Rita remembered

A few short weeks ago, the nation’s attention was once again captivated

by south Louisiana.

In the media’s spotlight, survivors of Hurricane Katrina spoke of the progress – and lack of it – since 2005.

Sadly, many people forget the impact Katrina’s sister storm, Rita, had in our region. As Rita brushed the shoreline, the surge flooded homes along the coast.

Two years later, and homes and camps along the southern ridge of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes are still undergoing improvements.

Two years later and we’re still battling building code changes, insurance changes and adjustments to the effects of unforeseen growth.

What hasn’t changed, however, is our coast’s vulnerability to a repeat disaster.

Katrina and Rita sounded the alarm, waking many in the region to the news that our coast is disintegrating before our eyes.

For decades, Louisiana scientists, emergency planners and lawmakers spoke of our disappearing coast and sinking levees.

The local threat was vividly explained as early as 1999 in Mike Tidwell’s “Bayou Farewell.” And many of the same exact issues governments dealt with after Katrina and Rita were uncovered during the FEMA-led Hurricane Pam exercise in 2004.

When Katrina pummeled Louisiana’s coast, the script had been written. Rita was simply one more exclamation point on the document.

Two years later, we know there’s a great deal for which we can all be thankful. Over a million people were safely evacuated ahead of the storms; the area’s Morganza to the Gulf project is closer than it has been in seven years to authorization and, hopefully, financing; and, for the most part, our oil and gas and other industries have recovered despite the major disruptions.

We’ve survived our state’s greatest history lesson on the value of our coast and wetlands. We have the scars to remind us Mother Nature means business.

Two years later, as we remember those whose lives have been forever changed by Hurricane Rita let us resolve to regroup and rebuild. 2005 was our alarm; now that we’re all awake, it’s time to get to work.