will be in denial. This will be the greatest test of many years. I can only hope that we respond in a way that makes us proud. And the cost on the US government to pay out disaster relief will be staggering. The economy will surely feel the impact of Katrina. And it won't be pretty.

What matters now is that we act. What matters is that we learn from this tragic disaster. We're not even through the hurricane season yet. There is much for all of us to do to to right the wrongs and to deal with a disaster that will take years, if not decades, to repair. This is something we cannot handle with the tepid measured response we have shown so far. We have to respond like the US did in the wake of Pearl Harbor, or how the British did following the World War II blitz. An entire region, not just New Orleans, has been destroyed. Recriminations and finger pointing aside (something we seem to do better than anything else, especially more than planning for disasters and preparing for them), how we respond will be how history measures us. If we return to business as usual, we will be in denial. This will be the greatest test of many years. I can only hope that we respond in a way that makes us proud.