After Katrina, New Orleanians were castigated as a bunch of slackjaws who didn't know enough to get out of the way of a hurricane coming straight at them. It was as if hurricanes are just like warm fronts and rain bands, and that once set in motion, they'll go in the predicted direction until they run out of United States and do whatever they do in the Atlantic. But hurricanes aren't that predictable, as Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Mild Breeze Ida illustrated yesterday. Despite predictions of 70 percent chance of rain all day, it barely sprinkled.
What critics also failed to account for is the cost of dealing with a storm. Hurricane Gustav was small "D" devastating to the region last year because the mass evacuation meant a whole city went on a forced vacation and people had to spend money earmarked for such frivolities as bills and groceries on evacuation. When they returned, they came back to businesses that had gone a week without cash flow and struggled to make payroll. Gustav sent a shiver through the South Louisiana economy that took a few months to work off last year, and even Ida's weak miss affected a lot of lives as many working parents suddenly had to figure out what to do with their children yesterday when many schools pre-emptively closed.
Bottom line: As always, what seems simple is rarely simple.