Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

A year after Hurricane Katrina hammered the U.S. Gulf Coast and spurred massive flooding in New Orleans, the ecological impacts are still being felt throughout the region.

In particular, human-driven coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion—issues that have long been damaging the region's natural storm buffers—were made worse by the powerful hurricane.

The flooding in New Orleans that began on August 30, 2005, "was really an unnatural disaster," said John Day, a distinguished professor emeritus at the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of the Coast and Environment in Baton Rouge.

"We spent the last century doing almost everything we could to destroy our coast in all sorts of ways—putting levees on the Mississippi River, slicing thousands of kilometers of canals, massive oil and gas production."

For example, Day says, the canals that connect the city to the coast allow storm surges to travel inland, bringing salt water that damages the land.

One such canal, known as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, was built in the mid-1960s to be a 76-mile (122-kilometer) shortcut between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans.

Hailed as an engineering marvel at the time, the canal is rarely used today.

Before the record hurricane season of 2005, salt water brought inland by the canal was fingered as the culprit in the death of thousands of acres of cypress swamp, a natural buffer against storms.

And when Katrina hit, levee failures on the canal allowed water to pour into St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans East.

"Had those cypress swamps been in place, the levees probably wouldn't have failed," Day said.

Check out the article at National Geographic News.

Also check out this article at Fox News.

Now is a good time to reflect on all of the people who have lost their lives or whose lives were forever altered by this terrible force of nature.

Maybe one day we'll have the ability to develop hurricane-proof technology. In the meantime, we'll just have to rebuild smarter. We will also have to re-engineer the environment that we have spent the last 100 years destroying... see this article at Discovery News for more information.

Check out my previous Katrina posts: Katrina3, Katrina2 and Katrina1.

Here are a couple of good Hurricane Katrina links: CNN Katrina Special Report and Katrina.com.

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