Swallowed by the Sea

Ten years after Katrina, experts say Louisiana’s fishing towns are disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina took the lives of more than 1800 people and caused more than $150 billion in damage. Today, New Orleans has a new $14.5 billion flood protection system.

Outside the city, however, efforts have lagged to protect small towns and villages. Some say these areas are losing land every year to erosion.

Rocky Morales lives in the small town of Delacroix, and he says it’s slowly melting into the water. The woods where he played hide-and-seek as a boy are gone. It’s all water and mud back there now.

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Many of the fishermen who once lived here… Rocky’s friends and relatives… have disappeared as well. He says many believe another hurricane could take it all away and send the rest of Delacroix out to sea.

Over the past 100 years, more than 1,880 square miles of Louisiana land has turned into open water. This is roughly the size of Delaware.

According to the US Geological Survey, it’s estimated the loss will continue with 17 square miles disappearing on average each year.

Cemeteries are disappearing into the Gulf. Entire barrier island chains, lighthouses, bridges, roads, schools and entire towns have been washed away. Hurricanes speed up this process.

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Some homes stand on massive stilts that lift them two stories above ground. Other homes sit on wheels so the owners can simply flee when a storm threatens.

Experts with the Environmental Defense Fund say the area needs a very aggressive restoration program.

Since the early 1990s, the government has spent billions on coastal works to slow the land loss. There’s been some success, but the ultimately the Gulf wins.

Scientists have even tuned to the Netherlands for advice. It’s here where they have protected themselves from the sea with a network of dunes and floodgates. Only problem is, the Netherlands deal with a much milder sea. Hurricanes aren’t an issue.

Hurricane Katrina had a storm surge of 28 feet and some waves reached as high as 55 feet (Army Corps of Engineers).

(sources: US Geological Survey, US Army Corps of Engineers, Bayou Buzz)

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