Hurricane Katrina Kills 55

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Breaking News, Environment, Hurricane Katrina

But with as much worry about Louisiana, the 55 who died lived in Mississippi, the state who got hit the hardest by the storm.

However, a major levee broke in New Orleans and has flooded over 80% of the city, putting those areas under 20 feet of water.

Water poured into New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain after a two-block-long breach opened overnight in a section of a levee that protects the low-lying city.

Nagin had said that about 80 percent of the city was flooded and that some areas were under 20 feet of water.

“My heart is heavy tonight,” Nagin said in the interview on CNN affiliate WWL-TV. “I don’t have any good news to share.”

In the city’s 9th Ward neighborhood, rescue efforts continued throughout the night, with authorities in boats plucking residents from submerged homes after water topped another levee.

Yesterday, before the storm really hit, Shay over at Dean’s World had this to say about the coming natural disaster:

Two things. One, all the calls for federal government dependency. Various officials are on television calling for government aid and help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This may sound callous, but I don’t believe that it is the job of the federal government – ahem, taxpayers across the country – to subsidize folks in certain states who are stupid enough to continually build in locales where Nature clearly does not want folks to build. Especially when they earn more money than I do. If they choose to do so, then they should reap the full monetary consequences of doing so.

You’re right Shay. It does sound callous. Pretty heartless too. And as one of your commenters pointed out, I’m sure there are many who live in New Orleans and the surrounding areas who make far less money than you do. These are some of the poorest states in the country. Of course, neither I nor the commenter know how much you actually make, but call it an educated guess.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that we all pay tax money so our NATION can survive, not just locales which sit on safe ground. States are not islands and when some get hit hard, we all pitch in. That’s why our economy is so strong. That’s why we’re the only remaining super power. That’s why we’re called the UNITED States of America.

Shay goes on to point out that he’s okay with some instances of price gouging too:

Another issue, the charges of price gouging on generators and canned goods, etc. Most of what I am hearing being called price gouging ain’t so. Rather, it is supply and demand. When the demand goes up, of course the price will go up! If ya don’t wanna pay the higher prices, then folks who live in hurricane areas should prepare in advance. Folks who are late birds and were procrastinators shouldn’t pay the same prices as the early birds.

Well, it certainly is easy to apologize for this type of stuff when you’re not actually in the situation. True, supply and demand are factors that our nation banks on, but sometimes the free market system needs to be ignored in favor of our fellow human beings. Simply put, capitalism is not perfect, and these are situations where it fails miserably.

This is not to say that what Shay is saying is illogical. The points are grounded in strong ideology. However, I would gladly put the ideology aside to help out those whose homes and lives are being decimated by Mother Nature. It’s a small price to pay for national unity.

Here’s still more from the local paper in New Orleans:

As night fell on a devastated region, the water was still rising in the city, and nobody was willing to predict when it would stop. After the destruction already apparent in the wake of Katrina, the American Red Cross was mobilizing for what regional officials were calling the largest recovery operation in the organization’s history.

Police officers, firefighters and private citizens, hampered by a lack of even rudimentary communication capabilities, continued a desperate and impromptu boat-borne rescue operation across Lakeview well after dark. Coast Guard helicopters with searchlights criss-crossed the skies. Officers working on the scene said virtually every home and business between the 17th Street Canal and the Marconi Canal, and between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and City Park Avenue, had water in it. Nobody had confirmed any fatalities as a result of the levee breach, but they conceded that hundreds of homes had not been checked.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2005 and is filed under Breaking News, Environment, Hurricane Katrina. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “Hurricane Katrina Kills 55”

  1. Icepick Says:

    Justin wrote:

    However, I would gladly put the ideology aside to help out those whose homes and lives are being decimated by Mother Nature. It’s a small price to pay for national unity.

    Thank you, Justin. That is beautifully phrased, and very appropriate.

  2. ford4x4 Says:

    I think Shay was referring to disaster’s in general, not just this particular storm. I get tired of my tax dollars going to bale out people on the Outer Banks, too.

  3. Icepick Says:

    Some more points, contra-Shay.

    First, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast provide vital economic support for this country. He may realize this in coming weeks and months as his energy bills climb. Also, this ignores the fact that NO is the major port servicing a great deal of the commercial activities throughout the Mississippi River basin. NO may be a dumb place to put a city, but it is a natural, and perhaps necessary, place to put a city.

    Second, we are a wealthy nation. There is no need to skimp when helping our fellow citizens after a disaster. As Justin points out, it’s one of the main reasons we have a nation, to ensure the common welfare! If this doesn’t fall into that category, nothing does.

    Also, as a Floridian that had three hurricanes pass over my house last year, I am keenly aware of the assistance provided to us last year by the states that have been affected by Katrina. Now, it is our turn to help them, and it is assistance I am happy we are providing. We can never know when we will need help from our fellow citizens. Therefore, it only makes sense to help them when they need it.

    Finally, please note all of the assistance we (the USA) provided for tsunami relief last year, both governmental and private. We did this because we could, and it was the right thing to do even if no gains of any kind come to us for our efforts. Common humanity should trump naked self-interest in time of disaster.

    Remember, ideologies, and markets, are just tools, and one should always use the right tool for the job. Acting in apparent naked economic self-interest in time of disaster is NOT using the right tool for the job.

  4. Paul Brinkley Says:

    In defense of free market: price gouging shouldn’t exist. The moment people try to charge 10x “normal” prices for generators and canned food, other people should immediately advertise 9x. Then 8x. Then 4x. And so on. The equilibrium point would likely be between 1x and 2x normal prices, reflecting the increased demand, and then settling back to 1x as the disaster is mitigated.

    As for federal aid, again, ideally, shouldn’t be necessary. Americans who want to help LA and MS should donate, and help LA and MS, voluntarily. Nothing stops you from driving to the zone and volunteering, or setting up a temporary fundraising or resource-raising drive to help people out there, or donating to such a cause.

    That all said, this situation ain’t ideal. While nothing stops you from organizing to do all these things, there is a significant ramp-up cost. Ramp-up can be mitigated by having long-standing agencies with resources readily on hand, and the authority to deploy them without having to wait for an on-the-spot referendum. There is also the opportunity for corruption. That’s mitigated by either an unreasonably well-informed populace, a robust infrastructure for informing the public (which would be likely damaged by said disaster anyway), or, again, a long-standing body of agencies with a culture of non-corruption, and a long-standing reputation to maintain.

    Shay’s tone depicts the dark side of libertarianism, the attitude of looking out for #1, without the intelligence to realize that looking out for #1 necessitates also looking out for #s 2-300M. That, in turn, implies the need for all manner of infrastructure, and soon you end up with a system quite like what we have today anyway. That’s the way it goes.

    Note, too, that I don’t even need to appeal to emotion to make this argument.

  5. Callimachus Says:

    On the other hand …

    People have instantly shifted Shay’s comments to make it seem he was talking about the poorest of the poor.

    Yet ecologists have been saying for years people shouldn’t build their houses on barrier islands and fragile coastal ecosystems. This is one reason why, but there are other. Instead of picturing the poor grandchildren of sharecroppers whose homes were swamped by the storm, think of the millionaires’ mansions that line the beachfronts, and the swampland drained to make firm land for housing.

    Is it right for the government to use its agency to set those homes back up again in the same places?

  6. Justin Gardner Says:

    Is it right for the government to use its agency to set those homes back up again in the same places?

    It’s right for everybody to get aid in times of disaster. Would you say the same about millionaires homes that got hit by the tsunamis?

    Again, I believe this is about simple human decency, and should have little economic thought put into it in the short term. In the long term, absolutely. But let me just say that, if I had to hazard a guess, a majority of the people who live in Louisiana and Mississippi were born there and have few means to get out. And Shay certainly didn’t specify who he was talking about, although I haven’t gone back to look at the comments.

  7. geri Says:

    Has there been a list for hurricane katrina survivors formed yet?….if so where can i find it…

  8. Karl Gallagher Says:

    I recall the rules on flood insurance getting changed for the Midwest so people who lost a home could rebuild on high ground instead of only being able to use the insurance money to rebuild in the flood plain. Sounds like a good precedent to me. Let’s help people who lost their homes in NO rebuild–someplace above sea level.

  9. shay Says:

    First, I am a she and not a he. Here is my response to your comments about what I wrote about government’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    I grew up in Florida, on a peninsula (but we were never flooded out when I lived there), so I know of what I speak. I never argued that we shouldn’t help people through PRIVATE channels. That demonstrates true national unity and compassion, as it personally and directly comes from folks’ hearts and pocketbooks. I question whether it is a federal power or responsibility to dole out funds – ahem, our tax dollars – to bail out folks rebuild in hazardous areas that are always prone to hurricane disasters. Every year, it is the same deal. Especially when they make more money than I do, I shouldn’t have to subsidize them. If people choose to build in hazardous areas, then they should reap the full consequences of their actions. And if any government entity should help them, it belongs to state and local governments.

    By the way, I did mention on my blog yesterday (after seeing more of the destruction, when the levees broke) that I thought I was a bit callous in my immediate thoughts after the hurricane. However, I stand behind my views regarding the government’s role.

  10. Meredith Says:

    Shay wrote:

    “Every year, it is the same deal. Especially when they make more money than I do, I shouldn’t have to subsidize them. If people choose to build in hazardous areas, then they should reap the full consequences of their actions.”

    Wow. “They should reap the full consequences of their actions”? Well, I guess you got your wish because they certainly have. And this is just being “a bit callous”?

    You question whether it is within the Federal power to dole out funds to help our own citizens through a natural disaster?? I STRONGLY encourage you to go ahead and file suit, claiming that it is not in the federal government’s power to decide issues of taxing and spending – with your precious tax dollars. The “General Welfare” clause of our Constitution gives Congress the very broad power to tax and appropriate for the purpose of paying the nation’s debts and of making provisions for the NATION’s general welfare. Unless the government is making taxing and spending decisions that violate specific rights and freedons, such as the Establishment Clause for example, they can tax and spend in just about any way that they can show is rationally related to the general welfare of the nation. But, hey, if you don’t believe me, please do file that lawsuit.

  11. Justin Gardner Says:

    Shay, my apologies for the “he” comment. Dumb mistake on my part.

    First, if you’ve never lived through a flood, then you can’t truly appreciate the situation. Sure, you have a valid opinion because your area is more prone to natural disasters, but nothing informs you like living through one (or three) of them.

    Also, what you’re speaking of is akin to the “class warfare” stuff that the Administration threw around when the tax cuts were passed. I don’t necessarily agree with their logic, but if millionaires pay 10 times the property tax than the poor, don’t be surprised if they want their homes built back up too with that same money they put in.

    So to followup on the tease in the first paragraph, I have A LOT of history with floods. My grandparents still live on a flood plain, and since I lived with them for a time, I endured three of them. This happened about every five or so years. I forget the exact years. And each time water filled up their basement (they live on a bit of hill, with an exposed garage underneath), but none of the water ever got into the second floor. It was literally only a foot away at one point, but they were extremely lucky. However, the homes across the street were on lower ground and therefore were almost completely underwater. And this is on the third of fourth busiest street in Kansas City. Hardly what one would consider a “flood plain.”

    The result? The neighbors got money and my grandparents got none. Unfortunately, their damage wasn’t “bad” enough. So they had to clean out the basement themselves with bleach and water and throw out what couldn’t be salvaged.

    So, did any anonymous private benefactors show up to help the people across the street? Nope. But who did? The federal government. Keep in mind, they didn’t give my grandparents anything, even though they were effected by the flood. Not exactly the spend-thirfts you seem to want to characterize them as.

    The federal government also finally funded the solution to the flooding problem in that area with a bunch of money from some pork filled federal bill. The river was widened and the street has been flood-free ever since.

    So, to your assertion about state and local governments footing the bill…well, they simply can’t go over-budget like the federal government can. That’s why we can turn to them in times of crisis. They can borrow money on credit that the states simply can’t. And why can the federal government keep borrowing like this? Because they have all of these states united under them making money and innovating like 50 little power centers with their own unique skills. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the federal and state governments that I don’t think is being fully appeciated in your argument.

    And to followup on the aftermath of all of those floods, if the federal government wasn’t there, many of the people who live(d) on my grandparent’s street would have literally lost everything they owned, since you can’t buy flood insurance when you live on a flood plain. And again, this is on one of the busiest streets in a major metropolitan area.

    In your best-case scenario, private donations would have accounted for the cleaning, rebuilding and repurchasing of everything. Do you really think it’s wise to base our society’s future on the anonymous and inconsistent contributions of private citizens?

    Because that IS what you’re talking about. When natural disasters hit, very few things can be done, and the shout for “don’t live there!” is lost on the poor who can’t help but live there. Will private donations (coupled with state and local funds) save them, especially when the damage is in the tens of billions? I think you know the answer to that.

    And to be fair, if you want this specific rule changed, back a candidate who will support not funding disaster relief with federal money. I doubt she/he will get very far.

    I appreciate your comments Shay, I understand the logic, but I think your points are merely made out of frustration and not considering the reality of the way our country actually works.

  12. TM Lutas Says:

    I think that the federal government shouldn’t be in the disaster business. I think the federal government should do everything in its power to aid the victims of hurricane Katrina. The two preceding statements are not in conflict. Let me explain.

    We’re in a situation that is a culmination of decades, sometimes centuries of prior decisions. You don’t just stop an avalanche in mid-fall. So the government, at all levels, should do the best job possible in pitching to aid disaster victims. At the same time, we’re not just puppets of previous generations. We can make our own decisions and part of that is to reduce the times when the government has to get called in for economic aid to disaster victims. Given enough generations committed to that ethic, we’ll find better solutions to fix the problems or, even better, prevent them from happening in the first place.

    An earlier post noted that federal flood insurance used to only pay out if you rebuilt on the flood plain. It doesn’t anymore and each time people lose a house to a flood, some move to higher ground. That’s positive change and there’s nothing heartless about it. But what if private groups ran contests for architects and engineers to invent flood mitigation technologies where houses simply didn’t get destroyed by floods, or at least were damaged less by them? Over a few decades, new techniques might be found that would reduce flood damage outlays and, in some marginal floods, eliminate the government role entirely. If we keep working with that private innovation ethic, a century from now might see the government limited in its disaster response function to its proper role, maintaining civil order.

  13. Justin Gardner Says:

    But what if private groups ran contests for architects and engineers to invent flood mitigation technologies where houses simply didn’t get destroyed by floods, or at least were damaged less by them? Over a few decades, new techniques might be found that would reduce flood damage outlays and, in some marginal floods, eliminate the government role entirely.

    This is a great idea. But it’s just one idea. There are thousands of other things to take into consideration when you give disaster duties over to private interests.

    But I agree we have to start coming up with better solutions. More ideas are welcome in this space.

  14. Koasq Says:

    Good job.

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