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Hurricane Georges

A very massive group of levees may be all that is in the way of lower lying New Orleans and destruction with a visit from Hurricane Georges. Without the levee system and concrete flood walls Georges could have catastrophic effects in New Orleans. But with this man-made hurricane protection system protecting the city people. New Orleans is spared the casualties and damage past storms have wrought. The levee system is important because the city is like a saucer 6 feet below sea level and is surrounded by lakes, swamps, marshes and the Mississippi River.

The fact is, we are living in a large, hallow bowl with a levee around it,” said Oliver Houck, a Tulane University law professor whose major is water resources. The New Orleans area and location have allowed hurricanes and floods to prey on its residents since as early as 1718. A year after New Orleans was laid out, a low levee had to be constructed. As the city grew, the need for a better levee system has been a lasting issue. The levees were built taller and stronger, but hurricanes in 1915 and 1947 flooded the city killing about 200 and 47 people. The current hurricane protection system was approved by Congress in 1965 after

Hurricane Betsy killed 81 people in southern Louisiana. Hundreds of millions of dollars has produced what may be the world’s most elaborate flood protection system, said Jim Addison, chief of public affairs for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District, which builds and monitors the levees. The levees along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain and other key areas are designed to protect the city from a fast-moving hurricane of Georges power. The levees work together with channels that shift flood waters to strong pumping stations. Then water is sent back into the lake.

But Georges is oving slowly, meaning up to 25 inches of rain could fall on New Orleans and the wind could push the lake over the levees. Hurricane Georges caused an estimated $1 billion in insured property damage in four Gulf Coast states. This made it the costliest hurricane in the United States this year. , The cost is nearly three times as much as that of Hurricane Bonnie, which cost insurers in the North and South Carolina and Virginia $360 million earlier this year. And Georges cost dominates the $25 million in damage from this year’s Hurricane Earl, which edged the Florida coast, Georgia and South Carolina .

But Georges cost is not close to the $15. 5 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Andrew, which hit south Florida, Louisiana and Texas in 1992. It’s the nation’s costliest hurricane. The Projections do not include flood damage, which is not covered by homeowners’ insurance. The flooding is bad news for thousands of homeowners returning to their waterlogged property and for taxpayers. Most homeowners in the counties hit by Georges had not purchased flood protection from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which means they will likely seek low-interest federal loans to help recover.

Insured storm damage from Hurricane Georges also was estimated at $1 billion in the Caribbean. Most of those losses, in a region where just 30% of households are insured, came from damage to businesses. Nearly a month after Hurricane Georges hit the islands of the northern Caribbean, bodies of the dead are still turning up in Haiti, pushing the Caribbean death toll higher and higher. Poor communications in Haiti delayed reports on deaths, injuries and damages from the storm. Its toll has risen to 213 and is likely to top 240, a civil defense official said Monday.

Georges is now being blamed for illing at least 509 people across the Caribbean, including 283 in the Dominican Republic. A report on storm damage from Haiti’s northern district has yet to be completed, he said. Some 30 people were reported missing and feared dead from the storm, which struck Haiti on Sept. 23, Deslorges said. Most of the Haitian deaths were blamed on flooding and mud slides in rural, mountainous areas. For generations, Haitian peasants have cut down trees to make charcoal, denuding mountains and leaving them unable to absorb rainfall.

A flash flood nearly destroyed the southeastern border town of Fonds Verrettes, where 102 eople died. Georges destroyed thousands of homes and killed more than 56,000 head of livestock, Deslorges said. Finance and Economics Minister Fred Joseph has estimated agricultural damage at more than $300 million. The United States has provided $12 million in relief aid, Taiwan $300,000 and the U. N. Development Program $100,000. Canada, Germany and Japan also have donated relief funds and supplies. Georges killed five people in Cuba, three in Puerto Rico, three in St.

Kitts and Nevis, and two in Antigua. Hurricane Georges crashed into the Dominican Republic on September 22, 1998, ouching off flood waters that swallowed up hundreds, perhaps thousands, of flimsy homes along a river bank in the Sabana Perdida shantytown. The storm killed more than 370 people in the Caribbean over 200 in the Dominican Republic alone – and four in the United States. It also drove 7,000 slum dwellers into a half dozen squalid shelters in the capital, Santo Domingo. Damages to farms, roads and buildings from the late September 1998 rampage of Hurricane Georges surpassed $1. billion in the Dominican Republic. The hurricane hit several large islands in its march across the Caribbean, but damage and eath were especially heavy in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to personnel and supplies from the United States, aid came in from France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Chile and other nations. The government also sought help from the World Bank and other international agencies. Only 5% of the country’s tourism centers were damaged by the storm,Montas said. But some of the natural beauty that draws tourists will need time to recover. Our ecology has suffered serious damages from the severe deforestation caused by the hurricane,” said Omar Ramirez, director of national parks. Underscoring the esperation after Georges, a mob of hungry people swarmed an aid convoy bringing food, water and second-hand clothes from the United States to victims of Hurricane Georges. Relief workers and police beat them back with sticks, to little avail. In the end, the aid went not to those most in need, but to those who could jump the highest, shoulder the heaviest burdens and bear the most punishment.

A self-made millionaire who grew up in New York, Fernando Mateo, organized relief shipments in hopes of taking aid straight to the people. The Dominican-born businessman said previous isaster relief and government assistance to the poor had been stolen by corrupt officials or manipulated for political gain. Donated by thousands of Dominican immigrants living in New York City and New Jersey, the provisions were delivered to one of the capital’s most impoverished areas. But what began as a well-intentioned and orderly relief effort quickly became chaotic.

Hundreds of residents pushed past a chain-link fence at a refugee compound where the aid trucks were parked. A call to form single- file lines outside the 10-foot barrier was ignored, as hungry people squeezed through arrow cracks or scrambled over the top of the fence despite barbed wire that sliced their bare feet. After futile attempts to swat back the surging throng, volunteers manning the trucks began to hurl boxes, bottles and bags. City official Alejandro Obrero said the mad scramble for aid showed how precariously people were living even before the latest disaster. “There’s an immense poverty in the Dominican Republic,” he said.

The hurricane didn’t create that. It just brought it bubbling to the surface. ” Bulldozing across Puerto Rico on September 21, 1998, Hurricane Georges served p a powerful reminder of what nature can do: rivers overflowed, trees were strewn like matchsticks across highways, and 4 million people were left without power. At least five Puerto Ricans were killed – along with at least six others who died as a result of the storm elsewhere in the Caribbean. Damages reached $2 billion. Although accustomed to hurricanes every few years, Puerto Ricans were stunned by the widespread impact of Georges.

Its 110 mph winds spared not an inch of the U. S. territory as it swept westward after hitting ground late September 21,1998. President Clinton declared Puerto Rico a isaster area. Georges raked the island, denuding hillsides, toppling power lines, peeling off roofs. Road signs on the Luis A. Ferre Expressway simply disappeared, billboards were flung aside and street debris ranged from porch awnings to a Gulf gasoline station sign. As the rains receded, rivers swelled, overflowing their banks in the northern coastal towns of Arecibo and Barceloneta. The tree-lined streets of Barceloneta were under 4 feet of water, and more than 200 homes lost their roofs.

In the capital of San Juan, where almost half the island’s people live, the typical sight was hat of downed trees – in some areas most were felled onto roads or broken in half. Some flooded roads were impossible to traverse. There were also many downed power lines – so many that all of Puerto Rico was blacked out. The state power company urged retirees to report to work and asked for help from private contractors. Damage to the power grid alone was estimated at $60 million. In the east coast town of Humacao, 4 feet of water surged into the municipal government building. The police headquarters in the central city of Caguas was destroyed.

In the southern city of Ponce, which suffered ome of the worst winds and rain, damage totaled $50 million. Damage was expected to far exceed that of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which crossed only the northeast corner of the island and paralyzed San Juan for weeks. The home of Paula Aponte Figueroa had its roof blown off and deposited on top of the house of her neighbor, Pedrom Juan Morales. It even stripped the paneling off the walls inside Aponte’s wooden home in San Juan’s Hato Rey section. ”This thing was a monster,” said Morales, who lost part of his roof and suffered flood damage. ”Hugo was a little breeze compared to this. ”

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