No. 263 . 02 November 2005 
ArchitectureWeek
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Gulf South Struggles

by Jennifer LeClaire

As yet another record-breaking and devastating hurricane season draws toward its close, we are still far from a final assessment of damage from Katrina, the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, or from Rita, the subsequent multibillion-dollar storm.

Widespread flooding from storm surges has accounted for much of the damage, but there are plenty of other factors to consider in the wake of these catastrophic storms. Structural damage from hurricane-force winds and wind-blown debris, post-flooding mold damage, mangled utility infrastructures, thousands of downed trees, and even perishable food losses are adding to the rising tally.

While media attention has focused on rebuilding New Orleans, rising gas prices, and the failures of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the architectural community is beginning to spotlight the needs of rural regions that were just as devastated as their metropolitan counterparts. One leading question is whether changes to the building codes could prevent such widespread destruction in the future.

Assessing the Damage

Current estimates of insured damage in the United States due to Hurricane Katrina range from $35 to $60 billion. Reconstruction is predicted to cost $200 billion — or more — and will take several years to complete. Yet when reconstruction money is being allocated, small towns like Vancleave, Mississippi and Escatawpa, Louisiana may take a back seat to the larger metropolitan areas affected by the storm.

"The biggest challenge rural communities are facing is the lack of disaster response funding," says John Marini, vice president of Adjusters International, a licensed public adjuster and loss consultant based in Jackson, Mississippi. "How do we get $50 million to rural communities in Mississippi to pay removal contractors to take away all the destroyed houses and businesses?"   >>>

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