In 2005, two major coastal events dominated the headlines and the lives of millions.
The Indian Ocean Tsunami, which actually occurred in the last week of 2004, decimated village after village throughout the coastal regions of Africa and Southern Asia. The end result was one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory. Most of 2005 was spent cleaning up the largescale destruction and planning for the future of local coastal communities while trying to understand and balance human development with natural ecosystems.
Hurricane season 2005 turned out to be a record setting one for the United States, with over 30 named storms in the Atlantic and Gulf Basins. Three major hurricanes made landfall in the Gulf of Mexico causing billions in damage and taking many, many lives. Wilma and Rita destroyed life and property in Flordia and Texas respectively, but it was Katrina that, by far, did the most damage.
New Orleans and the surrounding areas took the brunt of the storm damage, with some communities under as much as 20-30 feet of water. Entire communities were literally blown away by the Category 5 (4 at landfall) storm that inundated the highly engineered coastal system with flood waters that were simply beyond the levees capacity.
The storm brought the real threat of coastal hazards to the attention of the American public, and the following hazard response of FEMA and others was seen as unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the coastal disaster. The pieces are now just beginning to be put back and place and the debate as to the future of New Orleans and it's surrounding coastal communities continues to take place.
So, what is in store for our coasts and oceans in 2006? If 2005 sets any precedent (and we certainly hope it doesn't) we could be in for more significant coastal hazard events that seriously affect the well being of our communities and natural ecosystems. Now is the time to being to think about how we manage, develop, and conserve our coastal environment both around the world and here at home in the New York - New Jersey region.
At the end of the day we are as susceptible to the threats of tsunamis and hurricanes, and need to approach our coastal conservation planning with that in mind. The CMRC will be working to create solutions to these very issues in the upcoming year and look forward to your support. JB