Louisiana residents are in hot water when it comes to hurricane risk. Located near the warm waters of the Gulf, Louisiana faces an ever-present risk of tropical storms and hurricanes and the devastating effects of torrential rains, high winds and storm surge. Warm Gulf waters feed these storms and allow them to grow; this is why the Gulf Coast has experienced 40 major hurricanes since 1900. In 2001, Allison was just a tropical storm when it drenched Southwest Louisiana, causing severe flooding. In 2003, tropical storm Bill produced hurricane-like storm surge in western Plaquemines Parish, where miles of wetland buffer were lost. Then, in 2005, the “wicked sisters” -- hurricanes Rita and Katrina -- hit the state with the full battery of hurricane threats: towering storm surge, 135-mile-per-hour winds and extensive flooding that was worsened by massive failure of the levee systems. The effects of these two storms, which landed in Louisiana just three weeks apart, were staggering, costly and deadly. Almost 1,700 people died in the storms -- 1,100 of those were in Louisiana, and 135 Louisiana residents were still missing a year later. About 123,000 homes and 83,000 rental properties in South Louisiana were destroyed or severely damaged by high winds and flooding, and more than 750,000 people were displaced because their homes were uninhabitable. Many are still struggling to recover from these catastrophic structural, financial and emotional losses. Returning to normal after a hurricane is difficult, and depending on the degree of damage people experienced, “normal” may never again mean what it did before. For many Louisiana residents, the chaos, devastation and recovery from the 2005 hurricanes are a living nightmare. The security of “home” receded with the flood waters, and familiar comforts such as chatting with neighbors on the front porch are but distant memories. Even scarier is that hurricanes like Katrina and Rita can occur again—packing an even greater punch—anywhere, any time along the coast. There is no real "rest" from hurricanes; the chance of their occurring persists year after year.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture