There is going to be a lot of hand-wringing today about the relative lack of progress when it comes to rebuilding and redefending New Orleans. And rightly so. But kind of like with Fight Club, the second lesson to be learned from Hurricane Katrina is that you shouldn't simply focus on Hurricane Katrina. Yeah, this storm was really bad for New Orleans--and another storm could be even worse for the city. But as I detail today on the Huffington Post and in an op-ed syndicated by Blue Ridge Press, we have to look at the broader national picture as well. Consider the following scenarios:
* A Category 4 or stronger hurricane strikes the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Florida, area, driving a tremendous storm surge that knocks out bridges, floods downtown Tampa 20 feet deep, and temporarily turns St. Petersburg into an island. *A mega-hurricane strikes Galveston/Houston, Texas, flooding the homes of 600,000 Harris County residents--resulting in damages approaching $50 billion. *We see a repeat of the 1926 Category 4 Miami Hurricane, but the storm strikes a massively wealthier and more populous coast than existed the last time around. Damages exceed $ 100 billion and Katrina ceases to be the most costly hurricane in U.S. history. * And most alarming of all: Decades from now, with sea level a foot higher, a Category 3 storm makes its way to New York City. Areas submerged include parts of southern Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island City, Astoria, and (that's right) lower Manhattan.
We're not ready for any of these. Not by a long shot. [To read the rest of my Huffington Post piece on the other vulnerable American cities, click here.]