Skip to comments.Louisiana Faces an Exodus From the Coast
Posted on 03/18/2006 4:22:43 PM PST by deport
By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer
LAFITTE, La. - Once the salt water is in your veins, Louisiana's coastal folk say, it's hard to give up the lifestyle of moonlit shrimping trips, the town "fais do-do" dances and afternoons spent on the bayous angling for catfish.
But since last year's catastrophic hurricanes, this swampy land defined by Cajuns, cypress and tupelo gum forests, bayou-side saloons and, more recently, subdivisions may have become too vulnerable for that lifestyle to continue.
Even before the devastation caused by Katrina, Louisiana's swampy coast had been sinking by as much as 2 inches a year. Along with that subsidence, the area is even more susceptible to flooding because last year's hurricanes damaged vast tracts of wetlands already shrinking because of man's activities that used to buffer the area from storms blowing in off the Gulf of Mexico.
All of those factors will be reflected in new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood-vulnerability maps due to be released soon that are the basis for flood insurance rates.
The maps will likely make the insurance more costly, force residents to spend heavily to raise homes out of flood plains to qualify for coverage, make many other homes uninsurable and make lenders less willing to loan money for construction in flood-prone areas.
That new reality may threaten the state's coastal population and its heritage of shrimp fishing, alligator hunting, fur trapping and oyster harvesting.
Some of the roughhewn people down here won't leave willingly.
"You've got earthquakes, you've got fires, you've got volcanoes, you've got tornadoes in tornado alley," said A.J. Fabre, an outspoken leader among shrimp fishermen in Lafitte, about 30 miles south of New Orleans. "Where are you going to have everybody? In Missouri?"
Nearly every house in the area, most of them built on slabs, was flooded by Hurricane Rita. Now, families live in trailers as they rebuild.
"It's a quiet community. Virtually no crime. Kids steal a couple of bicycles," Fabre says.
But the future is gloomy. Fabre's place, a small brick house he inherited from his grandfather, has been condemned because of wind and flood damage. The only thing left of a shrimp processing plant there is a concrete slab, and the old family dock is barnacled, broken and useless.
With no flood insurance, Fabre isn't sure if he'll be able to rebuild. He and his wife might have to demolish the place and buy a mobile home.
He insists he is not defeated and lashes out at politicians, importers, the federal government.
"The fight has just begun," he said.
But many of his neighbors and friends aren't so sanguine.
"We're doomed," said Jimmy Terrebonne, a 46-year-old boat builder. He tells his children to get an education and get out of the fishing trades.
As for himself, he said, "I can't do anything else. I don't have an education. I ain't leaving until it's gone. When the land's gone, I'm leaving."
Many coastal experts believe life along the coast is going to change dramatically with the new flood maps.
"Where we had subdivisions in the marshes, they will not come back," said Shea Penland, a coastal scientist with the University of New Orleans. "I can't believe they're sustainable."
"There are going to be some significant changes across the board," said Butch Kinerney, a FEMA spokesman.
For one thing, much more is known since FEMA last calculated the area's flood vulnerability in 1984 about the area's rate of subsidence.
Last year, the National Geodetic Survey issued a report saying the area was sinking by a half-inch to 2 inches a year, and that was as of 1995.
"When they built the levees, it wasn't below sea level. It was dry land. Now it's dry land only because of the levees," said Roy Dokka, a Louisiana State University subsidence specialist.
About 1,000 homes damaged by Rita's storm surge in the heavily Cajun region southwest of Lafayette called Vermilion Parish might need to be raised to be eligible for insurance, said Robert LeBlanc, the parish's emergency preparedness director.
Younger people might leave, LeBlanc said.
Many others, however, are determined to stay.
"People like where they live, they're content," said Kimberly Chauvin, the wife of a shrimper who is thinking of raising their already-raised home up to 10 feet higher. "I wouldn't want to move to the city, not at all."
..even cattle head to higher ground
"You've got earthquakes, you've got fires, you've got volcanoes, you've got tornadoes in tornado alley,"
That pretty much sums it up.
Don't forget about the nasty cold weather up north, and don't forget that hurricanes are a threat all the way to North Carolina.
Where precisely in the USA will we live that is weather convenient AND crime free?
They also had the perfect host for it, Emeril.
IIRC: Eastern New Mexico is the safest place to escape floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes hurricanes and blizzards.
They had a great show on the Food Channel today about the famous New Orleans restaurants rebuilding and making a come-back.
But another 10,000 people move there, and they're out of water. I don't think Phoenix experiences any of the crises you listed, but it's already a few million over what it should be.
I don't think blizzards are so bad. They can shut down a city for a few days but they don't do lasting damage. Earthquakes and hurricanes are in a league of their own, while tornadoes can be particularly nasty in small bursts on randomly chosen victims.
We all need to move back to New York's Mohawk Valley.
People outside of NO actually helped themselves.
Read the link.
"IIRC: Eastern New Mexico is the safest place to escape floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes hurricanes and blizzards."
And it is also the dullest, dreariest, stretch of nowhere on the planet. They ought to offer boredom insurance because it raises dullness to disaster levels.
There are, of course, no sure bets, but you can choose places that will improve your odds. I'd suggest the inland South, avoiding the central parts of large urban areas. Outer suburbs, exurbs, or small town/rural if your livlihood permits it.
No such thing as absolute safety, of course; even the Charlotte area got ripped by Hurricane Hugo in the '90s -- but that was a freak event, and at that, about 1% as bad as what New Orleans went through last year.
So what? Don't carry adequate insurance, the gov. will pay anyway.
I live in an area where we have tornados from time to time, maybe I can just drop my tornado insurance. Think the gov. will pay for damages? I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
I looked at it.... By the way I know SW La and SE Texas very good.
Yeah, but where do you go to escape... this man ?
As one of upstate's last remaining pioneers, I hear you.
But, unfortunately, New York's state government is proving to be the equal of Katrina in its destructiveness.
No, thats the Registan Desert. Real Flight of the Phoenix place.
Delaware will only hold so many people.
What about scorpions?
Well, depends on where exactly you're talking about in New Mexico; there's significant earthquake hazard in the Albuquerque area...and there's been fairly recent volcanic activity (from a geologist's perspective) in many areas of New Mexico. Also, the Valles Caldera in New Mexico is a junior-grade Yellowstone.
I hope you put in for your FEMA subsidy. 'Cause you know they were supposed to know about it, do something right away, and pay for your lifestyle (whatever that may be) indefinitely.
Just like our little Northridge shaker a few years back...
The Northeast--there's a slight blizzard danger (though it comes with the added bonus of having four seasons), and places like New Hampshire and even New York City are quite safe.
Emeril is photogenic and glib---but he is a Portugese from Massachusetts---not Louisianian.
Do you live in New England? I remember when we got 3 feet of snow on April 1.
You must not live here in the south.
A lot of us are not originally from here, but that is not a requirement. You are allowed to join your neighborhood and become a southerner no matter where you're from.
I thought he handled it well visiting Chef Paul, and others on a chef-to-chef level that had nothing to do with geography or national origin.
I'm wondering why you felt the need to point all that out. What did he ever do to earn your negative views?
No, not now. I live in Texas now - to get away from the snow! But it was in New England!
Born and raised in South Louisiana--spent fifty years (of fifty-nine) living there, but not there now. I know what REAL South Louisiana cooking is all about.
"I'm wondering why you felt the need to point all that out. What did he ever do to earn your negative views?"
Because he made his "rep" on Louisiana cuisine, and basically passes himself off as a native (because "Emeril" sounds French). I had the same gripe with Justin Wilson, who passed himself off as Cajun, with not a drop of Cajun blood. It smacks of fakery.
New Mexico has already had 2 FEMA declarations THIS year. (Both for fires) http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema
Looking at 2004, there is one for flooding and a couple for fire. The only one I saw for 2005 was for Katrina. Here's the 2004 list: http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema?year=2004
My Grandmother lived on a farm there in the early 1900's and with hunting she always said it was a blast.
Yes, and most of them have been too busy doing so to play "your hurricane got more attention than my hurricane." That's been mostly left to people out of state who were nowhere near the path of either one of them.
Over 90 tornadoes hit here in Missouri last weekend.
Those are the people who will stay, just like they have for over a hundred years. They are probably glad to see the others go. Those folks living up on the bayous know the land and how to live and survive on it.
Louisiana's coastline has been eroding for decades.
I've seen floods, tornadoes, wildfires, droughts, and blizzards in Eastern New Mexico.
People are welcome to live anywhere they want. They are also responsible for the problems that come with their choice of lifestyle. I live in Alaska. It was 40 below for a while this winter. I have a home with double insulation in the walls, an emergency stove, insultated water pipes, about one year's worth of food and three week's worth of water (and the third biggest river in North America 200 yards away), lots of woolies and polartec socks, and tons of insurance. Of course, if there was a disaster like a 9.0 earthquake under my home one cold winter day, I'd appreciate the Red Cross, but I'm also aware that natural disasters happen and I'm prepared for it in case it takes a few weeks for the Red Cross to make it out here. The folks in Lousiana can live where they want; if they live in a place with the occasional 30-foot storm surge, prepare for it. In that case, the flood map isn't a bad idea - here's the flood line when the storm surge comes through. I wouldn't want a southerner telling me I'm stupid for living in a place where the air can kill you if you're unprotected, so I won't return it by telling them they can't live in the path of a hurricane. In fact, I can't think of a place on Earth without some natural disaster about to happen somehow. Live and let live. Be prepared for stuff that has a good chance of happening, and be sympathetic for unfortunate surprises. It isn't hard.
'Live and let live.'
Very true. But consider this- how much are you willing to pay to the people who live in a sinking, below sea level hole. Who subsidizes you to keep from being snowed in. As a Michigander, I do know that the snow that falls today will still be there till Spring-something that most people don't understand. You have a smoker for the salmon from the river-YUM!
'46-year-old boat builder'
Obviously a person with no forsight.