NCH in Action
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many of the gulf coast's historic sites were damaged by flood waters, high winds, and debris. Fort Jackson, a National Historic Landmark only 40 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River, sustained significant damage due to the storm surge which flooded much of the site. Conservators from the National Park Service were dispatched by ESF #11 – NCH to stabilize the masonry walls and structure, assess the damage done to the site, and suggest actions to stabilize and repair the building for the future.
In addition to extensive damage to the historic buildings of New Orleans, cultural landscapes, such as cemeteries, were also damaged. High winds uprooted trees which disturbed graves and headstones. ESF #11 – NCH sent in personnel to assess the area and to ensure that reburial of remains occurred in a respectful manner, as well as making sure that historic headstones were repaired and remounted. Volunteers also established protective measures to prevent further damage from the elements and other ongoing cleanup activities.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and the Geographic Information System (GIS), technology has been used by emergency responders to help facilitate response activities. Responders digitally represent locations and link corresponding data, allowing them to communicate vital information in a visual manner. After Hurricane Katrina, responders fanned out through some of the hardest hit areas of New Orleans to collect data on damaged structures.
High winds and flooding can damage much more than historic structures and natural environments. Museum collections, archival documents, and family heirlooms can all fall victim to the ravages of nature. Photographs, papers, hard drives and museum collections were all damaged after Hurricane Katrina, but due to the expertise and knowledge of responders, many of the damaged items and objects were able to be salvaged and saved.
Coastal wetlands and waterways, as well as coral reefs, perform an invaluable service of protecting coastal communities and towns by absorbing storm surge and rain runoff that might otherwise cause large scale flooding. After such massive storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis many of these natural areas are damaged and their ability to protect inland communities from future storms is diminished. Studies conducted to assess the health of these natural environments help determine the extent of the damage and suggest steps to aid in the recovery of the natural ecosystem and environment.