Arguably, the hundreds of thousands of people who left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in August 2005 can be called America’s first major wave of climate change refugees. Half the world’s population lives on or near a seacoast, making rising water levels, like those that contributed to the devastation of “the Big Easy” 10 years ago, a huge concern.
New Orleans shares the challenges of many of the world’s most vulnerable cities. Much of it is below sea level, and it has already had more than its share of major floods. As the city recovers from Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans is being done in a safe, sustainable, and affordable way.
The storm surge from Katrina was more than the city’s levees could handle. More than 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. The storm killed more than 1,800 people, did $75 billion worth of damage, and left more than 100,000 people homeless.
City planners know another major flood event is coming. Here are some more ways they are preparing for it:
- Relocating homes in low-lying areas to higher ground.
- Converting unused lands into parks and urban farms that create natural flood-control systems while also providing the community with recreation areas and local food sources.
- Reviving coastal wetlands, which act as a buffer against storm surges and absorb flooding.
- Developing a huge storm-surge barrier in front of the city, as well as renewing dikes and levees.
- Diverting flood waters away from populated areas.
- Improving storm tracking and warning systems, and implementing better emergency response and recovery plans.