Amanda Ripley

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Gustav: The Ghost of Katrinas Past

30th Aug 2008 posted in Disaster Behavior

Gustav is churning through the Cayman Islands today, just in time for the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It’s already clear that Gustav will be a serious hurricane when it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast late Monday or early Tuesday. Right now, it sure looks like it’s aiming for Louisiana, just like old times—although it could smack down anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to South Texas.

Other than that, Gustav feels a lot different from Katrina so far. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has been in Baton Rouge since Thursday. FEMA has been filling my inbox with eager beaver press releases and teleconference alerts. And Louisiana’s new governor, Bobby Jindal, seems to be in close touch with the locals in New Orleans and the feds in Washington.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is still around (the more things change…), but this time he is saying he will probably call for a mandatory evacuation as early as Saturday morning—which would be a day before he did the same thing in advance of Katrina. This time, there is a plan for evacuating people who don’t have a way out of the city. And the Army Corps of Engineers is saying the city is better protected from flooding than it was three years ago. (But only barely.)

It’s worth remembering, though, that Katrina was only a Category 3 hurricane. And it did not directly hit New Orleans. So even though it may feel like the Gulf Coast has already seen the worst possible scenario, it just ain’t so. Here’s hoping Gustav is a friendly ghost.