Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Years Later

Today is the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Several months before, I read an extensive and alarming article in the National Geographic that persuasively described the structural problems with the levee system in New Orleans and accurately predicted the devastating results of a strong hurricane's direct hit on that city. It all came to pass just as the article predicted.

The really sad thing about Katrina is that the death, destruction and dislocation it caused so many people was largely preventable. Louisiana officials had diverted funds for levee repair and reconstruction to other projects. Too many residences and businesses were located below sea level. As New Orleans rebuilds, I pray that the lessons learned in Katrina will be taken to heart and the mistakes of the past are avoided.

A series of feature stories in the Houston Chronicle this week mark the anniversary with reports on the more than 150,000 former residents of NOLA who now live in the area. Think about it. That's far less than the number who were fled here immediately after the storm, but it's still the size of a good sized city. These people are now part of our community and most of them will stay here. They've found jobs, homes, and better educational opportunities for themselves and their children. But they are still suffering from emotional trauma as well as economic loss.

It hasn't been easy. The Houston crime rate spiked up and there's no doubt that some of the bad actors from NOLA continued their activities while living in the area. That causes resentment and conflict between Houston residents and the evacuees. It's been different, to say the least, to see Louisiana and NOLA officials campaigning for office in Houston -- complete with billboards, radio ads and free bus rides back to the Louisiana polling places to relocated residents. How long you can reside in Texas and continue to vote in Louisiana?

On the whole, I think Houston is doing a good job adjusting to this massive social change. It helps that we have a vigorous and growing economy. It helps that the metro area has a tradition of welcoming people from all over the world. There will be more bumps along the way because the process continues. Let's pray for understanding, patience and God's guidance as we all continue to adjust to the future wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

1 comment:

SpookyRach said...

Wow. Had no idea you could live here for that long and vote there. Interesting.