Isaac has hit Louisiana one day shy of the 7th anniversary of hurricane Katrina. I've been thinking about that earlier storm a lot lately. I'm preparing a talk on medical care during natural disasters and I'm using Katrina as a focal point. I've been looking through my collection of hurricane Katrina pictures and thinking about the lessons we learned from her.
Now I have a team on standby to be deployed to the Gulf Coast if necessary for Isaac. This much smaller storm is creating quite a stir. When Katrina was approaching New Orleans, folks didn't really think it was that big of a deal. The Gulf is known for throwing hurricanes at southern states and this was just one of the same.
Then the levees broke.
What I think Katrina did for us (she did plenty against us) was to point out the need for people living on the coastline to get ready before a hurricane strikes. I suppose -- and I say this from the middle of earthquake country, where we don't even get warnings -- it's easy to become complacent. After a few cries of "Wolf! Wolf!" it may seem like we are pretty impenetrable. Our modern ways are too sophisticated for Mother Nature.
Along with the theme of crying wolf, Isaac is a category 1 hurricane. Compared to Katrina, that's nothing. Indeed, Isaac barely made it to hurricane status before striking New Orleans. Yet, unlike Katrina, there is an abundance of resources in place to keep folks safe from Isaac's wrath. It's a combination of lessons learned and fear of bad press.
Unfortunately, overreacting to a hurricane threat is almost as bad as underreacting. Too many emergency declarations simply become white noise after a while. Then, when the stuff is truly hitting the fan, nobody listens. Now, as the power goes out for 100,000 people and some aren't really ready, the stuff is stinky and the fan is Isaac.
Image (c) Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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