Gustav Not as Severe as Katrina

Context is everything, and hurricanes appear to be no exception. Though Hurricane Gustav’s impact on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi and Louisiana wasn’t a love pat, locals mostly seem grateful that the damage it caused, already estimated at possibly up to $10 billion, is a fraction of that created by Hurricane Katrina three years ago. That legendary storm caused more than $80 billion in damage and left more than 2,500 people dead or missing. The Category 2 Gustav, by comparison, was not only substantially weaker, but it made landfall farther from the densely populated areas around New Orleans. Lenny Sawyer, owner & chairman of Sawyer Real Estate, the Grubb & Ellis Co. affiliate in Gulfport, Miss., told CPN that in his area, “We were really spared…. We were awful lucky here.” He added, however, that he has a second home west of Gulfport, in Louisiana, and hasn’t been able to check on it. “They will not let anybody in.” Sawyer also said that U.S Route 90, the closest major highway to the Gulf shore, is still closed as debris removal continues. During Katrina, he said, an older 5,000-square-foot building belonging to another business of his in Gulfport was utterly demolished, and that company lost all of its records and everything else that was in the building. In Gulfport, he said, most of the damage was to marinas and piers, with mostly light roof damage inland. Power was out for only about three hours. Yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that “Evacuees attempting to return home early face road blocks, traffic delays, limited water and food, limited utilities, no hospitals and limited if any health care facilities, and serious health hazards. Those crowding the roads seeking to return home are limiting the mobility of emergency responders, utility workers and other essential personnel who must travel to their area and complete their work before it is safe for the general public to return.” Preliminary reports as of this morning indicate that offshore oil drilling rigs suffered little or no significant damage from Gustav. Oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped to their lowest in almost five months in the wake of the less-than-expected damage. A spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute told CPN that although insured loss estimates are not official yet, insurance modeling firms are estimating damage at between $3 billion and $10 billion. While Gustav was not as significant as Katrina, the spokesperson continued, there is still widespread damage in both the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas. “The broader issue,” the spokesperson said, “will be whether any of the other three storms–Hanna, Ike or Josephine–make landfall in the southeast and northeast coastal areas and whether they cause major damage.”