As those of us who endured the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina know, when analysts use the word “unprecedented” to describe a weather-related story, that’s inevitably a bad thing.
“Unprecedented” is very much in the public conversation this week as the world watches the epic destruction wrought by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The sheer scale of the flooding can’t help but invite comparisons to 2005, when levees weakened by Katrina in New Orleans left most of the city underwater.
Experience tells us, with sobering particularity, what Bahamians have ahead of them in a recovery that will take at least a generation. We’re comforted by the thought that the hard lessons of Katrina can help the Bahamas rebound more quickly.
In the meantime, stories of residents stranded atop houses, including some who cut holes in their roofs to escape, obviously evoke painful memories in this part of the world.
Even more agonizing is the reality that Dorian isn’t through wreaking havoc. Who would have thought, when we left our workplaces for the Labor Day holiday last week, that this monster storm would still be prowling the Atlantic. Forecasters initially predicted that Dorian would make a Florida landfall before marching up the center of the Sunshine State, but now the hurricane is expected to climb up the eastern seaboard, its center perhaps staying offshore indefinitely as its outer bands menace coastal communities in numerous states.
It’s been a sinister game of meteorological roulette as a capricious weather system points its power at new potential victims. One consolation is the possibility that much of the storm’s most destructive potential in the United States could remain offshore. That would be good news for all Americans, since we will broadly share in the grieving over lives lost or broken — and the costs of rebuilding.
Those of us in Louisiana have a special sympathy of storm victims. But we’ve been struck, at the end of an anguished summer, by the deep national wellspring of sympathy far beyond our state for fellow Americans who find themselves in harm’s way.
In a country so routinely lamented for its deep divisions, the outpouring of solidarity for those in Dorian’s projected path has been a heartening reminder of the essential goodness of this republic.
This mammoth storm has been a fickle one, and Louisiana residents grasp all too well how capricious hurricanes can be.
That’s all the more reason for the state to keep its guard up as hurricane season continues. In the meantime, we’re gratified that emergency responders from Louisiana have already headed to the storm zone to help where they can.
It’s the least Louisiana can do to acknowledge the many Americans who have helped us in our darkest hours.