How not to rebuild – a New Orleans guide

You live in an area where your home is actually below sea level. Your government ignores necessary standard maintainance care for levees for years and performs sub-par repairs when doing any work on them. Your government ignores studies showing the catastrophic damage possible from an exceptionally powerful hurricane. Said hurricane hits, destroys massive amounts of the city, leaves your home flooded and worthless or washed away. You are away for 12 months and more, until finally one day, you find out you are eligible for federal reconstruction funds, so you decide to move back to the city you left and rebuild your home. At this point, what’s the smartest thing to do? Why, rebuild in the same area with the same kind of house and hope for the best.

By ones and twos, homeowners here are reinhabiting neighborhoods, even the most devastated ones, and many view their return as a triumph over adversity.

But experts involved in the rebuilding believe that the helter-skelter return of residents to this low-lying metropolis may represent another potential disaster.

After Katrina, teams of planners recommended that broad swaths of vulnerable neighborhoods be abandoned. Yet all areas of the city have at least some residents beginning to rebuild. With billions of dollars in federal relief for homeowners trickling in, more people are expected to follow.

Moreover, while new federal guidelines call for raising houses to reduce the damage of future floods, most returning homeowners do not have to comply or are finding ways around the costly requirement, according to city officials.

In case you didn’t get it from my sarcastic end-of-paragraph sentence above and don’t fully comprehend the article, lemme ‘splain. People are returning to the same neighborhoods that after hurricane Katrina hit made us all think “Maybe people shouldn’t build houses beneath the ocean’s lowest level if they return.” But many people are rebuilding there, 20 feet underwater, kept dry only by the levees that failed them once before. Now, nicer people than I will defend them and call them brave or courageous. I’m not nice though. I’ll call it straight for you – these people are stupid. When the next disaster hits, they’ll be crying on TV about “…losing everything, again, for the 2nd time even…” and all the nation will weep for them. Except for me, because I am an ass. I’ll just point out how they should have learned the first time.

New Orleans got away with having a massive portion of its population live underwater for 100 years because of some really cool, really big, really strong walls that kept out the water along with pumps that drained whatever got into the protected zone. But last year, due to neglect, ignorance, and stupidity by many people, those walls failed. I don’t fault anyone who was devestated by the disaster, as so many things were wrong with the situation that it was easy to fail to see the problem. Now, we should know better. But many people don’t.

Somewhere, I am sure there is someone saying “You may be awesome and brilliant, Mr. Blahgmeister, but you’re wrong here. These people aren’t doing this” or “There are plans in place to keep this from happening again.” Well, there are people doing this:

“There are areas where it doesn’t make any sense to rebuild — they got 20 feet of water in Katrina,” said Tom Murphy, a former Pittsburgh mayor who served on an Urban Land Institute panel for post-Katrina planning. “In those places, nature is talking to us, and we ought to be listening. I don’t think we are.”

A map of building permits in Orleans Parish, created by GCR & Associates, a New Orleans firm involved in the rebuilding, shows renovations distributed throughout the city’s low-lying areas. A similar phenomenon is underway in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, which was even more devastated by the storm.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin (D) so far has favored allowing evacuees to inhabit their old neighborhoods as they wish.

And the leader of the stupid parade is the same moron who claimed he wanted to make chocolate in the city or something like that. Some smart people are saying “Don’t build there again.” Some stupid people are saying “We’ll take care of you this time – it won’t happen again.” One thing I’ve learned in my years of being awesome is that while sometimes the smart people will be wrong and you’ll get screwed by listening to them, you win far more than you lose if you always bet on what the smart people say when they have sound reasoning to back them. So please, if you know someone in New Orleans, beg them not to build in a neighborhood that is 20 feet below sea level. And if they can’t afford to build anywhere else, try to get them to just go elsewhere.

This will happen again. It might be 100 years, it might be in the next 12 months. I don’t know when, but I understand how the government works well enough. I know that money for maintaining the levees and pumps may be properly managed and wisely used for a few years while the disaster is fresh in our minds, but five or ten years from now, a government official will think “No one will miss a couple million dollars this year. We can just cut corners a little and make it up next year.” From then on, there will be little cut after little cut, until the levees fail and people get killed or destroyed financially again.

[tags]New Orleans residents return and rebuild in flooded zones – stupid?, Rebuilding New Orleans in the same vulnerable areas – WTF?[/tags]