Katrina versus Isaac

by Arturo Garcia Sierra

MCT Campus

Hurricane Katrina survivor and San Diego State Director of the Office of Intercultural Relations and Cross Cultural Center, Dr. Tanis Starck recently assessed the post-Katrina preparedness of Louisiana’s population.

By Aug. 30, nearly two days after Hurricane Isaac invaded the shore of Louisiana, Associated Press reported two deaths. One was a man who fell 18 feet from a tree he had climbed, the other a truck driver who died when his vehicle was hit by a fallen tree in Picayune, Miss. In addition, 29 deaths in Haiti and the Dominican Republic were reported. The reported deaths from Katrina were 1,836, a figure which Starck remains skeptical about.

Last Friday, Aug. 31, Isaac’s death toll rose to at least seven – five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi. It was reported the power was out for more than half a million homes and businesses. The estimated storm damage could surpass $2 billion. By comparison, Katrina’s damages cost $110 billion, hitting ground as a Category 4, but ending in Cat- egory 5, the most disastrous type of hurricane.

Isaac traveled as a Category 1, but was downgraded to a tropical storm before it landed offshore on Aug. 29.

“A relief, not so much,” Stark said of the relegation because, despite Isaac’s category downgrade, people were still without electric- ity and damage had already been done.

In 2005, Starck was working at Tulane University in New Or- leans. Three months before Ka- trina struck, she and her husband had evacuated because of another hurricane. Hurricane season, which lastsfrom June through November, is a period of frequent and costly evacuations for New Orleanians. “$800 every year, multiple times,” Starck said.

In her book, “And Her Name was Katrina: Life After the Storm” Starck collected testimonials from Katrina victims, addressed information about the hurricane and its aftermath, some of which she said was not reported by popular media, and narrated her experience of los- ing her belongings, including her home.

Starck highlighted issues with insurance companies in the Katrina resolution. She said the home damage of many Katrina victims was not covered by their respective insurance companies. Filing damage claims turned into a game of what-caused-what when the home owners were asked if damage was caused by either water or wind, she said. Starck said almost no company covers both. Inevitably, both forces had to have caused separate destruction to different parts of the homes, leaving the victims with a half-covered or not-covered home damage.

Starck also said Hurricane Isaac was handled differently, which was an outcome of the errors conducted in Katrina’s aftermath.

“People were not caught off- guard,” Starck said. “They left earlier and there was not as much panic.”

In regards to the authorities’ response, Starck said the choice not to reopen the Superdome for shelter was positive. She noted acts of rape and beatings to have occurred at the overpopulated arena during Katrina’s evacuation.

Andre Mayer for CBS news said that the number of trained disaster volunteers and updated communica- tion is a huge improvement. Mayer said that if these changes would have been implemented earlier, the outcome of Hurricane Katrina would have been different.