The Forgotten People of New Orleans
On August 29th 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck landfall which began one of the most destructive and deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. The hurricane brought over 14 feet in storm surge, winds topping off at 125 mph. With 80% of the city flooded we all knew a lot of money would have to be spent to restore its public and private infrastructures. While New Orleans did not suffer a direct hit by hurricane Katrina and the hurricane itself was only a category 3 hurricane, the damages to homes in the area were caused by severe flooding. This flooding not was caused by the hurricane itself but by the man-made engineering systems that failed to accommodate the surge. The total economic value of the immediate physical damage from Hurricane Katrina is estimated at 81.2 billion dollars, which is nearly double the estimated amount from Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s (Pascual, pars 1). Hurricane Katrina itself, however, was not the only or even primary source of damage, as 53 federally-built were breached or overtopped, levees broke during the storm causing an enormous flood which in the wake of the storm itself took over 80% of the city of New Orleans. Areas such as St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward, which is primarily black and poor, were the hardest hit by this catastrophic flooding. Most people in this part of New Orleans can not afford to rebuild their homes due to a low or no income. In St. Bernard Parish most people are retired or middle class and in years prior to Katrina. St. Bernard Parish’s total population lies around 67,229 whom report on average income of $41,759 a year (NBPC pars.5). St. Bernard Parish was rezoned out of the flood plans so most residents no longer had federal flood insurance, even after years of paying for it. The Lower 9th Ward population is estimated at 14,008 and their average income is approximately $24,886 (NBPC pars.5). When Hurricane Katrina hit, more than seventy-five percent of people in the area lost everything. Residents of both the 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish are middle class to poor and flood insurance is not something these residents consider a necessity at the time. Most residents in New Orleans were in panic mode after losing their homes, while insurance companies were busy on phone with people who were trying to submit claims for have flood and home owners insurance. One week after Katrina, there was more than 162,000 flood claims as private insurance companies met with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to discuss ways to expedite the processing of these claims (Strickland, pars 1). While many people in the New Orleans area claimed to have insurance, the reality becomes evident that few actually did. Today, former residents of New Orleans are either locked out or their houses are damaged to the point beyond repair, even with home owners insurance. Why haven’t the insurance companies stepped up and paid for these houses?
Most people call Hurricane Katrina a natural disaster, but in the past few years people are starting to call it an unnatural disaster not only due to the inaction of the government and FEMA officials but also because the insurance companies denying New Orleans residents their insurance claims. Why would insurance companies deny their customers their claims? In one sense, the answer is simply; if insurance companies were to agree to every claim on every policy, they would be out of business. Most people, who survive a major flood, soon realize the value of FEMA flood insurance because all flood insurance is backed by FEMA but sold by insurance agents. If FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, backed up all of Louisiana’s flood claims then the insurance companies could have overcharged the federal government by as much as $9.24 billion (Strickland, pars 6). There have been an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 hurricane...
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