As if to taunt us, the hurricane gods sent Ida to Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As we dig out from the damage and tally the deaths that resulted — a familiar litany for Louisiana — the big difference in the Aug. 29 storms was seen 16 years later.
That was $14.6 billion in a federally built levee system in metropolitan New Orleans.
Ida’s powerful winds caused much of the catastrophic damage, including to the power grid that also was severely damaged during Katrina. But what killed so many people and grabbed the attention of the world was the 2005 flooding of the city and its suburbs.
The old levees failed catastrophically during Katrina.
This year, the new levees worked.
That doesn’t mean many folks did not get flooded, either from local rainfall within the levees, or outside the federally built system.
“For the most part, all of our levees performed extremely well — especially the federal levees — but at the end of the day the storm surge, the rain, the wind all had devastating impacts," Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “We have water systems that are out. We have tremendous damage to homes and to businesses.”
Ida followed the path that old-timers saw from Hurricane Betsy, coming ashore near Grand Isle in 1965. The new storm, like the old, hit coastal parishes hard.
And more than 50 years later, there was less marshland and fewer barrier islands to absorb some of Ida’s wind and water.
A lesson of Ida is that levees worked for the urban area of New Orleans but Louisiana needs marshlands and coastal preservation to meet the challenges of hurricane protection.