Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ghost Town


Think for a moment about the future of New Orleans.

Last week, the population was about a million people.

In a couple of days, the population will be zero.

In about three months, the last drop of water will be pumped out. The winter comes, and rains with it. Population - zero.

Add at least another three months for inspections of buildings, massive clean-up of less-damaged parts of town, rebuilding of levees, and razing down the more-damaged parts of town. Population - still zero.

Some of the more well-off people who used to live in less-damaged parts of town move back and start a new life. Population rises to a few thousand.

What next? Hundreds of thousands of refugees, strewn all over the country, are forced by circumstances to wait several months. They naturally get jobs wherever they are, rent appartments to live in, and think deeply about pros and cons of returning to New Orleans.

I bet MOST of them will never return. They will get to like the new place, they will start new lives, they will realize there are no houses to be bought or jobs to be had in New Orleans. They will forever remember the fear and the horror of this week, so they will stay put and never come back.

It may take more than ten years until New Orleans builds up the population of one million again - if ever. The memory of Katrina has to become distant and pale. The new dams and levees need to be built that can sustain Cat 5 hurricanes. The fear of living there has to subside. The city needs to get rebuilt and reinvigorated, with new businesses getting started. This will be a tremendously slow process.

In the meantime, the whole of New Orleans will be the House of Rising Sun.


Update: I guess I was right.

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