Hurricane Katrina (August 29, 2005)
Hurricane Katrina has been the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history ($81.2 billion). Worst hit was New Orleans where floodwaters of up to 15 feet covered 80% of the city, killing 1,836 people and destroying 200,000 homes.
While most of the region has recovered, many pockets remain left behind. These neighborhoods include the Lower 9th Ward, Faubourg St Roch, and New Orleans East — all neighborhoods rich with vibrant cultural heritage pre-Katrina. Seven years after Katrina, these areas still lack the infrastructure to properly rebuild their communities.
The Lower 9th Ward still has no post office, no bank, no restaurants and no grocery store, making re-settlement difficult at best. Only about one-quarter of its pre-Katrina population currently lives in the Lower 9th. Just west of the 9th lies Faubourg St. Roch, a neighborhood that also suffered from wide-spread flooding and now lies largely in blight. New Orleans East was also covered by floodwaters. Large tracts of properties there remain vacant, and most retail goods and services have yet to return. Only one grocery store exists in all of New Orleans East for a population close to 70,000, and neither of its two hospitals has reopened.
In these areas the local liquor store has become the go-to spot for food furthering the spread of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. As a result, residents of these communities who seek fresh food must spend an inordinate amount of time commuting to neighboring towns to do so. In addition, cuts in public spending have left little support for community and youth development programs.
The natural environment in the greater New Orleans area is also in need of restoration. Decades of dredging in the Gulf waters off the Louisiana coast, coupled with the construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) have caused severe degradation of the coastal wetlands in and around New Orleans. Not only are these wetlands home to 25% of the marine catch for the entire USA, they have traditionally provided natural protection against surging hurricane floodwaters. Every 2.7 miles of wetlands can reduce a storm surge by one foot. If the wetlands had been in their natural state when Hurricane Katrina struck, damage would have been significantly mitigated.
ASR Outreach for New Orleans
In August 2012 ASR launched the Aid Still Required: New Orleans outreach campaign with the help of Maroon 5, Tim McGraw, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Mraz, Brad Paisley, Jackson Browne, Chris Noth, Randy Newman, Kevin Spacey, Chris Paul, LOVA Tea, Alcon Entertainment, and many others.
Aid Still Required: New Orleans has reached more than 40 million people worldwide through social media and through ASR’s Big Easy Juke Joint gala in Los Angeles (sponsored by Variety Magazine).
In addition to shining the spotlight on the work that still needs to be done in New Orleans, ASR’s current areas of focus are access to healthy food, community and youth empowerment, and environmental restoration. Aid Still Required is committed to developing long-term sustainable local solutions through collaborations with select New Orleans community organizations, with our focus on community and school gardens, nutrition education, wetlands replanting, and livelihood training.