A Work in Progress: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast

The Gulf Coast states are traditionally defined as those which border the Gulf of Mexico, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. In 2005, the Gulf Coast was severely affected by Hurricane Katrina, a category three storm that is currently recognized as one of the deadliest in history. In addition to causing a staggering number of deaths, Hurricane Katrina also caused significant property and environmental damage. While there have been major improvements in the Gulf Coast Region since the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, major rebuilding efforts are still in progress. Individuals who are interested in learning more about rebuilding the Gulf Coast should first understand what the area thrived on before, what was lost during the hurricane, and what is being done to rebuild. 

Before the Hurricane

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast was a thriving, popular travel destination for individuals living across the world. New Orleans, Louisiana—which was especially hard-hit—was previously world-renowned for its Cajun food, music, and celebrations. In addition, gambling, scenic beaches, and historical homes and landmarks all contributed to the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Gulf Coast also thrived on the various ecosystems in the region, which drew nature enthusiasts, researchers, and environmentalists from all parts of the globe.

What was Lost and Destroyed During the Hurricane?

Perhaps the most significant loss that occurred during Hurricane Katrina was human lives. According to some research, approximately 1900 individuals living in the Gulf Coast were killed in the hurricane and subsequent floods associated with Hurricane Katrina. In addition, experts suggest that as many as 350,000 homes and many businesses, restaurants, universities, and other organizations were either lost or damaged during Huricane Katrina. While these estimates may give readers an idea of the impact of the storm, it is unlikely that we will ever understand the total destruction.

In addition to the significant amounts of property damage, the Gulf Coast also experienced major environmental effects. Specifically, Hurricane Katrina has been blamed for the development of substantial amounts of beach erosion, which in some cases led to the loss of breeding grounds for marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and brown pelicans. In addition, significant oil spills that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the storm have been linked to an increased number of fish and marine mammal death. Finally, sewage, toxic chemical, heavy metal, and pesticide leaks have also been associated with subsequent environmental damage.

Efforts to Rebuild

Obviously, Hurricane Katrina had far-reaching effects that are still being managed today. Fortunately, a number of organizations and foundations have been created to ensure complete Gulf Coast clean-up. Among these organizations include the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Southern Baptist Convention. In addition, the Army Corps Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration has worked to identify the location in which new levees should be built, modifications that can be made to existing levees to ensure their longevity, and has identified areas that may be at an increased risk for flooding and/or damage if another storm was to strike.

From an environmental standpoint, there are also a number of significant changes that are taking place. Many volunteers from around the world have traveled to the Gulf Coast to aid in the oil spill clean-up process. In addition, researchers and scientists are working to reintroduce native plants, trees, animals, fish, and birds that may have been displaced by the storm. While it will likely be a number of years before the Gulf Coast ecosystem returns to the state it was in before Hurricane Katrina, it is evident that changes are well on their way.