Touring New Orleans Recovery
President Bush and a new storm threat mark Hurricane Katrina's third anniversary
President George W. Bush gestures as he addresses his remarks Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, at the historic Jackson Barracks in New Orleans, on the recovery of the Gulf Coast region three years after Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: White House/Eric Draper)
UPDATE: New Orleans residents have been ordered to evacuate the city starting Sunday morning, August 31, as Hurricane Gustav makes its way toward Gulf Coast. This is the first mandatory evacuation city officials have ordered since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region just three years ago.
As of Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center had classified the storm as a Category 3 hurricane, with winds of up to 125 miles per hour. Forecasters warned that Gustav could pick up strength later in the day, and believe the hurricane will most likely strike the Gulf Coast on Monday, with winds of up to 73 miles per hour, and possibly stronger.
President George W. Bush made his final trip to New Orleans as a sitting President on August 19. This was his 13th visit since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast close to three years ago.
While in New Orleans, President Bush spoke about the recovery effort in the region.
"It's hard to believe that three years ago that Katrina, in essence, wiped out a lot of this city," the President said. "Eight hundred thousand people around the Gulf Coast area left their homes. Never before has our nation seen such destruction by nature."
In the wake of such destruction, President Bush pointed out that the people in the region have come together to rebuild.
"I think the message here is: Hope is being restored. Hope is coming back. [But] there's still work to be done. I think it's important to take stock of the moment and remind people how far this community has come."
President Bush spoke to an audience of around 600 people. It was made up of local and state political officials and some outstanding local citizens. One of those in attendance was Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. (Counties in Louisiana are called parishes. Jefferson Parish is the one next to New Orleans.)
"We have a long way to go in the recovery of our region," Broussard said. "It is always good when the President visits the area because it brings national attention to our issues."
The President finished his speech by pointing out the many accomplishments the community as a whole and the many volunteers from around the country have made in helping New Orleans recover. He also drew attention to the millions of taxpayer dollars that have gone into rebuilding the area.
"A lot of people around the country care deeply about the people down here," the President said. "And so it is—you know, it was money that we were happy to spend."
A New Storm Gathers
Not all of the commemorations of the third anniversary of Katrina are welcome, though. Another tropical storm is headed toward New Orleans.
Tropical Storm Gustav is being watched closely as it strengthens in the waters of the Caribbean. Jamaica is in its immediate path, but what happens after Gustav hits Jamaica is still not certain.
One projection puts New Orleans and other Gulf coast regions directly in Gustav's path. Gustav could hit the Gulf Coast by Monday. But another projection has Gustav missing the area entirely. Where Gustav goes—and how strong it will be—depends on what happens to it in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Katrina moved into the Gulf in August 2005, it was a Category-1 hurricane, meaning it had sustained winds of 74-95 miles per hour. But after moving over the warm waters of the Gulf, it strengthened quickly to a Category-5 hurricane, with winds topping 175 miles per hour.
That recent history isn't lost on officials in New Orleans. They are considering evacuating the city in advance of Gustav. It would be the first hurricane evacuation in New Orleans since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the city three years ago.
"It's still too early to tell exactly what it's going to do," Jerry Sneed, the emergency preparedness director in New Orleans, said.
Already, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency and has mobilized 3,000 National Guard troops. Evacuations could begin as early as Friday, depending on the strength of the storm and its location. But Jindal was quick to say that there would be no "shelters of last resort," like the Superdome.
"Our state is better prepared than it has been before to respond to a major disaster," Jindal said. "But I want to emphasize that our citizens have a personal responsibility."
If Gustav becomes a Category-3 storm (111-130 miles per hour) or stronger, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin would order a mandatory evacuation. Nagin said that New Orleans still isn't fully recovered, despite the progress President Bush touted on August 19.
"Although we have made strong strides in rebuilding our infrastructure, the levees have not been fully repaired, and we have an $800 million budget gap to complete our sewage and water systems," Nagin said.
Watch video from New Orleans shot on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Read today’s story and answer the following question.
|It has been three years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. There has been progress in rebuilding New Orleans, but there's still a lot of work to do. Now, a new storm, Tropical Storm Gustav, might hit the area and cause more problems and hardships. Has the country done enough to help New Orleans since Katrina? Why or why not? How should the country help New Orleans if Gustav destroys more of the city?|
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Abigayle Lista is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.