A flood is a flood, regardless of its cause.

This morning, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a decision holding that a flood exclusion in a commercial-property policy applies to damage caused any flood, regardless of whether the flood damage resulted from human negligence (that is, negligence by the Corps of Engineers). This decision reverses the Louisiana Fourth Circuit’s decision rendered last November in the case, and is consistent with the U.S. Fifth Circuit' s decision last August that decided the same legal issue.

A city loses a piece of its soul

The L.A. Times reports:

New Orleans’ black population dropped 57% a year after Hurricane Katrina, while the white population declined 36%, according to an analysis by three demographers of new U.S. census data that confirm the disaster’s disproportionate impact on the city’s racial composition. Billed as the “first full picture” of the mass migration after the hurricane, the analysis also found that New Orleanians displaced to Houston and other cities were more likely to be black, uneducated and poor. By contrast, those who relocated to the city’s suburbs were more likely to be white, educated and well off.

Though many New Orleans leaders had lamented the uneven toll on black citizens when the levees broke and flooded much of the city, demographer William H. Gray of the Brookings Institution, one of the study’s authors, said it was still surprising to see the data show it in such stark terms.


1 Dead in Attic (2d ed.)


If you want to read a first-hand account of the harrowing days in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, then get yourself Chris Rose’s new book, 1 Dead in Attic. Chris is a columnist for the  Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ daily newspaper—he also happens to be my neighbor, one block up Magazine Street. His post-Katrina columns made him a runner-up for a Pulitzer. This book is a collection of those columns.

Actually this book is the second, expanded edition. The first edition, released in early 2006, was self-published—it sold 60,000 copies. This edition, much thicker than the first, is published by an outfit called Simon & Schuster.

New Orleans’ diaspora

The New York Times has a heart-breaking story about the working poor who don’t have the means to return to New Orleans.1 As the story relates, FEMA has located many of them in rural areas, miles and miles from any potential employment — not good when you don’t own a car.

To those of us who have managed to return: let’s not forget these people, our neighbors who, for now, can’t come home. Let’s pray for the changes that will make their homecoming possible, and let’s agitate to make them happen.


1Hat tip to God’s Politics.

We are not okay.

Today the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of a house-to-house survey of people living in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes documents the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the failure to respond quickly and effectively to it on the economic well-being, physical and mental health, and personal lives of the people of the New Orleans area. The result: 81% of respondents have seen the quality of their lives deteriorate in at least one of seven critical aspects of their lives. More than 55% of respondents in the four-parish area and 67% of respondent in New Orleans reported problems in more than one area. The particulars:

  1. 52% in the four-parish area (and 66% in Orleans) reported deterioration in their economic well-being in Katrina’s wake.
  2. 37% of area residents reported severe disruption to personal life, such as being forced out of their homes for a substantial period of time or losing a loved one. [About 99% of New Orleanians were forced out of their homes for a minimum of 6 weeks.]
  3. 36% reported reduced access to health care.
  4. 23% reported that Katrina-related stress affected their marriages, relationships or alcohol use.
  5. 19% reported that their physical health has declined.
  6. 17% reported that they lost a job or had a lower-paying job than they did pre-Katrina.
  7. 16% reported that their mental health deteriorated.

Me, I’ll admit to numbers 2, 3, 4 (increased alcohol use), and 7 (judging by number of visits to a psychiatrist and a therapist). And that comes from someone who’s been relatively blessed.

How it goes for the relatively well off in New Orleans

As I’ve written before, my wife and I have been pretty lucky with this Katrina thing, compared to most of our fellow Orleanians. This week furnishes a fine example: we’ve had a contractor at our house repairing our interior storm damage. The biggest item was the big hole in our bedroom ceiling, formerly covered with plastic sheeting, now gone. There were also various other spots of water damage that have been repaired. Still to do: repainting the bedroom ceiling, the kitchen ceiling, and other repaired spots. Also, we will get rid of the shabby shag carpet upstairs (partially damaged by water intrusion) and re-paint the wooden floors there.

I consider myself lucky because my house, though ugly in spots, has been livable and comfortable since late 2005. Also I had minimal damage compared to most of the city (i.e. no flooding), I haven’t had to fight my insurance company, and in any event I have the cash to make the repairs happen. Nevertheless, it’s taken from October 2005 until April 2007 to complete the repairs. Why? Not enough contractors. The city-wide damage is so massive that it takes someone like me, with money to get the job done, 1½ years to get a relatively small amount of damage fixed.

If you want to know why the recovery is so slow, I can assure you of this: it’s not due to a lack of will on our part. The problem is lack of resources. Trying to repair the damage with the resources available is like trying to fill a lake with a garden hose.

One year back home

One year ago today was my first full day back home after Katrina. Back then, the roof was covered with a blue tarp, an Igloo cooler served as a refrigerator, most restaurants and other businesses had not yet re-opened, and those that had re-opened operated on limited hours. Today, the roof is fixed, the house is re-painted, there's a real refrigerator in the kitchen, traffic is busy on Magazine Street, and my little neighborhood is relatively normal. Most of the city beyond my little neighborhood remains desolate.

One little thing I did today: I moved my prescriptions from a national chain to my neighborhood pharmacy. That's one of the great things about my neighborhood: we have an actual neighborhood pharmacy. We also have a neighborhood hardware store, the kind of place you can go with your broken thingamajig and ask, "Do you have one of these?" and the nice man or nice lady will point you to a a bin full of them. When you pick one up and take it to the counter, they ring up your sale on an adding machine and say, "That'll be 79¢." It almost makes you wish that something around the house would break, just so you'll have an excuse to visit the hardware store.