Friday, August 28, 2015

Katrina disaster exacerbated by governmental provincialism

Ten years ago tonight, the National Weather Service issued a dire warning: a major hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans and "devastating damage" was expected. Hurricane Katrina ended up being the deadliest hurricane to hit the United States in more than 75 years and became the costliest hurricane in history, in terms of monetary damage. The effects — both physical and social — of the storm are still being felt today. 

Katrina satellite image

But as deadly as the storm was, many deaths and much suffering occurred in the days after landfall as a near-total breakdown of public safety happened because officials, in various cases, either deferred making decisions about who was in charge or took charge without considering they were the best ones to take such actions.

Summary: When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans a decade ago, a significant breakdown in intergovernmental cooperation contributed to a humanitarian disaster. The most-vulnerable part of New Orleans’ population suffered a failure of the most-basic social services or even death because they relied on an unprepared local government to preserve their well-being. A simple pre-existing arrangement to defer traditional municipal responsibilities to those best suited to implement them might have mitigated the City of New Orleans’ 2005 failures and may be key to preventing their recurrence in a similar disaster.