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Gulf Coast storm warning

8/27/2008, 5 p.m.

Three years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into Louisiana, residents including students at historically black Xavier University of Louisiana, have been told to evacuate as Tropical Storm Gustav, which battered Haiti, is expected to touch down in the state Monday.
While Governor Bobby Jindal, on a recent radio interview, said it is too soon to be sure that the storm will hit the city, people should make preparations to travel anyway.
The national weather service is predicting that the storm will be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Florida is still cleaning up after being hit four times by Tropical Storm Fay.
As residents prepare for this newest storm, newly released data from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center reveal that the Katrina-Rita recovery effort is spotty at best. For example, the lower ninth ward, which was predominantly populated by African Americans, currently has only 11 percent of its pre-Katrina households.
Katrina hit the state on the 29th of August and left devastation in its wake that included 1,464 dead, 1.3 million displaced Louisianans, and the destruction of more than 200,000 homes, 40 schools, 10 hospitals and 200 square miles of Louisiana marshland.
The hurricanes also damaged 835 schools and flooded more than 16,000 businesses, according to the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) poured $4.9 billion in recovery money into the area, which is more than two times what the agency normally spends nationwide in one year.
However, according to a forthcoming book by Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley, the aid has, in some cases, missed its mark. The civil rights lawyer cites the following facts as support in his book, Storms Still Raging: Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice.
* Of the 116,708 homeowners who needed assistance, zero have been able to get help from the $10 billion federal "Road Home Community Development Block Grant Program."
* Only 82 of a total of 10,000 (.008 percent) rental units that were projected to be completed by August 2008, were actually finished.
* There are 38 percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.
* Zero apartments have been built to replace the 963 public housing units that were formally occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing development; and only 10 apartments out of 896 at the La Fitte housing development have been rebuilt. Experts estimate that at this pace, it will take 20 to 25 years to rebuild the city of New Orleans.
At the same time, there have definitely been some successful recovery efforts. For example, Xavier College, which was forced to close its doors because of the damage, was reopened in January of 2006, (about six months later).
Other bright spots according to the city's web site include: There are now more restaurants open in the popular eating areas than before the hurricanes hit; all of the main museums such as New Orleans Museum of Art and New Orleans Opera Association have re-opened; some 97 percent of medium to large businesses have returned to full capacity; the number of conventions coming into New Orleans was at 70 percent in 2007, and is projected to hit 90 percent in 2008; and the rating of the city's bonds has increased from being at "junk" status to investment grade.
The results are obviously mixed and demonstrate that even though there have been some advancements in the past three years, everything is not complete, and work is still needed to be done in the state of Louisiana.