FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Economic damage inflicted on the U.S.
economy by Hurricane Katrina is likely to be modest, making the
case for huge government aid questionable, said Glenn Hubbard,
who is cited as a possible candidate to head the U.S. Federal Reserve
and on the
The U.S. government already has provided $62.3 billion in special funding and some lawmakers estimate the final price tag could be $150 billion to $200 billion.
I wonder how much of that estimated $150 to 200 billion estimated by
the lawmakers is lawyer's fees.
*One thing is becoming clearer. Over the years, the measures to
protect New Orleans devised by Democratic Party administrations
starting with Jimmy Carter have been successively scuppered by
Republican administrations. They have to be held to account.
New Orleans has suffered again, this time from Hurricane Rita. Perhaps it was good to get it over with as quickly as possible before more people had returned and now the hurricane season can move towards its end. But once again we see something disturbing. If you ask the inhabitants of a city the size of Houston to leave by road transport (most who have cars and trucks would not want to leave any behind), the first thing you would obviously have to plan for is special provision of fuel along the routes they will take, and very special traffic control and breakdown facilities. That is elementary. Yet either it was not done, or the planning was done by inadequate people with inadequate powers. The only conclusion one can draw is that in times of peace and non-emergency on the soil of the USA, no thought is given to the maintenance of structures of local and federal government to deal with the breakdown of the systems on which life in the fast lane is now lived. Why, for instance, do high voltage electrical lines have no systems to protect transformers against the consequences of short circuits causd by the storms. Fires have been started and a lot of electrical equipment needlessly destroyed. Are supporters of Edison (whose ignorance and obstruction prevented the implementation of alternating current for years) still in such a sulk about Nikolai Tesla (rightly called the inventor of the 20th Century) that they refuse to get involved in updating their technology?
Today we have the unedifying spectacle of American politicians trying to publicly blame Michael Brown, ex head of FEMA, more than anyone else and particularly themselves, for the failure to evacuate New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. The impression that is being reinforced about the USA is that it is federally governed by frightened people, and that their fear at this stage is the product of ignorance. It is hard to speculate if knowledge and understanding would render these people more or less fearful, and in the absence of better education or a wider experience of the realities of life on planet earth, we are unlikely to find out. What's needed now is practical help. People to contact: http://www.volunteersofamerica.org/
OCTOBER 6th 2005
Insurance claims for Katrina have already reached 34.4 billion, making it the most costly disaster in US history. The total damage will presumably exceed that by a considerable amount. $200 Billion has been mentioned. Glenn Hubbard's contention that "Economic damage inflicted on the U.S. economy by Hurricane Katrina is likely to be modest" is presumably based on the idea that the money coming into circulation to meet these claims will boost the economy even though its withdrawal from interest bearing accounts or direct shares may have an adverse effect. The Federal Govenment will fund much of it out of general taxation. Some funds may of course miraculously appear from untraceable sources, encouraged by the demand for services associated with rebuilding. I still think it would have been sensible, in view of the inevitability of this disaster, to have spent state and federal funds on a serious upgrading of the flood defenses of New Orleans, which will have to be done now anyway. It is lose-lose economic management in spades. Even if economic activity is kept going, there is going to be a massive budget deficit, a bill for future generations and in the meantime big borrowing on the world markets. Spending cuts in other areas will be extremely unpopular and difficult to get through congress. The bottom line is the Republicans are in big trouble, brought on their own heads.
KATRINA POST MORTEM OCTOBER 31st
So, according to UK's Channel 4 TV, there were no rapes, no shootings, the murder rate actually fell, yet hysterical reporting blighted the rescue effort and even caused FEMA to withdraw their forces at one point. The planning at local level showed a major lack of imagination. Communications were so bust that the main hospital was being reported as having been evacuated when this had not even started. They ran out of water and oxygen but even then the only two deaths there was one expected and the other only marginally adanced due to the circumstances. Ambulances had actually been standing by for three days, waiting for the evacuation plan to be finalised. With hindsight that looks wrong, but was it? The TV reporting pressure caused those appearing on TV to call for reports and statistics. This wasted the time of rescuers who had to make lists of statistics of people moved and aid delivered. Complaints that people were not being evacuated caused excessive efforts to remove those not really at risk. Reports of violence and looting caused unnecessary military operations. Many private initiatives succeeded where government had failed, yet it has to be understood that as time passed after the storm it had become easier to gain access. The storm lasted 12 hours but the communications problems were then immense and the locals had personal issues as well as their duties to perform. All in all, there is far too much blame being thrown around concerning an event which would have been difficult to cope with even without the flooding and impossible with it. One thing occurs to me - the whole operation would have been easier if we had no on-site public media coverage at all once the rescue operations got started and the broacaster put their communications equipment at the disposal of those doing the work in exchange for the chance to film it and broadcast later.
DECEMBER 19th 2005
At last it is clear that the Federal Government will provide the funds to not just repair but to improve the levees and other flood protection. Without that, there would be no point in rebuilding New Orleans - it would be better abandoned. So now there is some justification for positive social action. But see entry Feb 2 2006
In a concert dedicated to assisting musicians who lost their homes, instruments and livelihoods when Hurricane Katrina flooded the city on August 29, the two pledged to help its songmakers find their voices again.
"The best music comes from difficult times," Guthrie told Reuters. "There will be an injection of something different into New Orleans as a result of the disaster ... the culture here will swallow it up, and something new will sparkle."
Guthrie embarked earlier this month on a musical tour aboard the "City of New Orleans," the train he made famous with a song of the same name by Steve Goodman.
The train, now operated by Amtrak, runs through the heart of the United States from Chicago to New Orleans.
With songs such as "City of New Orleans," "We Don't Run" and "This Land is Your Land," Nelson and Guthrie played to a packed house at Tipitina's, the local nightclub that fostered such talent as the Neville Brothers.
The blues, jazz and folk music of New Orleans is trickling back to the city, even as many musicians remain stranded elsewhere along with tens of thousands of other displaced residents.
Some fear those traditions will be changed forever by the disaster as poorer artists face a dire housing shortage. The instruments, musical scores and record collections of many were ruined in the storm, wiping out a history of song.
But on Saturday night, the mood was hopeful.
"It's nice to see a city that loves its decadence, that loves its freedom," Guthrie said. "I'm amazed at how much has already come back and I'm amazed at how much needs to be done."
Music lovers also expressed their belief in a revival.
"New Orleans musicians are very determined and very resilient," said Tipitina's owner Roland von Kurnatowski. "They're going to tough it out."
Kurnatowski rents rehearsal halls for bands and said most of his musicians had kept their bookings for the space. His club runs a charity for hard-hit artists, finding them apartments or ready cash.
Trumpet player James Andrews lost his home and his horn in the flood and now plays on a donated instrument that he said once belonged to band leader Doc Severinsen.
"We're going to bring New Orleans back, baby," he said. "It's going
take the musicians to do it. New Orleans is one of the unique things
about the planet."
END OF REUTERS REPORT
FEBRUARY 2nd 2006
The latest data assemble leads most people to the conclusion that to protect a rebuilt New Orleans including the lower levels would entail funding not yet even contemplated and a time-scale that would take too long. A new disaster could strike before it was ready. For this reason it seems to me it may be absurd to rebuild the lower lying area other than, initially, on a prefabricated, limited and temporary basis.
AUGUST 17th 2006
Over 24 hours on 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more
than 200 square kilometres (77 square miles) of wetlands east of the
Mississippi River, reported Carlton Dufrechou, head of the Lake
Foundation in Metarie, Louisiana, US. Freshwater marsh plants were
"rolled up like a carpet" by the storm, Gary Shaffer at Southeastern
Louisiana University told New Scientist .
However, storm damage varied widely across the region, experts said at the Ecological Society of America session on hurricane impacts on the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, on Monday. Freshwater swamps with full canopies of cypress and tupelo trees and intertwined root systems remained largely intact, Shaffer said. But where the lower "storey" of maple and ash trees was exposed, the hurricane felled up to 80% of them.
Tree mortality on the flood plain of the Pearl River was 12% where cypress and tupelo dominated the forest, but 50% in other forests, said Stephen Faulkner of the US Geological Survey's National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Wetlands around Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas to the west of the state used to be 90% cypress-tupelo, but even before Katrina most of that area had been converted to marsh and open water, Shaffer said.
For example, for years flood control levees have prevented Mississippi River sediments from nourishing wetlands, and 20 th -century canal systems allowed salt water to spread into swamps, killing the trees.
These damaged wetlands and the open water of eastern Louisiana offered little resistance to Hurricane Katrina, experts said. But wetlands in western Louisiana were more intact when the storm struck and went on to better withstand Hurricane Rita, which struck the region a few weeks later but took a far lesser toll on human lives. "Rita went over about 30 kilometres of wetlands before it hit populated areas, which appear to have reduced its storm surge by 1 metre to 1.5 metres," Shaffer said.
One bit of good news was that Lake Pontchartrain recovered just eight weeks after the filthy water that had flooded New Orleans was pumped into it, causing levels of dissolved oxygen to drop. The only exception is the native Rangia clams, which are expected to need five to 10 years to recover.
Efforts are underway to regenerate the old swamps. Cypress and tupelo cannot survive in salt water, but can grow quickly if planted in flowing fresh water rich in nutrients.
Shaffer has developed plans to pump tertiary-treated sewage directly
into a degrading swamp, and to plant cypress and tupelo. "We fully
expect them to be 10 metres tall in a decade," Shaffer told New
END OF NEW
By GARRY MITCHELL, Associated Press Writer
GULFPORT, Miss. - A jury awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages against State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. for a Mississippi couple for denying their Hurricane Katrina claim. The decision could benefit hundreds of other homeowners challenging insurers for refusing to cover billions of dollars in storm damage.
State Farm said it will likely appeal.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. had taken part of the case out of jurors' hands before they awarded punitive damages to State Farm policyholders Norman and Genevieve Broussard of Biloxi.
Senter ruled Thursday morning that State Farm is liable for $223,292 in damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to the Broussards' home. Senter left the punitive damages to the jury.
Senter's decision to make a directed verdict rather than let the jury decide the entire case appeared to surprise everyone in the courtroom. After he explained his ruling, Senter ordered a recess to give attorneys time "to get over the shock."
After the jury announced its award, the Broussards left the courthouse arm in arm.
"It's a great day for south Mississippi," Norman Broussard said.
Some of Senter's earlier rulings in other Katrina cases have favored the insurance industry, but his decision Thursday calls into question the companies' refusal to cover billions of dollars in damage from Katrina's storm surge.
The judge's decision and the jury's award also are likely to impact recent settlement talks between State Farm, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and other plaintiffs' attorneys.
Earlier this week, people with direct knowledge of the settlement talks told The Associated Press that State Farm, Mississippi's largest home insurer, is considering paying hundreds of millions of dollars to settle more than 600 lawsuits and resolve thousands of other disputed claims.
The Broussards' case wasn't directly part of those negotiations, but Hood said Thursday the verdicts only strengthen his position in the ongoing settlement talks.
"Hopefully they will come to their senses and realize that the American people are not going to stand for robber baron companies, like the insurance companies, running over people," the attorney general said.
However, Hood conceded that a company as large as State Farm isn't likely to "blink very much" in the face of a single jury award.
"I'm sure they're in shock, but that can't hurt them," said Hood, who declined to elaborate on the status of the settlement talks with State Farm.
Randy Maniloff, a Philadelphia-based lawyer who represents insurers and has closely followed the Katrina litigation, said Senter's ruling was a "huge verdict" for homeowners even if the jury hadn't awarded punitive damages.
"That settlement is looking awfully good for State Farm now," he added.
The Broussards sued State Farm for refusing to pay for any damage to their home, which Katrina reduced to a slab. The couple wanted State Farm to pay for the full insured value of their home plus $5 million in punitive damages. The Broussards claimed a tornado during the hurricane destroyed their home. State Farm blamed all the damage on Katrina's storm surge.
State Farm and other insurers say their homeowner policies cover damage from wind but not from water, and that the policies exclude damage that could have been caused by a combination of both, even if hurricane-force winds preceded a storm's rising water.
Senter, however, ruled that State Farm couldn't prove that Katrina's storm surge was responsible for all of the damage to the Broussards' home. The judge also said the testimony failed to establish how much damage was caused by wind and how much resulted from storm surge.
State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said after the jury's verdict that the company is likely to appeal the decision.
"We are surprised and disappointed by both the judge's ruling on the coverage issues and the amount awarded by the jury for punitive damages," he said in a written statement. "We believe the expert testimony supported a different result."
Jack Denton, one of the couple's attorneys, said they are "very pleased" with the jury's verdict but declined further comment.
"Obviously we have other trials coming up and don't want to jeopardize those cases," he added.
Thursday's verdict follows another federal judge's ruling that favored policyholders in Louisiana. In November, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. sided with New Orleans homeowners who argued that the language excluding water damage from some insurance policies was ambiguous.
Duval allowed a lawsuit against The Allstate Corp., The St. Paul Travelers Companies Inc. and other insurers to proceed, but said the issue of "flood exclusion" could be appealed immediately by the companies.
In his closing argument Thursday, one of the Broussards' attorneys, William Walker, said State Farm had breached their contract "in a bad way" by denying their claim. State Farm "acted like a chiseler," he said, adding, "The pocketbook is what they listen to."
State Farm attorney John Banahan urged jurors to "use your head and your heart" in deciding on punitive damages and to reject an attempt by the Broussards' attorney to demonize the company as an "evil empire."
Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute in New York, said before the jury announced its decision that a punitive damage award would be "distressing" for insurers.
"It adds even more cost and more uncertainty to the other problems that already exist in the Mississippi homeowners insurance market," he said.
Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman contributed to this report.
The proposal, compiled by planning experts and residents, calls for $1.2 billion in incentives for elevating homes either by raising the ground level or by putting them on stilts, $831 million to repair or rebuild schools and $650 million to rehabilitate low-income housing.
Billions more would go to rebuild sewer and drainage systems and invest in the local economy, devastated when 80 percent of the city was flooded by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The new proposal doesn't advocate converting flood-prone neighborhoods into parks as did previous recovery plans that failed to gain popular support.
The plan says all city neighborhoods could be rebuilt but encourages residents to locate in "clusters" of homes to make delivery of city services easier.
Troy Henry, a consultant who managed the plan's development, said many of the city's residents are more open to rebuilding in a different part of the city than they were shortly after Katrina struck in August 2005.
"No one wants to live amidst the blight forever," Henry told Reuters.
Only about half of New Orleans' 455,000 pre-Katrina residents have returned. Many neighborhoods remain sparsely populated, with potholed streets and debris-littered yards. The city's tourism and convention business has yet to recover.
Before becoming a blueprint for rebuilding, the plan must
win the approval of the city's Planning Commission, City
Council and Mayor Ray Nagin, who has said he would be inclined
to approve it.
FBRUARY 1st 2007
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer
PARIS - Global warming has made stronger hurricanes, including those in the Atlantic such as Katrina, an authoritative panel on climate change has concluded for the first time, participants in the deliberations said Thursday.
During marathon meetings in Paris, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change approved language that said an increase in hurricane and tropical cyclone strength since 1970 "more likely than not" can be attributed to man-made global warming, according to Leonard Fields of Barbados and Cedric Nelom of Surinam.
In its last report in 2001, the same panel had said there was not enough evidence to make such a conclusion.
"It is very important" that the language is so strong this time, said Fields, whose country is on the path of many hurricanes. "Insurance companies watch the language, too."
The panel did note that the increase in stronger storms differs in various parts of the globe, but that the storms that strike the Americas are global warming-influenced, according to another participant.
Fields said that the report notes that most of the changes have been seen in the North Atlantic.The report — scheduled to be released Friday morning — is also a marked departure from a November 2006 statement by the , which helped found the IPPC.
The meteorological organization, after contentious debate, said it could not link past stronger storms to global warming. The debate about whether stronger hurricanes can be linked to global warming has been dividing a scientific community that is otherwise largely united in agreeing that global warming is human-made and a problem.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kerry Emanuel, who pioneered much of the research linking global warming to an uptick in hurricane strength, looked at the original language in an IPCC draft and called it "a pretty strong statement."
"I think we've seen a pretty clear signal in the Atlantic," Emanuel said. The increase in Atlantic hurricane strength "is so beautifully correlated with sea surface there can't be much doubt that there's a relationship with sea surface temperature."But U.S. scientist Christopher Landsea has long disagreed with that premise. While he would not comment on the IPCC decision, Landsea pointed to the meteorological organization's statement last fall.
By Jeff Franks - Reuters
The recovery of New Orleans slowly drags on two years after Hurricane Katrina but one thing back in full swing since the killer storm is crime, particularly murders.
The drumbeat of violence that made New Orleans a U.S. murder capital before Katrina slowed after it struck on August 29, 2005, but the pace picked up as people returned to the city.
So far in 2007, police say 136 people have been murdered in New Orleans, compared to 161 for all of last year. August has been particularly bloody, with 19 killings in a 14-day period ending August 25, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
New Orleans, beset with an explosive mix of poverty, drugs and guns before and after Katrina, is no stranger to murder.
It has had one of the nation's higher per capita murder rates for years and peaked in 1994 with 425 homicides. In 2004, the year before Katrina, there were 265 killings.
City leaders say fear of crime ranks up there with fear of another Katrina as reasons only about 60 percent of the pre-storm population of nearly half a million has returned.
A study released early this year by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a local watchdog group, found almost 80 percent of those surveyed in New Orleans' Central City area were afraid of crime, more than before Katrina.
Crime is a constant topic of conversation in New Orleans, where many say they are arming themselves for the first time.
"There's a general sense of a need for greater security and self-responsibility since the government is failing," said attorney Stephen Rue, who recently took a gun-handling class required for a state permit to carry a concealed weapon.
"We're just hoping it doesn't turn into the O.K. Corral," he said.
"This city and this region's survival depends on getting a handle on violent crime," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten at a conference this week. "Katrina didn't create the problems we face today, although it certainly exacerbated them."
Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans when its powerful storm surge broke the levees that protect the low-lying city.
AFRAID TO RETURN
Most economic indicators such as hotel bookings and tax collections have come back to about 70 percent of what they were before the storm, according to recently released city and tourist industry figures.
But there are still many empty homes and buildings in the hardest hit areas because the owners chose not to return or are waiting to see if things including security and levee protection improve, officials say.
Earlier this month, police released figures showing that violent crime overall was up 12 percent for the first half of 2007, compared to the same period for 2006.
Letten blamed the violence in part on "the resurgence in this city of people who are involved in the drug trade and who are trying to basically build turf for themselves" by shooting it out with drug dealers already in place.
But he also alluded to what many people believe is the crux of the problem: poor performance by local prosecutors.
Many criminals are coming to New Orleans "because they do not fear consequences of the local criminal justice system," Letten said.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan has been accused of allowing too many criminals back on the streets by failing to prosecute them effectively or on a timely basis.
He has blamed police for giving him poorly investigated cases and the unwillingness of many crime witnesses to testify. A study released in 2005 by the Metropolitan Crime Commission found that, in 2003-2004, only 12 percent of those arrested for murder went to prison.
Letten's office has taken the extraordinary step of filing federal charges in many violent-crime cases so that suspects will not go free if state charges fall through.
Police superintendent Warren Riley said the district attorney's office, after much public criticism, has improved in recent weeks, but he makes the point that crime is the result of deeper social problems that neither police nor prosecutors can resolve.
"Until we educate our youth, until we lower our poverty rate, until we lower our illiteracy rate, until we improve our society, we're going to have these problems," he said.
"We are in fact breeding a criminal element."
(Additional reporting by Russell McCulley)
MAY 11th 2008
YES, WE CAN?
Thanks to the incredible determination of the local fishermen, farmers, traders and entrepreneurs, New Orleans is recovering. It is being rebuilt and re-populated on its traditional lines. The pessimism of a year ago is giving way in places to belief in the future. All this just in time to be hit by the credit squeeze and competition from imported goods and services. That is not to minimise the possibility that a disaster similar to Katrina could strike again, as it is unclear if there is real protection against that. The one thing this may prove, however, is how much truth there is in that propostion I suggested in the early 1980s, taken up by Bill and later Hillary Clinton: "There is nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America". It will also test the belief of Barack Obama: "Yes, we can".
JUNE 22nd 2008
New Orleans is not yet at risk from this trouble upstream.
By James B. Kelleher Reuters
Walls and levees held back the cresting Mississippi River on Sunday as requests for government aid poured in from homeowners and businesses swamped by the worst Midwest flooding in 15 years.
Across from St. Louis, where the river remained near the crest reached on Friday, Cahokia Mayor Frank Bergman said his city of 17,000 had escaped disaster by a few feet meters.
"We got lucky," he said as he walked a 50-year-old network of levees and flood walls that withstood the river's rise. River water that seeped under the levees at a few spots had been cordoned off by walls of sandbags.
The deluge that swamped Iowa cities and farms two weeks ago has washed down the most important U.S. waterway, swallowing up towns and thousands of acres of prime crop land in the heart of the world's largest grain and food exporter.
Drier weather in the past week, and more than two dozen levee breaks as the Mississippi overtopped its banks, appeared to spare downstream cities a repeat of the devastation seen in the last major floods in 1993.
The storms and flooding have been blamed for 24 deaths and billions of dollars in damage since late May that will take months to clean up. More than 40,000 people have been displaced, most of them in Iowa.
Bridges and highways have been swamped, factories shut down, water and power utilities damaged, and the earnings of railroads, farmers and many other businesses disrupted.
Fears that as many as 5 million acres of corn and soybeans have been lost in the fertile U.S. corn belt pushed up corn and other food commodity prices to record highs and worsened market fears of spiraling world food prices.
With no new levee breaks since Friday to relieve the flow of the Mississippi, river levels rose over the weekend north of St. Louis. The National Weather Service forecast water levels to ease by as much as a foot (0.3 meter) a day after the river crests. Monitoring the levees remained a round-the-clock task.
"We're still holding," said John Hark, the emergency management director for the city of Hannibal, Missouri, where every fraction of an inch (cm) the Mississippi rose or fell was tracked.
"We crested at 29.28 feet and we're probably going to sit here awhile -- for the next six to 12 hours -- before we see any meaningful downward movement. It went down about 1/100th of an inch here just now and that was encouraging," Hark said.
Some 130 miles downstream from St. Louis, the Mississippi was expected to crest at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Monday at 41.5 feet, also well below the 1993 peak of 48.5 feet.
Cahokia, a hardscrabble town of mostly African Americans, is one of several municipalities trying to get voters to approve a sales tax increase to make desperately needed repairs to 20 miles of levees.
"It's going to help people realize the seriousness of it," Bergman said. "Levees are like rubber bands. They can only be stretched and tested so many times before they break."
Next door to Cahokia, the economically depressed city of East St. Louis appeared to have been spared a potential disaster as its outdated levees held.
Iowa was hardest hit by the flooding, but parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Missouri have also flooded.
In Cedar Rapids and neighboring hamlets along the Cedar and Iowa Rivers, where most of the flood damage was uninsured, residents were weighing whether to stay or leave.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency had initially received more than 19,000 requests for help. U.S. government aid was expected to be in the billions of dollars.
President George W. Bush toured some of the devastation in Iowa on Thursday, and the White House said relief would be made available from $4 billion in the government's disaster fund.
Flood relief was rapidly becoming a political issue in a U.S. election year. Republican presidential candidate John McCain toured Iowa on Thursday, separately from Bush, while Democratic candidate Barack Obama filled sandbags in Quincy in his home state of Illinois earlier in the week.
Iowa's Democratic Gov. Chet Culver asked both candidates not to visit Iowa until after the crisis had passed.
(Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by Peter Bohan)
AUGUST 27th 2008
Here we go again.
By Kathy Finn Reuters
Three years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast, New Orleans residents on Wednesday again confronted the prospect of an evacuation as Tropical Storm Gustav loomed.
Not since Katrina struck on August 29, 2005, have residents faced a forced departure from their homes and businesses as many still struggle to rebuild their lives in a city famed for its jazz clubs and Mardi Gras festival.
Storm levees broke under the onslaught of Katrina, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans and killing almost 1,500 people in the city and along the Gulf of Mexico coast. The hurricane caused $125 billion in wind and flood damage.
With Tropical Storm Gustav swirling near Cuba and likely to enter the Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane this weekend, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said an evacuation could begin as early as Friday -- three years to the day after Katrina inundated New Orleans.
Jindal said he had activated the state's catastrophic action team and could declare a state of emergency as early as Thursday. He also put the Louisiana National Guard on alert.
"We all need to be prepared and ready to respond, from the citizen level and at every level of government," Jindal said.
Jindal, elected as governor in October 2007, is hoping to avoid heavy criticism that fell on his predecessor, Kathleen Blanco, for not reacting quickly enough after Katrina.
Federal agencies and the New Orleans city government also faced the wrath of residents over their response to the disaster, while President George W. Bush was criticized for his role, including his initial decision to view the devastated city only from the air.
After Katrina, chaos broke out in New Orleans as stranded flood victims waited days for help. Many residents who fled the hurricane have not returned.
On Wednesday, Gustav drifted away from Haiti and the Dominican Republic after killing 16 people. Forecasters warned the storm may still become a dangerous hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, with their models showing it most likely on track to hit anywhere from the Florida panhandle to Texas.
Jindal said if the threat continues, his state could make 700 buses available for assisted evacuations, which could begin on Friday for people who need help due to medical or other conditions.
He advised other residents of the southern parishes to review their own emergency plans and be prepared to evacuate if an order is given.
The state's Office of Emergency Preparedness held a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with the presidents of all area parishes and emergency personnel to review current conditions and disaster plans.
The Louisiana SPCA announced it would shut down its shelter and begin evacuating the animals to other shelters.
(Editing by Chris Baltimore and John O'Callaghan)
AUGUST 30th 2008
Hurruicane Gustave is now level 4, that 140mph. A milion people are leaving New Orelans. There is a system for registering people leaving and knowing where they are going. Nationwide there are systems standing by to help in the event Gustav stays mean and hits where it hurts. A complete evacuation has not yet been ordered by the advice is to leave now.
AUGUST 31 - There is disagreement about the actual likely strength (3,4 or 5) of Gustav wen it reaches the Louisiana coast and whether it will hit New Orleans head on; but the mayor has made it clear he expects the worst aned everybody should leave.
Officials measured gusts of 212 mph (340 kph) in the western town of Paso Real del San Diego — a new national record for maximum wind speed in a country often hit by major hurricanes, said Miguel Angel Hernandez of the Cuban Institute of Meteorology.
SEPTEMBER 1st 2008
Gustav has come ashore with the centre 70 miles west of New Orleans and has downgraded to category 3, then 2 and finally 1. But it is a bigger storm than Katrina, covering a wider area. There is much rain and a tidal surge to come and there are more hurricanes on the way in coming weeks. The amount of energy consumed and greenhouse gas added by the major evacuation of more than two million people by car, coach and a great many aircraft need adding up now as well as the monetary cost. If these hurricanes are going to get worse I suggest those who live in such vulnerable places build appropriate dwellings, rather on the principle that Eskimos built igloos when they lived in the arctic without expecting rescue or oil central heating. San Francisco should expect earthqaukes and those living round Mt Vesuvius should expect eruptions. The alternative: don't breed there and don't move there.