by Jennifer LeClaire
The U.S. Gulf Coast is struggling to rebuild after several 2005 hurricanes destroyed countless homes, businesses, and lives. Yet as the 2006 hurricane season gets underway, much of the region is still in ruins.
The sequence of Atlantic storms left more than 2000 dead in the United States and more overseas, plus estimates of insured U.S. property damage ranging widely from $35 billion to $60 billion. Economists may never be able to accurately calculate the total cost. The Katrina reconstruction project is estimated to cost $200 billion — or more. Adding salt to the wound, Hurricane Rita caused another $5 billion in damage.
Government officials are making some progress in their efforts to rebuild cities along the Louisiana and Mississippi shoreline. But the road to a full recovery is still many years away in the most devastated parts of these southern states.
There are still tens of thousands of homes awaiting reconstruction in the low-lying metropolis of New Orleans. The fear of another storm pouncing on the Gulf Coast's most vulnerable areas haunts even the most courageous southerners.
"I am reminded in some ways of the circumstances after 9/11," says Phil Bernstein, FAIA, vice president of Autodesk. "There was a clear imperative to do something quickly, but no clear political framework or set of decision makers driving the process. Everybody knows what they want to do, but they are busy trying to figure out who is in charge and how to move forward." >>>
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Debris from destroyed houses in Biloxi, Mississippi, typical of extensive Hurricane Katrina-caused damage on the Gulf Coast.
Photo: Mark Wolfe/ FEMA
Work crews funded by FEMA remove debris from roadside storm drains in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.
Photo: Robert Kaufmann/ FEMA
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