One year after Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana and
Mississippi, the rebuilding continues. It was neither the strongest
nor the deadliest U.S. storm. Hurricane Camille, which passed over
the same region in 1969, packed stronger sustained winds when it
made landfall, as did Carla in 1961, Frederic in 1979, Andrew in
1992, Opal in 1995, and Ivan and Charley in 2004. And the death
toll of 8,000 from the Galveston hurricane of 1900 has yet
(thankfully) to be eclipsed.
Still, none of that detracts from the impact of Katrina.
No description can capture the extent of Katrina's destruction. It
encompasses the annihilation of an entire coastline and the
transformation of far more lives than the 1,836 lost. The entire
face of a renowned city has been forever altered, and the "easy"
way of life that defined the region has been rubbed out, at least
for the foreseeable future. No doubt, volumes will be written for
ages about the changes this one storm has had on the personal,
political, economic, and cultural domains that thread through every
facet of the American experience.
The big question we live with in Katrina's wake is how many more
like it will come?
By the time this issue makes it off the press and into the mail, we
will be into the height of the 2006 hurricane season. The chances
during August and September of another major tropical storm making
landfall on the Atlantic or Gulf seaboards will be as high as it
can get for the year. Yet even if some unnamed depression brewing
off the coast of Africa should mount to a great storm before this
issue falls into your hands, I'm willing to wager that it won't
obscure the impact of Katrina.
Don't read too much into that prediction. It's more of an appeal:
Let's never forget this storm. Rather, with unfaltering respect for
the lives that ended and those that were upended by that powerful
storm, let's continue to learn from its lessons. Most of all, let's
learn from the scores of professionals dedicated to building better
who have become keen students of Katrina. There will be other
storms, some as great. But if we apply the lessons of Katrina, none
will ever be so destructive. — Clayton DeKorne