Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evacuation incentive

A mandatory evacuation of New Orleans has been ordered by the mayor. The predicted path of Hurricane Gustav has it coming ashore in the New Orleans vicinity.

Even assuming minimal storm damage, a mandatory evacuation following so closely on the heels of Katrina surely wears thin on residents still struggling to rebuild. This hurricane drives home the point that living "in the path of nature" carries additional costs.

Living in North Carolina, the threat of a hurricane and evacuation is everpresent. But you notice that our state is well prepared. North Carolina understands that a major storm may hit, and carefully plans evacuations. Our outer banks are popular beaches, but are almost instantly cut off in the event of a storm surge or bridge washout. Developing storm plans was a necessity. As a result, our storm costs have long been factored in at the state and local levels: insurance rates, development codes, and state infrastructure projects. Florida shines as a stellar example of hurricane preparedness, outshining us. Florida learned lessons with Andrew, if not before.

In contrast, New Orleans relies heavily on federal funds simply for its continued existence. Federally-funded engineering works (levees, canals) and constant pumping are the only reasons why New Orleans is not underwater right now. Further, the city is sinking. (Note: the article is from 2001, pre-Katrina, and begins with this line: "The surge of a Category 5 storm could put New Orleans under 18 ft. of water.")

At some point, I hope the rest of the country (via our Congressmen) will push back, and force those who want to stay in New Orleans to bear the costs themselves. There is nothing wrong with living in extreme locations — as long as you don't expect others to pick up the above-average costs that are inevitably incurred.

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