Katrina Shorthand vs. the Federal Flood: Why This Matters

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Often when people including those in government and the mainstream media who should know better refer to the events of 8/29, it is merely as “Katrina” or “Hurricane Katrina”.

There were actually two catastrophes that happened that day: the storm, which passed to the east of New Orleans, devastating the Mississippi and eastern Louisiana Gulf Coasts, which was a NATURAL disaster, and the falling apart of New Orleans’ federally-built and maintained levees, which was a MANMADE disaster due to poor engineering.

While the use of Katrina as shorthand to cover the two events is easy (I’ve even done that at times) it’s misleading because of the implication that the flooding of New Orleans was a natural disaster. And this matters–more below the fold.

In fact, there is a blog, On Levee Failures & a Weather Event, devoted to finding examples of the use of Katrina shorthand. Its author writes letters to the editor whenever a reporter by referring to “Katrina” seemingly forgets that the flood had been caused by levee breaches in an attempt to set them straight. Because the media often need reminding that the hurricane and the catastrophic engineering failure are two separate events.

And as for government officials here’s an example: Recently Joe Biden compared Georgia’s flooding to “Katrina” when talking to a flood survivor there.

And here’s why this distinction makes a difference. It’s not mere semantics or nit-picking. I prefer the term “Federal Flood,” which the NOLA bloggers use. Whether or not the New Orleans disaster is seen as manmade matters because of the allocation of federal responsibility, not to mention funding. Because if the flood is seen as merely natural, that makes it easy for the federal government to blow off its financial obligations to those who lost homes and businesses. And for the Army Corps of Engineers to do what it’s supposed to be doing here at home instead of being busy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s time for the media, politicians, and other officials to get in the habit of framing the Federal Flood as the MANMADE disaster that it was. Maybe were they to start doing this, the rebuilding of New Orleans’ devastated areas, providing affordable housing for those in the diaspora who want to return but can’t afford to, and above all improving New Orleans’ levees and restoring Louisiana’s coastline would be higher priorities than they are now.