Friday, September 21, 2007

Hurricane Katrina Aftermath Slide Show #2

Slide show presented by lilspoiledazn on YouTube. Video caption:
"A clip of the tragedies from Hurricane Katrina"

I watched and posted the slide shows and the video today, and I'm still heartbroken about this tragedy. Two years later, I can't look at these pictures and not cry. Maybe that's a good thing. I didn't feel anything for so long. I didn't grieve for the loss of the city I used to call home from 1977-1985, the city I graduated high school in and the city where I had family ties and old friends until 2005.

I didn't look at any picture of Katrina's aftermath for two years after I'd spent so much time going back and forth between Baton Rouge and New Orleans to help my mom move.

The saddest thing about these pictures is that after two years so many of the houses in so many neighborhoods are still in shambles. Their owners will never return. The current New Orleans population is about half of what it was before Hurricane Katrina. I don't believe it will grow much beyond that unless the levees, flood walls and hurricane protection systems are brought up to withstand a strong category 5 hurricane. I had thought about moving to Metairie to be more accessible to my potential client base. But I'll never move farther south than Ascension Parish now. It's just too risky.

See more pictures in the Hurricane Katrina Picture Book by Jeffery Morgan

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
by Jed Horne.

During Katrina at Beau Rivage Resort Biloxi, MS

Posted on YouTube by pcampo. This is the caption he put with the video:

"Video taken during Katrina from the Beau Rivage Casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I didn't take it. It was one of many circulalted thru my familys inboxes."

Whoever took the video didn't comment much. You can see the water level rise as the storm surge comes ashore. At the beginning of the video, the videographer is pretty high up in the parking structure, but as the storm progresses, the floor he's on is getting close to water level.

See more pictures in the Hurricane Katrina Picture Book by Jeffery Morgan

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
by Jed Horne.

Hurricane Katrina New Orleans Aftermath Slideshow

This video slide show was made by Nedim and it's located on YouTube.

See more pictures in the Hurricane Katrina Picture Book by Jeffery Morgan

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
by Jed Horne.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Scary Homeowners Hurricane Deductible

I just received my new homeowners insurance policy in the mail, and I'm really depressed and angry all over again.

I scanned in the cover page and the declaration page. Have a look at the hurricane deductible note in the first image (5% of Dwelling protection coverage limit), and the actual amount in the second image, $7,550.

It looks like your normal policy, except for the pages and pages of bold, all-caps print that tells you everything the policy doesn't cover.

They also added a charge, which equates to a tax, that we all have to pay. It's called the Louisiana Citizens Fair Plan Emergency Assessment Surcharge. The good news? My premium will be reduced to $907.83, and the single surcharge is going to be $32.68. My annual coverage for my house with a replacement value of $151,000 is $940.51. My premium will go down by $128.76 this year. If my garage is destroyed because of a hurricane, I basically have to pay 50% of its value to rebuild it.

But the decrease in premium doesn't even begin to cover the increase in the deductible. 7550/128.76 = 58.6, meaning it would take 58.6 years to save up that deductible from the premium reduction alone.

In 2006, I had an additional deductible for hurricane damage that applied on top of my regular deductible. If you had a $500 deductible, your hurricane damage deductible was $1000, or another $500 tacked on if damage was hurricane damage. We also had two surcharges: Louisiana Citizens Fair Plan Regular Assessment Surcharge, and Louisiana Citizens Coastal Plan Regular Assessment Surcharge. Those added up to $139.47. My annual coverage cost another $929.80, and my total premium was $1069.27 on a $140,000 replacement value.

Prior to Katrina and Rita, we had a separate hurricane deductible equal to the regular deductible (total $1000), but our premiums were lower. Mine was $786 for the period of Oct. 2004 to Oct. 2005, and there was no surcharge.

My premium, and thus my house payment went up $283.27 in one year. And now it's only going down $128.76 with a far, far higher hurricane deductible. This means I'm going to have to increase the value of my emergency fund by $6550 to cover the extra risk.

Where is the money President Bush promised? How are people supposed to rebuild and keep that much cash in reserve for this outrageous increase in deductibles? I live in Baton Rouge, and we didn't see total destruction on the scale of the parishes lying south east of here. How much did their deductibles go up? To 10%? I wouldn't be surprised.

If you want to know why people here are angry and depressed and not getting over the whole thing, this is another reason why. It's two years after Katrina and Rita, and now we are all basically self insured for hurricane damage that isn't catastrophic (more than 5% of the dwelling coverage). We continue to get kicked in the teeth at every turn. What's next? I'm sure there will be something.

For more pictures and information on Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath, see:

Hurricane Katrina Picture Book by Jeffrey Morgan


Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
by Jed Horne.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sorry if you're bored with the whole Katrina thing

Yesterday, I read an article in USA Today online that was centered around mental health research studies and that the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are actually much worse off mentally two years after the storms than they were immediately after and one year after the storms. This is a trend never seen before in the aftermath of any disaster studied. The story was warm, human, and very fact-filled.

What lit me on fire were the comments made by readers posted after the story. The first comment was something like, "Hurricane Katrina, "yawn"." There were 14 comments between three or four readers, a couple who were totally without any compassion whatsoever and a couple more who were trying to set the other two straight. I left my own comment and I hope those two dispassionate people read it and feel ashamed of themselves.

Another angle of the new ninth ward levee. The graffiti says it all! From: the Hurricane Katrina Relief website

For some reason, a small, but vocal, portion of the U.S. population has decided they are "bored" and "tired" of the whole Hurricane Katrina thing. Why don't we quit belly-aching, buck up and recover already? Somehow, these people don't have any clue about how economically important Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are to this country, or how extremely difficult it is to rebuild the southern third of an entire state with everyone with any power playing politics at every turn to keep us from receiving all the recovery money we need. All I have to say to you bastards is when the economic devastation bubble started by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita finally reaches you, we don't want to hear you belly-ache about lost jobs, higher prices, and fewer products available for you to continue your nice, comfortable life-styles well out of harm's way. The longer it takes to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for economic recovery, the more it will eventually effect you and your wallets. I hope they become empty and you suffer for at least long enough to appreciate a small idea of what people here have been living with and dealing with for 2 years now, and with no end in sight.

There is an insidious attitude that has emerged in American culture that doesn't speak well of any of us. That attitude is "if it doesn't directly effect me, it's not important to me and I don't want to hear any more about it". It's an arrogance that some believe they have no responsibility to society and only to themselves.

I thank God daily for all the silent majority who care about others, volunteer their time and give money to help those less fortunate than they are. The silent majority are certainly not bored with the nearly endless work needed to bring real community to their neighborhoods, home towns and cities, as well as to help people far away from their neck of the woods when disasters strike.

Maybe this attitude is caused by the endless chatter and continuous replays by the cable news networks. Nothing seems to have gone very well since the press has been so entrenched in every single event from the Vietnam war to the war on terror. Maybe it's time to turn off the news and actually discuss events with other human beings. Maybe it's time to use all the great connectivity of the internet to actually reconnect with each other.

There's a problem with TV news. The conversation is only one way and it only happens in sound bites. There is no in-depth analysis or discussion, no follow-up stories of substance, just sensationalism, exploitation and opinion not necessarily based on facts. Newspapers, books, online news and blog feeds, TV documentaries and talk radio are where the real information and conversations are at. Humankind has developed into a complex world society because of interacting with each other, not by being talked at Orwellian-style by the never-ending blabbering of the TV. If you don't understand that statement you need to read 1984 by George Orwell.

My solution is to turn off the news and get on the internet or put your nose in a book. Find out what real people are talking about and join the conversation. If you haven't discovered it yet, YouTube is much better than TV.

Make the world a better place with your own critical thinking, discussion and action, and stop being lulled into a hypnotic state by the continuous chatter of talking heads who have even less of a clue then most of us do.

Life doesn't happen in sound bites and photo ops.

Look at the pictures in this book and then tell me you are unmoved by the needless suffering of thousands of people and animals: Hurricane Katrina Picture Book by Jeffrey Morgan

Read Jed Horne's book Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City and tell me how unimportant this disaster is and how the deterioration of infrastructure all over the nation isn't becoming an increasingly critical problem. How is the infrastructure in your city? What major infrastructure do you depend on to keep your city and your way of life safe? Do you know? Do you even stop to think about it? What environmental problems will have a significant and devastating effect on your life? Not some far off time for future generations, but your life in the next 5 to 20 years. Have you thought about the economic consequences of infrastructure failure and environmental catastrophes, not just for your city or state, but for the whole United States of America? How much does your state contribute to the nation's gross domestic product?

Before anyone writes off South Louisiana and New Orleans, you may want to answer these questions about your own back yard. Every state in this great nation of ours contributes in its own unique way to our total prosperity. The country cannot ever take a stance where any state in the union is expendable. When that happens, we lose the most important thing we are as Americans, a union; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.