Hurricaneville is offering some analysis on the relief effort in the wake of the death and devastation from Hurricane Katrina. This storm, which was at one point a Category Five Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 175 mph, and the fourth lowest pressure of all time with 902 mb, or 26.64 inches of Hg, may go down as both the costliest and one of the most deadliest natural disaster in United States History. As of the time of this analysis, Katrina had left some 1,325 people dead along the Gulf Coast and between $50 to $60 billion dollars in damage.
The cost may go even higher with some estimates reaching as high as $200 billion dollars. Families are returning to find not only their homes and belongings gone, but also dead family members still not accounted for. Katrina went down as one of a record three Cat Five storms (Rita and Wilma) to occur in 2005, which was the first time that had ever happened. The government's poor reaction to Katrina caused a tremendous backlash against the Bush Administration. Meanwhile, responses to Rita and Wilma have not been so good either. The aftermath of these three storms have clearly pointed out that the United States isn't equipped to handle a large scale disaster whether it is natural, or man-made.
While it is true that Hurricane Katrina was indeed a catastrophic storm that devastated a wide area of the Gulf Coast of the United States, the fact that families are now coming home to find decomposing remains of loved ones that not only couldn't be rescued, but also recovered by relief agencies of the United States government is inexcusable. It has been almost three months since Katrina came ashore with its powerful winds, heavy rains, and record breaking storm surge, and much of the flood waters have receeded. As a matter of fact, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, had called for a project that would have residents return to the city less than a month after the monster hurricane left the city in nearly complete ruin.
Despite the changes made in the wake of the storm, and the numerous opportunities the agency had to redeem itself after Ophelia, Rita, and Wilma, it still appears that FEMA continues to fail the people it is supposed to help, the coastal residents of the United States affected by the recent rash of storms in 2005. Katrina, which has been nominated for Time's Person of the Year by news personalities such as Brian Williams of NBC's Nightly News, and CNN's Anderson Cooper, who recently replaced Aaron Brown in the 10 PM prime time slot, is a storm much like Hurricane Andrew in the sense that it will take a long time to recover from it, but this latest report of bodies not being recovered by authorities one month after the official search for dead had ended in addition to the discovery of a horrendous stream of e-mails sent out by former FEMA head, Mike Brown while Katrina was ravaging the Gulf Coast from Mobile to Biloxi to New Orleans, is simply outrageous.
The fact that families are recovering the decomposing bodies of loved ones is just another blow that these people have to endure in the wake of this dreadful storm. It is also another example of how their government has failed them. One gets the feeling that perhaps those in the Bush Administration were hoping that the bulldozers in Louisiana and Mississippi would be like a broom, and sweep these dead people under the rug so that the number of dead wouldn't be as high. Nobody in the current government wants to be remembered for being at the helm during the deadliest disaster the country has seen in over the last 50 years. The media covering the White House has repeatedly mentioned over the course of George W. Bush's tenure that he was determined not to repeat his father's mistakes. However, the son apparently didn't learn from the father's grave error in mishandling the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida, and it has contributed to the son's plummeting poll numbers.
One similarity to the controversies of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and the Long Island Express of 1938, was the fact that it hasn't taken long for this storm to fade from the headlines. Even though you still see commercials by the Red Cross and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton asking for people to give money to help aid disaster victims, the aftermath of Katrina has taken a back seat to new stories such as the selection of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court, the Harriet Miers nomination and her eventual self removal from that process, the mounting death toll in Iraq, riots at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata in Argentina, riots in France, the CIA Leak case, and recent bombings in Jordan. Oh yes, and there were two more devastating hurricanes that hit the U.S. with Rita in September and Wilma in October.
Even the Democrats in Congress have even forgotten. In the days and weeks immediately following the storm's deadly and horrifying impact, leaders such as California congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, and senators Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller, were calling for massive changes in FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. Now, those demands have been replaced with calls for hearings on pre-war intelligence in the wake of the scandal over Valerie Plame and the grand jury indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby. There's even some tumult over the once fairly certain nomination of circuit court judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. The greatest tragedy is not the destruction that came from Katrina, nor the failure to respond immediately and effectively to those in dire need along the Gulf Coast following the storm, but the fact that those in the Gulf are gradually being forgotten by the rest of us.