US New Orleans Seeks Sustainability As It Rebuilds from Hurricane Once Again
'Nothing you can do but wait': In New Orleans, frustrations rise over ongoing Hurricane Ida outages
Hurricane Ida damaged or destroyed 30,679 poles, 36,469 spans of wire and 5,959 transformers, Entergy, the power provider for New Orleans, says.Lloyd Kelly cooks free meals for his neighbors, the work keeping his mind off the stifling heat and humidity.
New Orleans is a city on the frontline of the climate crisis. After suffering two major hurricanes in less than two decades, its residents are taking the knowledge they have gained from those painful experiences to prepare for the future.
Locals are looking for solutions that will make the infrastructure of their beloved city more resilient while protecting communities that represent the rich culture and traditions that make it unlike any other in the U.S.
From COVID to Ida: Louisiana's marginalized 'see no way out'
Darkness set in for Natasha Blunt well before Hurricane Ida knocked out power across Louisiana. Months into the pandemic, she faced eviction from her New Orleans apartment. She lost her job at a banquet hall. She suffered two strokes. And she struggled to help her 5-year-old grandson keep up with schoolwork at home.Like nearly a fifth of the state’s population — disproportionately represented by Black residents and women — Blunt, 51, lives below the poverty line, and the economic fallout of the pandemic sent her to the brink.
Presidentvisited Louisiana on September 3 to assess the damage from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall on August 29. He expressed empathy for the suffering of residents, emphasized the need for resilient infrastructure, and encouraged the city to "build back better."
John Cochran, associate vice president for coastal resilience at the Environmental Defense Fund, told Newsweek that how America deals with climate change in New Orleans has meaning beyond the city limits.
"To the extent to which we notice this is an American issue," Cochran said, "the extent to which America begins to deal with climate and with those related disparities, is the degree to which a place like New Orleans can survive appropriately."
56 Percent of New Orleans Gas Stations Without Gas After Hurricane Ida
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said last week that two-thirds of the state's oil refineries had stopped producing gas in the aftermath of the hurricane. He asked residents for patience until production could reach levels from before the hurricane. "There will be stations without gas, and there will be people who will have to wait for some period of time in a line to get gas," he said. The gas shortages are in addition to widespread power and water outages workers are still trying to rectify.
Most of New Orleans' climate-related problems stem from its geography and topography. Located in southeastern Louisiana, it is surrounded by the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, and has historically been susceptible to flash flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes.
It's average elevation varies between one to two feet below sea level.
"It is an island," Cochran said. "The only way to get out of New Orleans is by a bridge."
Climate and weather have played a critical role in the history and development of the city.
"During the course of over 300 years, it's had probably a dozen major storms, several of which completely destroyed the city," Jesse M. Keenan, an associate professor of real estate at Tulane University, told Newsweek. "People over the years have a lot of social knowledge about how to respond to disasters, and that helps them be able to cope."
In the days before Hurricane Ida, thousands fled their homes to escape. While evacuations took place across the state, at least 200,000 people decided to stay. Some stayed to protect their property, assess damages or support family members. Most remained because they lacked the transportation or financial ability to leave.
Overnight Equilibrium/Sustainability — New Orleans has power again
Today is Friday. Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. New Orleans is "showing signs of making a comeback" in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, as Bourbon street supply trucks are delivering beer and the landmark Cafe Du Monde is once again serving beignets, The Associated Press (AP) reported. But while most people in NewNew Orleans is "showing signs of making a comeback" in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, as Bourbon street supply trucks are delivering beer and the landmark Cafe Du Monde is once again serving beignets, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Of those who stayed, 26 died.
"No one fled this killer storm because they were looking for a vacation or a road trip," President Biden said in his post-Ida speech.
But others decided to stay and ride out the storm, as some residents of New Orleans had done as Hurricane Katrina approached in August 2005. One of those people was Mousa Hamdan.
Hamdan in is the president of Jet Life Recordings, an independent record label based in New Orleans. He has lived in the city since he was a boy.
"This is our second time seeing this type of storm," he told Newsweek. He described the experience as "12 to 16 hours of fear."
"The most memorable thing for Hurricane Ida is the amount of wind," Hamdan said. "I remember stepping out on the porch in the middle of the storm. You hear this whistling sound, the rain was just pounding, and the sky was so dark that you could not see."
Once the hurricane passed, his community was left to recover. Recognizing the need, he helped to organize We're Fueling the City, a week-long event where free food and gasoline were given out.
In just a few days, organizers and volunteers had given away more than 1,200 gallons of gas and served some 2,000 meals to those in need.
Ida deals new blow to Louisiana schools struggling to reopen
Tara Williams’ three little boys run shirtless, because most of their clothes were swept away, and they stack milk crates beneath a blazing sun because their toys are all gone too. Their apartment is barely more than a door dangling from a frame, the roof obliterated, most everything in it lost. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2021 file photo, Aiden Locobon, left, and Rogelio Paredes look through the remnants of their family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Dulac, La.
Hamdan had a simple description for his efforts and those of his fellow volunteers.
"We're just letting people know that there are others out there trying to help," he said.
As local leaders organize to provide community support, other stakeholders take on the critical challenges facing the city's infrastructure.
"Over about 10 years, every parish in Louisiana had a disaster declaration because of flooding," Cochran said. "It affects every development decision, investment, and insurance decision. It is at the heart of thinking about living at any level."
The city is bolstered by both natural and manmade defenses. Towards its southeastern border lies a natural "line of defense," consisting of marshes, shelves, barrier islands and forests. Closer to the city are artificial defenses, including flood walls, highways, railroads and levees.
For much of its history, these regional barriers mitigated the damage of severe weather events. But as the population grew, practices like swampland drainage, groundwater pumping and levee building on the Mississippi River became more prevalent. Over time, this led to subsidence, a gradual sinking of the land.
New Orleans loses 1-2 inches of elevation and between 10-30 square miles of marsh each year, while neighboring sea levels continue to rise. Both natural and artificial defenses are compromised as climate change intensifies, placing the city in an increasingly vulnerable position.
Lawmakers: Ida damage shows need for infrastructure upgrades
WASHINGTON (AP) — Shaken by haunting images of surging rivers, flooded roads and subways and other damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, lawmakers from both parties are vowing to upgrade the nation's aging infrastructure network. As the deadly storm moved from the Gulf Coast through the Northeast, members of Congress said the deluge offered irrefutable evidence that power lines, roads, bridges and other infrastructure are deteriorating even as storms and other extreme weather are strengthening.
In response, solutions such as the Coastal Master Plan have come to the forefront.
Initiated in 2005 with statewide support, the Coastal Master Plan provides a long-term blueprint for coastal protection, restoration, and flood risk reduction projects across Louisiana's coast.
It includes diverse strategies like structural risk reductions, sediment diversions, and ridge restoration to address the threat of massive land loss. Cochran, who also serves as director of Restore the Mississippi River Delta, emphasizes the importance of using the natural ecosystem for protection.
"A big aspect of the plan is rebuilding those multiple lines of defense, putting back in systems that can not only be built but can also be sustained," he said.
The main goal of these projects is to mitigate the risks of a changing climate. Experts project these efforts can reduce the destructive effects of storm surges, revitalize essential ecosystems, and recover some of the land that have been lost.
"Under our very best circumstances, with all the resources that we might aspire to, we're still going to lose some additional land across the coast," Cochran said, "but it won't be anything of what it would be if we weren't taking action."
Alongside conversations on land restoration are those concerning real estate development. Stakeholders have created a vision of "sustainable real estate," which is characterized by the resilient construction of homes, intelligent zoning laws, and a reduced environmental footprint.
Opinion: We must address inequality to build back better from disasters
Just weeks after powerful Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana, Jay Balagna and Aaron Clark-Ginsberg write on the real meaning of "building back better" in the embattled southern state, which has seen six major storms in a year.Louisiana and its neighbors have been hammered by storm after storm, with a total of five storms just last year, including one as powerful as Hurricane Ida, all while dealing with a devastating Covid-19 outbreak. And with many seeking public shelter, there is danger the Covid-19 pandemic will only intensify in Ida's aftermath. Communities in the region can't catch their breath.
"It can speak to both environmental and social sustainability," said Keenan, who teaches an Advanced Sustainable Real Estate class. "Sustainable Real Estate relates to low-impact, environmentally friendly real estate that is affordable and accessible."
"[New Orleans] is going to have to zone and densify the highest elevation areas," Keenan said, "concentrate a lot of infrastructure investments in the areas that are most defensible in the long-term."
Real estate development has contributed to a major increase in local housing prices since Hurricane Katrina. Prices in historical neighborhoods, closer to the city-center, have risen as high as 60%. Simultaneously, the value of properties in the surrounding neighborhoods and counties has remained stagnant or even decreased.
As local infrastructure investments increase, so does the value of renovated and low-risk properties protected by that infrastructure. This has dramatically reduced the availability of affordable housing in the heart of New Orleans.
"There's a certain paradox, "Keenan said. "When you look at a city as economically unequal and poor as New Orleans, there's only so much that you can pass on to taxpayers and ratepayers. You could invest billions into the energy grid, but that means your utility bills are going to go up, and there's a lot of people who could barely afford to pay."
This leads to gentrification, and the loss of even more affordable housing.
"The more houses that get damaged, the more families looking for new homes," Hamdan said. "So what happens is, all the people that are looking for new homes drive up the cost of living and rental properties. It's forcing people out without putting them out physically. It's forcing them out financially."
Stakeholders at all levels acknowledge the inequality. President Biden referred to it during his visit, vowing to "make sure this relief is equitable for those hardest hit, no matter who you are."
Official responsibility for climate change preparation is dispersed between local, state, and federal stakeholders. But there are serious organizational and operational weaknesses in the system.
"There is no decision-making in place that makes sure local communities have a say in what happens with their communities, where they go," Cochran said, "so we're going to have to make all that up."
He said finding successful solutions will require cooperation on all levels.
"Systems are going to have to recognize the value that people give to their home, their culture and their community along these coasts," Cochran said. "Not just pick people up and move them, but figure out how to do that in a way that honors those things as much as possible and lets people be a part of the decision making."
Hamdan said the key to a sustainable rebuilding of New Orleans starts with its residents.
"The more of the original New Orleanian people who stay," he said, "the more the culture will be able to sustain down here."
A hurricane-hardened city coping 'the New Orleans way' .
NEW ORLEANS. (AP) — Shrimp and grits served for breakfast on the sidewalk at El Pavo Real. “Super Secret” seasoned pork and braised greens handed out at the door of the Live Oak Café. Spicy jambalaya dished out under a canopy erected on the empty sun-scorched streetcar tracks by a couple who just wanted to help. The hearty fare is being served up from neighbor to neighbor, free for the asking and badly needed in a city where the lunchtime conversation topic is often the dinner menu and where camaraderie flourishes over Monday plates of rice and beans.In New Orleans, food is just one of the many ways that residents help each other during hard times.