Could something have been done to prevent this?
Yes. The levees could have been higher. The New York Times has reported that the estimated cost of protecting against a category-5 hurricane, the highest on the scale, is $2.5 billion.
The natural marshlands that protect New Orleans from surrounding waters could also have been protected from degradation. A 30-year restoration plan, called Coast 2050, was published in 1998, but it put the bill at a staggering $14 billion. Damages from the current flooding are expected to run to tens of billions of dollars.
Part of the problem is that planners did not take into account the recent upswing in hurricane incidence, says Hugh Willoughby, a meteorologist at the International Hurricane Research Center in Miami, Florida.
"The United States had had a really long run of good luck with hurricanes. Lots of building decisions were made thinking we would continue to have the benign conditions of the 1970s and 1980s," Willoughby told firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Unfortunately, 'Don't worry, be happy' is not a very good philosophy for dealing with this kind of thing."
Nature, 1 de Setembro de 2005