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New Orleans Mayor Landrieu: City more confident, but not finished

September 15, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu during a news conference on Hurricane Isaac. He spoke recently about his anxiety before the storm -- and his relief afterward.
Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu during a news conference on Hurricane… (Chris Graythen/Getty Images )

Hurricane Isaac has come and gone, with some experts estimating that it may have caused damage of up to $1.5 billion -- mostly outside the New Orleans hurricane protection system of levees, flood walls and other barriers. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke with The Times about surviving the storm.

At a briefing before Isaac hit -- one day before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -- you mentioned how anxious the city was and said you felt it too. Why was that?

What I was doing for the people was articulating that I, just like them, was feeling very uneasy — not about the levees, but that another storm was coming our way. I had a conversation with my son who was 12 at the time [of Katrina] and he said, 'I feel the same way.' It was a communal feeling.

Was the new, post-Katrina levee system a factor in people's anxiety?

There was some concern about would the levees hold.

I also noticed that you repeatedly cautioned people not to underestimate the storm. Why was that?

One of the things I’ve learned about hurricanes is to approach them with humility.

So how do people feel now after the storm?

In Orleans Parish, we feel a thousand percent better. In Orleans Parish, we did not lose a life. Inside the flood walls, we did not have flooding. The pumps worked. The levees worked. It was a huge confidence builder.

Did the system have any effect on those outside, where we saw a lot of storm flooding?

We have no idea. That’s why President Obama has asked the [U.S. Army] Corps to do an after-action review. We won’t know until we study it.

Are you worried about areas outside of the New Orleans levee system?

As the mayor of New Orleans, I’m very concerned about the parishes that lie between us and the Gulf because they have a lot of important infrastructure there. It’s not just the few people who live there but the oil and gas industry. We have been fighting with the Corps to get adequate levee protection to protect oil and gas in the Gulf. We will continue to fight for them.

How do you think the New Orleans levee system the Corps rebuilt after Katrina performed during the storm?

We did well, but we’re not where I want to be.  The scientists and experts say they will withstand a Category 5. I haven’t seen that. All you can do is reduce your risk as much as possible. One of the things you do is restore your wetlands — coastal restoration is really important because it will be the first barrier before these levees.

We’re not finished, but we’re much more confident now that we withstood a pretty ferocious storm.

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Join Molly on Google+ and Twitter @mollyhf. Email: molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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