As the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, many people will wonder if it can happen again. The answer to this question is both yes and no.
Yes, another large scale disaster causing misery, suffering and devastation on the level of Katrina is certainly possible. No, it probably won’t be a replay of Katrina it could be something else entirely.
There are many potential disasters that could befall the United States and cause devastation on the level of Katrina. Two of the most likely are earthquakes and volcanoes.
Many areas of the United States including the Midwest are prone to earthquakes. A large scale Earthquake particularly in an area not used to them could create the kind of devastation we saw after Katrina on a much wider scale.
The most likely places to be hit by an Earthquake would be California cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Yet other big cities like St. Louis also sit on fault lines. A bothersome scenario similar to Katrina is that a quake could cause the collapse of levies and wide-spread flooding.
There are also quite a few volcanoes in the United States some of which are very close to large cities. The Mount Rainier volcano is right outside Seattle. These could create floods of mud and debris that could cover whole areas. This occurred when the Mount St. Helens volcano erupted in 1981. Such floods could easily cover a whole city and create large scale devastation.
The Real Catastrophe
The real catastrophe after Hurricane Katrina was not the disaster itself but government’s failure to respond to it. Even though there has been much talk of disaster response it is not clear whether the US government could effectively respond to such a catastrophe.
There has been no real structural change or radical reform to the federal government to make it more responsive to crises. If anything it has become less responsive because more layers of bureaucracy have been added.
To make matters worse politics is more polarized than ever. Politicians are afraid to respond to crises out of fear that they will be blamed for them.
This means that the government response to the next big disaster is likely to be a sorry repeat of the Katrina debacle. A debacle that does not need to occur, but will occur because America’s leaders are not interested in effective disaster response.