Socialist Worker

The climate crisis fuels hurricanes

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2770

Hurricane Ida last Saturday

Hurricane Ida last Saturday (Pic: NOAA/ NASA)


Hurricane Ida has ­spread panic across the US Gulf Coast as 150 mile an hour winds and torrential rains lashed the state of Louisiana.

It used to be rare for a storm to intensify into a ­hurricane in just six hours.

But that is what ­happened. And, global ­warming is making the ­process, known as “rapid intensification”, both more deadly and more frequent.

Warmer sea ­temperatures are the crucial ingredient driving the change. They are yet another sign of why we need the most drastic of measures to stop more ­climate change.

Ida was a ­category four hurricane, one below the highest level.

But, as Socialist Worker went to press, it had at points reached the same strength as Hurricane ­Katrina. This devastated much of New Orleans in 2005, killing 1,800 people.

Just as then, motorways are at a standstill with thousands of people desperately trying to heed orders to ­evacuate.

Climate activists target the city and the system to demand change
Climate activists target the city and the system to demand change
  Read More

And, just as then, it is poor and black people who are most at risk of losing their homes—and their lives.

African Americans make up around 60 percent of the population of New Orleans, which was expected to be hardest hit.

Generations

And, generations of racism today mean there are six times as many African American households living in poverty there as in white households.

African Americans are three times more likely to be unemployed than white people.

How these people are expected to “evacuate” is anyone’s guess.

But the plight of the ­poorest is barely registering in media coverage.

President Joe Biden declared Hurricane Ida a “major disaster” and warned of immense devastation.

But where is the federal government’s rescue ­programme? One of the authorities’ first acts was to announce anti-looting measures.

In the days and weeks that follow, who will ensure that those who lost their homes are helped with the basics of shelter, food, ­sanitation and electricity?

Some 16 years ago, these were some of the key governmental failings in the ­aftermath of Hurricane ­Katrina. Many people are now asking what lessons were learned. Late last Sunday, power was completely cut off to the city, leaving thousands to suffer in darkness—reliant on generators, if they could afford them.

Sewage pumping stations, which have no backup power, stopped working meaning no clean drinking water, and no water to flush toilets.

Power

The power outages also led to fears that the pumps that are supposed to remove flood water could not run.

There are also concerns about the state’s two nuclear power stations and various chemical plants.

And, this time around there is also a new ­dimension—Covid-19.

Hospitals in Louisiana are already filled with over 2,400 patients with coronavirus, with the governor admitting the state as in a “very ­dangerous place with our hospitals”.

Evacuating hospitals, even those damaged by the hurricane, was “never an option” because there are no facilities elsewhere with capacity.

Instead, hundreds of healthcare workers decided that rather than flee the storm, they would sleep at the hospital in order to take care of their patients.

Meanwhile, those who lose their houses are likely ­to be forced to shelter together at close quarters, and this could raise infection levels still further.

Already healthcare ­workers say the rapid spread of the virus in the Louisiana city of Lake Charles was worsened by the housing shortage caused by Hurricane Laura in 2020.

Nearly a year later, ­residents remain displaced and are staying with friends where the virus can spread.

Hurricane Katrina was in 2005 a brutal reminder that your race and class can determine whether you will ­survive the climate crisis.

The system’s repeated ­failures should drive us to overthrow it.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.