When we first saw that Hurricane Harvey was going to make landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, most New Orleanians took a deep breath for we knew that whatever short term effects they would feel would give way to a recovery that would take some time to realize.
With the unfortunate experiences we had with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a Category 3 storm, we knew it took many private dollars to be raised, several government line items to be added and many years that would pass before our economy had recovered and for the infrastructure to be restored and replaced.
With more than 1,500 victims, make no mistake that the loss of life was much greater in New Orleans than in Houston, which recorded at least 28 deaths. But Houston and other communities had two things working against them that we in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast did not share. That was the number of hours of destruction.
While the hurricane force winds, storm surge and tropical storm weather stretched out over five and six days, the relentless rain wreaked destruction that rewrote the record books, calculated at 27 trillion gallons of rainwater, enough to fill a three-mile high cube. The volume of water was enough to equal more than nine months worth of the water flow at Niagara Falls. This is almost an unfathomable amount.
So what can we do, especially now that an even more destructive storm – Hurricane Irma – the most destructive Atlantic Ocean storm on record is ready to hammer the entire state of Florida on its predicted path into Georgia and the Carolinas?
We can do what was done for us. We can open our homes to those that need shelter. We can continue to donate through the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, which has organized relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey and soon, we fear, for Hurricane Irma victims.
We cannot forget the favor extended to us by our Texas neighbors in 2005 nor those in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Atlanta who took us in and are now themselves in harm’s way.
And what more can we do? We can pray and hope that the recovery effort in Texas and west Louisiana will continue and that those in harm’s way in Florida weather this storm well.