Hurricane's Wake

Photo of Hurricane Isaac from the Times-Picayune (9/2/2012)


Today’s Times-Picayune reports that nearly 200,000 people in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes continue to be without power. Obviously, I’m one of the more fortunate. Otherwise, you would not be reading this now.

Many of the traffic lights don’t work, even on the major thoroughfares, so driving is riskier than usual. The grocery stores mostly have electricity, but lost perishable goods during their outages, so that milk and other refrigerated foods are scarce. Libraries and other public places are generally closed.

The greatest damage from Hurricane Isaac occurred in the outlying areas to the north and south of the center of metropolitan New Orleans. Operating on the principle of weighing costs and benefits, the Corps of Engineers has built up the levee protection around the center. This may have not only left the peripheral region outside the protected zone, but also diverted the waters toward places like LaPlace, largely untouched by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and heavily flooded in this latest storm. The water has to go somewhere.

Further to the northeast, the Boguechitto River has risen, resulting in the evacuation of residents of Washington Parish. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from St. Tammany Parish, where it is feared that floodwaters from the Pearl River will bypass a lock and push 20-foot torrents into the surrounding rural area.

Hurricane Katrina intensified economic activity around the New Orleans area.  This can be expected again in the near future, although to lesser extent. The demand for labor in relatively low-paid work such as dry-wall replacement, roofing labor, and in cleaning and hauling will reinforce a demographic trend begun by Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans area will not see the same influx of workers of Honduran, Mexican, and Guatemalan origin that it saw in 2006 and 2007, but the numbers of these workers will grow. Moreover, since the existing Hispanic concentrations are now located on the northern fringe of East Jefferson Parish and on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, between the metropolitan centers and the heavily damaged outlying areas, newcomers will have additional motivations to settle in those suburban concentrations. Neighborhoods in Kenner, in East Jefferson, and in Terrytown and Gretna, in West Jefferson,  will become even more recognizable as Spanish-speaking residential enclaves.

Post-hurricane recovery may well bring a boost to the political reputation of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  The governor is a poor orator, but an efficient organizer. Mobilizing resources and energies to deal with storm damage might give him an opportunity  to focus attention on his talents.

The Moral Liberal Sociology Editor, Carl L. Bankston III is Professor of Sociology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. He is the author and co-author of a number of books and numerous articles published in academic journals. An incomplete list of his books includes: Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (with Min Zhou, 1998), Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (with Jacques Henry, 2002), and A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (2002), Forced to Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation (hardback, 2005; paperback, 2007), and Public Education – America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (2009) (all with Stephen J. Caldas). View Professor Carl L. Bankston’s Page here. He blogs at Can These Bones Live?

Copyright © 2012 Carl L. Bankston III.