School of Big Storms: Hurricanes Past Teach Us How to Prepare for the Future

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 For More Information: Aaron Viles 504.525.1528 ext. 207 or 225.615.0346 (cell)LESSONS FROM THE SCHOOL OF BIG STORMSHurricanes past teach us how to prepare for the futureNEW ORLEANS ” The severity of hurricane season impacts in the present and future can be minimized if the lessons of hurricane seasons past are heeded, two environmental groups conclude in a new report released to coincide with the start of Hurricane Season 2006.The Gulf Restoration Network and the Sierra Club Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force have collaborated to produce The School of Big Storms: The High Cost of Compromising Our Natural Defenses and the Benefits of Protecting Them.The report examines the layers of protection nature provides ” from barrier islands to natural flooding cycles ” and what hurricanes of the past have taught us about the consequences of compromising and undermining natural systems.”We hope to avoid making the same mistakes over and over that put our communities at greater and greater risk,” says Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network. “If we allow the continued destruction of our natural barriers, such as coastal wetlands and barrier islands, then we take away nature’s ability to protect us by reducing the strength and impact of hurricanes.””The School of Big Storms provides examples of lessons that, when heeded, will benefit all communities on the Gulf Coast,” says Leslie March, author of the report and member of the Sierra Club Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force. “The lessons are a guide for public officials, government agencies and citizens living along the Gulf Coast. If we can learn from the lessons that past hurricanes have taught us, we will protect our natural coastal environment and the people and communities that live here.”The lesson learned in Louisiana involves the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a seldom-used navigation channel built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a shortcut linking the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of New Orleans. During Hurricane Katrina, the MRGO acted as a funnel ” increasing the height of the storm surge by several feet and sharply increasing its speed ” causing levees to crumble under the assault. Legislation currently is pending before U.S. Congress to de-authorize the channel and develop a plan for it’s closure. Click here to send a message to Congress, urging them to close the MRGO.Examples of other lessons from The School of Big Storms include:Allowing development in the flood plain or upriver from a flood-prone area only puts more people at risk.Developing plans to reduce flooding impact are only successful when they are not weakened as a result of political pressure.Protecting barrier islands and coastal wetlands will protect communities.Encouraging development that is set back from the water front will protect communities.Exempting development from building codes or other storm protection requirements only weakens a community’s defenses.Protecting the natural habitat for endangered species along the coast also will protect communities.Strengthening oil and gas critical infrastructure will help protect people and the environment.Download a pdf of The School of Big StormsFor a hardcopy of the report, you can either recieve a cd for a $5 donation, recieve a paper copy for a $10 donation, or join the GRN as a member (suggested membership level of $35, minimum $15) and recieve a complimentary copy.# # #The Gulf Restoration Network is a diverse network of individuals and local, regional and national groups committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf Coast region. Founded in 1994, GRN has members in all five Gulf Coast states. GRN plays a pivotal role in providing members with the technical assistance, Gulf-wide strategic collaboration, and campaign support needed to successfully address environmental threats in their communities. For more information, visit: http://healthygulf.org.The Sierra Club’s 750,000 members work to protect communities and the planet. The Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. The Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force is made up of volunteers and staff from the Lone Star (Texas), Delta (Louisiana), Mississippi and Alabama chapters of the Sierra Club representing more than 20,000 Sierra Club members. For more information, visit the organization’s website: www.sierraclub.org.