Monday, September 10, 2012

Hurricane Recovery in the Lower Mississippi Delta

I have been poring over news reports trying to gauge the pace of recovery in the lower Mississippi Delta. Hurricane Isaac passed directly over the area, and every town suffered flooding and wind damage, but the situation is much worse in areas where the levees failed. Main highways are still covered with water two weeks later making it difficult for anyone to get in and out.

The biggest obstacle at this point is the lack of electricity. Thousands of power poles were snapped off or pulled loose by hurricane winds. In many areas the path of the power lines is covered by water, making it difficult to put new poles in place. Initial estimates were that electricity would be restored by January. More recent estimates would put power back on for most customers by October.

Restoring electricity will speed up the process of pumping water out. With flood water removed and the main roads open again, the main work of restoration can begin. That could be October or November. To make the recovery process more civilized, safe drinking water will probably be restored in most areas by December. Obviously, the first steps are the most difficult, but life will not be fully back to normal anytime soon.

One reason I keep track is that the hurricane missed New Orleans by barely five miles. If Hurricane Isaac had come ashore one hour earlier, we would be asking how long it would take to pump flood waters out of a major city. New Orleans has never taken a direct hit from a hurricane since it became a city, but that is a disaster that, statistically, is certain to happen eventually.