While 80 percent of families from southeast Louisiana are confident their individual hurricane plans will be in place for the approaching season, most doubt that federal government planners are properly prepared. That's one finding in a poll released last month by LSU's Public Policy Research Lab. If nothing else, the public's readiness is a positive sign, as forecasts call for an above-average Atlantic hurricane season this year, says David Brown, research investigator and assistant professor in LSU's Department of Geography and Anthropology. A team of Colorado State University meteorologists expect as many as 16 named storms this coming season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. "It is encouraging that the vast majority of respondents have some kind of hurricane plan," Brown says. "This demonstrates recognition that hurricane preparation needs to be taken seriously at the household level."
Survey participants didn't feel as certain, however, about the preparations being made by government entities. The LSU poll found that 57 percent of respondents believe their own town or parish has a well-developed plan, and 62 percent believe the state does as well; but only 30 percent expressed confidence that the federal government has an effective plan in place. Brown suggests that the landmark hurricane season of 2005, which relocated thousands of people from the New Orleans area and saw countless others from along the Gulf Coast go without aid for days, plays a large role in public opinion even today. "Clearly, the perceived inadequacy of the federal response to Katrina still lingers in the minds of many residents," he says.
The survey, part of a long-range study led by LSU Communication Studies Chair Renee Edwards, also asked coastal residents and their neighbors farther north how they feel about protective infrastructure. About 60 percent said they believe hurricane-protection systems such as levees, warning alerts and pumps are better today than they were in 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita overpowered many public systems. Another 20 percent has "no confidence" in the same systems and said they believe levees and the like offer "no protection" to Louisiana. The telephone survey questioned more than 500 individuals who resided in southeastern Louisiana during October and November 2009. — Alford