Impact of Hurricane Katrina on coastal systems: Disaster resilience in New Orleans, Louisiana

Authors: Wen-Ching Chuang*, US EPA, Tarsha Eason, US EPA, Ahjond Garmestani, US EPA
Topics: Urban Geography, Sustainability Science, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: New Orleans, hurricane Katrina, disaster resilience
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Balcony B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years, discussions on natural hazards in both research and policy domains have shifted from vulnerability to resilience because the latter concept is more proactive and dynamic. However, there is neither a single definition nor a widely accepted way to measure disaster resilience. In addition, another aspect of resilience is a system’s capacity for reorganization after natural hazards. Disturbances like natural hazards often wreak havoc on human and natural systems. However, in the aftermath, there is the potential opportunity for innovation, development and transformation, which are less discussed in the current disaster resilience literature but critical for management purposes.

This paper reviews the literature on community resilience to natural hazards, and discusses the limitations for assessing disaster resilience. Furthermore, we assess social and environmental change of New Orleans and southern Louisiana spatially and temporally (i.e., pre- and post-Katrina). By analyzing changes in system conditions using social, economic and environmental factors, we identified some of the characteristics of the system’s reorganization trajectories. Although the ongoing population recovery may be a sign of revitalization, the city and metropolitan area continue to face socioeconomic inequalities and environmental vulnerability to natural disasters. The spatial distribution of social-ecological conditions over time reveals certain levels of change and reorganization after Katrina, but the reorganization did not translate into greater equity. Our analyses comprise three-time steps, including before and after the system was disturbed, and demonstrate an advanced approach for assessing disaster resilience.

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