Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Not Another New Orleans

Don't be surprised if four or five years from now there will be a number of on-line articles or news network features on the vast differences between how New Orleans recovered from Hurricane Katrina and how Houston bounced back from Hurricane Harvey.  Much will be made about how the "Crescent City" continues to feel the effects of the devastation in 2005--while "H Town" will be back to the bustling metropolis it was before this week.

The biggest advantage that Houston has is that it is the hub of America's energy industry.  Giant oil and natural gas companies are based there--employing hundreds of thousands of people in both production, processing and administration.  America runs on cheap energy and those companies need to be working at all times to prevent this from becoming a national disaster.  That urgency alone will ensure that resources needed for infrastructure, housing and supply chain restoration will take place--and take place quickly.

While it is an important shipping and port city, New Orleans does not have that "corporate" attitude.  Anyone who's been there can tell you "The Big Easy" lives up to that moniker--as the folks there aren't going to bust their butts to get something done that can't wait until tomorrow--or next year.  New Orleans is really a dumpy tourist town.  What were the first areas to be "restored" after Katrina?  The French Quarter, the Superdome and the Convention Center area--so that the people who don't live there could "return to normalcy".

Add to that the fierce independence of Texans.  Houston officials and residents would be embarrassed if five or ten years from now they weren't back to being the "biggest and the best".  And they won't be blaming "the Government" for not doing enough to help the recovery.

That doesn't mean that everything will go back to exactly the way it was before.  Like low-income parts of New Orleans, depressed sections of Houston will likely never bounce back.  Those that are displaced by Harvey will never come back--set adrift like many that came to Houston from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina--and never had a reason to return.  Hopefully, they will move on to places not along the Gulf Coast this time.

While the scenes of devastation after the flood waters recede will look the same, the paths that America's two latest disaster zones will take from here couldn't be any more different.

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