Ten years ago, a very powerful storm struck the southeastern United States. Hurricane Katrina brought destruction and flooding to states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.
Flood waters covered large parts of New Orleans, Louisiana. Today, much of the city’s housing has been rebuilt. So have roads and other infrastructure. Businesses, trade and visitors have returned to the area.
President Barack Obama visited New Orleans on Thursday as the Gulf Coast marks the 10th anniversary of the storm. He and Mayor Mitch Landrieu went to several neighborhoods affected by the storm. The president praised the efforts to rebuild New Orleans, but said more needs to be done.
"Because of you - the people of New Orleans - working together, this city is moving in the right direction."
The city has changed
After 10 years, New Orleans has recovered. But it is a different city than the one before the storm. Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin voiced the feelings people have for the city.
“Ten years later, we are proud to show off what we think is one of the greatest renaissances of any city in history, anywhere.”
The city’s demographics also have changed. New Orleans is, in many ways, a younger city today than it was in 2005. Mr. Kopplin says that is partly because it appeals to young people with its culture, music and food.
“We have almost 500 more restaurants in the city of New Orleans today than we had before Katrina; so we have fewer people, but more restaurants.”
New Orleans is different in other ways. It has improved bridges and roads. The city also has better schools than 10 years ago and a smaller, more diverse population. Allison Plyer studies statistical changes for The Data Center. She says New Orleans now has about 385,000 residents.
“The city has about 100,000 fewer African Americans than it did pre-Katrina. It also has about 10,000 fewer white residents. We have more Latinos and Asians than we did.”
For a long time, New Orleans was a popular stop for both U.S. and foreign travelers. The destruction hurt the tourist industry for some time. Now, city officials say tourism is doing well again. Andy Kopplin says New Orleans had 9.3 million visitors last year.
Mark Romig is with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. He says visitors are important to the local economy.
“Tourism is one of the mainstays of our economy. Roughly 80,000 individuals work in the tourism industry.”
New Orleans offers tastes, sights and sounds that can be found nowhere else.
Investment and young people have fueled economic gains
Economic development groups say there are jobs in New Orleans for people with an education or valuable skills. New industries and investment in small, start-up technology companies are growing.
Michael Hecht is head of Greater New Orleans, Inc. His group supports development in New Orleans and surrounding areas.
“We are number one, per capita, in terms of in-migration of people under 25 with a college degree.”
New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have benefited from federal aid. Michael Hecht says major investments from American and foreign private capital companies also have helped.
“Louisiana is now number one per capita (in the U.S.) in foreign direct investments; we have had investments over the past few years from Europe, from Asia, from South America.”
New Orleans began as a port near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Officials say more than ever before the city is linked to the rest of the world.
Official discusses lessons of the disaster
Still, the memory of the disaster remains. One-thousand-eight hundred people are believed to have died because of Katrina. Hundreds of thousands were displaced. Problems after the storm were blamed on lack of coordination between politicians, relief organizations, the military and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Craig Frugate is FEMA’s current administrator. He says state and federal groups now coordinate their efforts. He said it has helped that Congress has given his agency more resources to begin preparing even before a governor declares a major disaster.
Mr. Frugate says building codes have been upgraded, and adds that he believes the city will be able to resist another major storm.
And that’s In The News. I’m Mario Ritter.
VOA’s Greg Flakus, Zlatica Hoke and Deborah Block reported this story. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in the News
demographics – n. having to do with the qualities, such as age, sex, income, of a group of people
diverse – adj. made up of people or things that are different from each other
statistical – adj. having to do with statistics, numbers representing information about something such as how often it happens, how common it is, etc.
benefite(d) – v. to have helped
upgrade(d) – v. to make something better