Thursday, August 31, 2006

Katrina: One Year Later

The past couple of days have seen a burst of commentary and reportage on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

In the Washington Post business section, for instance, one article looked at how Katrina has affected insurance providers and buyers of insurance policies:

Struggles ... are going on across the Gulf Coast, where more than a million policyholders have turned to their insurers for payment on homeowner's, commercial and other insurance claims. Battles over claims have clogged state and federal courts here and spilled into state legislatures.

Reeling from the scale of the disaster, most carriers have stopped writing new policies along the Gulf of Mexico, forcing policyholders into state-backed insurers of last resort. Earlier this summer, Allstate Insurance Co. of Northbrook, Ill., tried to renounce wind and hail coverage on 30,000 existing policies in Louisiana, a move it is reconsidering after the state insurance commissioner threatened legal action. Rates, meanwhile, are soaring. In Mississippi, the state-backed insurer of last resort asked this year for rate increases of nearly 400 percent, an amount that Insurance Commissioner George Dale cut to 90 percent.

Another article in the Post's national news section reported on the solemn commemoration of the hurricane's victims, attended by President Bush and other dignitaries in New Orleans:
Church bells pealed at 9:38 a.m. here Tuesday, the moment floodwaters breached the city's levees a year ago, as the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina cast a funereal pall over this half-empty city.

On his 13th trip to the Gulf Coast since the storm, President Bush joined residents in commemorating the losses with a particularly New Orleans flavor. Local dignitaries, emergency workers and politicians wended their way from the Convention Center to the Louisiana Superdome in a traditional jazz funeral procession, while during a remembrance Mass attended by Bush at the St. Louis Cathedral a clarinetist poured out a soulful version of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

The Washington Times, meanwhile, pointed out how the names given to tropical storms have changed in recent years, reflecting more acceptance of the ethnic and linguistic diversity North America, Central America, and the Caribbean:
Ernesto will have a little ethnic company in upcoming years. Humberto, Pablo and Cristobal are on future name rosters for hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic -- not to mention Chantal, Nana, Gaston, Omar and Henri.

"Over the years, the names started out primarily Anglo-Saxon for Atlantic hurricanes. Now they reflect the diversity of the affected regions, with names originating from English, Spanish, French and Dutch, primarily," said Frank Lepore, spokesman for the Florida-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) yesterday.

Roughly a quarter of the 21 official names, which are assigned when weather patterns become tropical storms, have some international underpinnings. The practice has been in place since 1977, when a new "naming protocol" went into operation, Mr. Lepore said. Male names were alternated with female names, and the roster was tweaked to acknowledge other countries.
When Katrina hit last year, I posted three articles related to the story that was dominating headlines and airwaves:

"On the Radio" (September 8) reported how ShipCom, an Alabama-based radio service, had provided emergency frequencies to the Coast Guard and other agencies in the aftermath of the hurricane.

"Pearl of Africa" (also September 8) noted how foreign countries that usually receive U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance were coming to the aid of affected regions along the Gulf Coast. It referred back to Gordon Sinclair's famous radio commentary from the early 1970s, "The Americans: A Canadian's Opinion" for its prescience.

"Everything Old Is New Again" (September 23) allowed me to reach back into my experience as an advocate for civil defense and emergency management in the 1980s to point out that complaints about FEMA's competence are neither recent nor unique.

I will let others comment on what has happened in the intervening 12 months since Katrina made landfall and the levees broke. I invite you, the reader, to take a look at what I wrote last year. Comments, as always, are welcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Katrina coverage is still crazy a year later. Look at the examples at