A year has passed since Hurricane Katrina – one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history – struck the gulf coast. But, as America heads into the peak of another hurricane season, there are signs not all that storm's lessons have been learned.
In the wake of Katrina's devastation, which put 80% of the city of New Orleans under water and claimed an estimated 1,400 lives, there was much talk of how America and the Americans in harm's way could have reacted better. Thousands of evacuees fanned out to distant cities, with other Americans watching their plight on TV screens and debating why some had waited so long to leave, and why basics like food and water took so long to reach those trapped after the flooding came.
By Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Many years ago I had a falling-out with a girlfriend that proved so painful, I can hardly talk about it today. My friend (let's call her Mary) was a colorful television personality and had the world at her feet. She was engaged to a handsome European, and her face was plastered across the newspapers. I was working for 60 Minutes at the time, and we often met for lunch. Then one day her show was canceled and she asked me - casually, as though it didn't really matter...
To find some of the answers, WebMD spoke to Katrina survivors -- and preparedness experts – about how well Americans are prepared to handle the next big storm.
Ready to Evacuate?
A Red Cross survey in May showed that 60% of Americans have no specific evacuation plan. In 2005, 45% said they had a disaster supply kit. This has increased to a little over half now. But 73% have not practiced their family disaster plan and 69% have not set up a place for family to meet if a disaster strikes.
In the hurricane-prone areas, a Harvard study showed that only two-thirds would leave if told to.
Why? Some reasons given for all of these decisions include:
Can't afford to prepare, this stuff costs money
Waste of time
It won't happen to me
Hate the way the administration tries to stir up fear
My home is safer than going on the road
Won't leave my animals
My things would be stolen
View of a Katrina Evacuee
Michael Tisserand was the editor of an alternative paper in New Orleans. His wife is a pediatrician. They have two small children. When Katrina bore down on New Orleans, they left to stay with friends in Illinois. He has blogged his progress for WebMD.
He and his family found themselves living in the child's bedroom of a friend, with their three cats in the bathroom. "A friend who is a therapist," he writes, "suggested we were all learning Zen and how to live in the moment. I wouldn't put it that way. I'd say we were just learning how to beat our heads against the wall and keep on going."