Could Ike, Gustav have been worse?

For years we’ve heard the scenarios. Walls of water – 25 feet and higher – teamed with Category 3 or higher winds steamrolling across the Gulf of Mexico.

Naysayers argued it could never happen.

Doomsdayers took the opposite position, fearing the worst each hurricane season.

No matter where we fall between those two extremes, we’ve all been treated to a front-row seat these last 17 days. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike ripped trees from the roots, sent roofs flying and, adding insult to injury, pushed flood waters into nearly 20,000 homes and businesses.

Fortunately, no lives were lost as Gustav roared ashore over Terrebonne Parish. The same, sadly, cannot be said for Ike. A 16-year-old and a 57-year-old would become the first casualties.

As the southern winds finally begin to die down and flood waters recede, there will be much talk about the need for a fortified hurricane protection system. Lafourche Parish has its ring-levee system. Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes are, for the most part, without any substantial protection.

Blame will surely be appointed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congressional lawmakers who so often slow levee dollars targeted for our area to a trickle.

Gustav and Ike catapulted the Tri-parishes into the national arena. While we’ve got the attention of the country, this is the time to speak with one voice sharing one message: Louisiana’s coastline is completely vulnerable.

Gov. Bobby Jindal got it right when he visited this week; the time for studying the problem is over. We need courageous leaders willing to dedicate the needed funding to build 100-year levees across the region once and for all.

Any candidate – presidential or otherwise – who comes calling speaking from another script is not talking Louisiana’s language. They’ve also been tuned into another channel for the last few weeks.

Our reality is heartbreaking, and wet. To our neighbors digging out from this nightmare and those sleeping in shelters tonight, you are in our thoughts and prayers.