This heartwrenching (in light of current events) National Geographic article from October of 2004 was stunningly prescient in it’s description of a — at the time, still fictional — hurricane hit on the coast of Louisiana. The recent protestations from FEMA, DHS, and the White House ring hollow when it’s so obvious that many people know if the dangers, and were quite vocal about what needed to be done to prepare.
Such high stakes compelled a host of unlikely bedfellows?scientists, environmental groups, business leaders, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?to forge a radical plan to protect what’s left. Drafted by the Corps a year ago, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) project was initially estimated to cost up to 14 billion dollars over 30 years, almost twice as much as current efforts to save the Everglades. But the Bush Administration balked at the price tag, supporting instead a plan to spend up to two billion dollars over the next ten years to fund the most promising projects. Either way, Congress must authorize the money before work can begin.
“The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours?coming from the worst direction,” says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast. Suhayda is sitting in a lakefront restaurant on an actual August afternoon sipping lemonade and talking about the chinks in the city’s hurricane armor. “I don’t think people realize how precarious we are,”
Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. “Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it’s going to make things much worse.”