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Science & Technology

September 4, 2006
Volume 84, Number 36
pp. 39-47
Linda Raber/C&EN

STILL SCARRED One year after hurricanes ravaged New Orleans, the eerie X-shaped spray-painted marks on destroyed homes are still evident all over the city. With these marks, rescue workers announced the date they entered the homes, the nature of the hazards within, and whether they found bodies.

Road To Recovery

A year after the hurricanes, scientists and industry workers reflect on the impact on their work and lives

Bethany Halford, Bette Hileman, Rachel Petkewich, Linda R. Raber, Marc S. Reisch, Elizabeth K. Wilson, and Amanda Yarnell

One year after hurricanes Katrina and then Rita pummeled the Gulf Coast, the storms' devastation is still painfully apparent. In New Orleans, thousands of piles of trash dot the city, levee repair is incomplete, and few people have returned to their homes, particularly those in the Lower 9th Ward and in St. Bernard Parish. Outside the city, temporary trailer parks and still-empty houses with blue tarps in place of roofs remain a common sight up and down the Gulf Coast.

Last November, C&EN described the plight of students, professors, and chemical company employees affected by the storms (C&EN, Nov. 21, 2005, page 13). Scattered across the country in the aftermath of the hurricanes, they recounted tales of devastation, loss, and fear. Today, nearly all of them have returned to the area. But most are still coping with the havoc the storms wreaked on their personal and professional lives.

"The flooding that resulted from the levee breaks was a catastrophe of extreme dimension for this country, not just for this city," says Jack H. Stocker, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of New Orleans (UNO) and an American Chemical Society councilor. With the exception of the French Quarter and downtown areas, the city is still a wreck—broken and, in many cases, abandoned.

"I am slowly coming out of the blue funk of the past year," Stocker says. Readers will recall that Stocker lost all of his possessions when the levees broke. He was at the ACS national meeting in Washington, D.C., when the floodwaters rose. He didn't get back to New Orleans until November. Among his lost items were about 30,000 science-fiction books, which were soaked and moldy, and a tremendous collection of 78-rpm records that had been tossed about in the water and broken. The most poignant losses were of personal mementos of a long and happy life in the home where he and his late wife raised their children.

After he got back to New Orleans, he soon lost the opportunity to salvage anything at all from his house. He had contracted with a nonprofit community organization to move a sofa and some other items of furniture only. He was very specific, he said, because he wanted to try to gather what little could be saved. When he next saw the house it had been gutted to the studs. Nothing remained. This was another devastating blow. "Not a day passes by that I am not reminded of something I want to show people that I no longer have," he says.

Linda Raber/C&EN

DISPLACED Stocker walks along his former street, where FEMA trailers now dominate the landscape. After his long-time home was mistakenly gutted, he decided not to rebuild.

But like all of the chemists C&EN revisited, Stocker carries on and is in reasonably good spirits. He's started to collect books again. His new collection is beginning to take a lot of space in his modest one-bedroom apartment just outside the French Quarter. Space could become a problem, but he has absolutely no plans to move back to his old neighborhood.

"There is no aspect of my life that didn't change," Stocker says. "Some of my doctors didn't come back. I hunt for a new dermatologist, a new internist, and a podiatrist." Every little daily activity is a hassle. "I drive with great caution because a lot of the traffic lights in the city aren't working. I have trouble getting a haircut. And I have to go across the city to find a supermarket because everything in my area was simply wiped out," he says.

Those who did choose to return to their homes faced a tough road. When Xavier University chemistry department chair Cheryl K. Stevens first returned to New Orleans just after Christmas, she was shocked by the devastation: homes destroyed, streets full of mud, yards choked with weeds. "The shame of it is that it still looks like that today. In so much of the city, there has been so little progress.

"When I first walked into our home, it was overwhelming," she recalls. Located just a few blocks from UNO, where her husband, Ed, chairs the chemistry department, the house's first floor suffered severe flooding damage and had been stripped and gutted by their eldest son, Geoffrey. Despite his hard work, the house was still "filthy," Cheryl says. "The floors were still covered in mud, and everything salvageable—dishes, photographs, my toaster—was piled up in the living room, coated with a thick layer of dust. There was no electricity. For the first time in months, I started to cry."

The Stevens' house is now almost completely renovated. But daily life in New Orleans has become far more tedious, Cheryl notes. "For instance, there's nowhere to shop—if you want to buy a pair of shoes, it's a big deal. When Walgreens opened, there was a party in our neighborhood."

Linda Raber/C&EN

REBUILT It took months, but the Stevens family has nearly completed renovating their house in Lake Terrace, which suffered severe flooding when the nearby levee broke in Katrina's wake. Cheryl, pictured with their youngest son Ricky, says it's a relief to be back home.

She says it's been hard for her youngest son, Ricky, to make new friends. "His best friends' families have decided not to return to New Orleans. There's no one living in our neighborhood."

Her job at Xavier has become more stressful. The storms exacted a hefty financial toll on the university, discouraging many undergraduate students from returning and triggering difficult faculty layoffs across campus. But Cheryl considers her department lucky. Today, 20 of the chemistry department's former 25 faculty members have been able to remain at Xavier. And nearly all of the equipment the department lost in the storm or its hot, humid wake—including infrared spectrometers, optics equipment, balances, and refrigerators—has been replaced, thanks to generous support from the National Science Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

"What we can't recover, however, is time," she says. "But the people who have come back have been truly committed to Xavier, and our department and the university seem more cohesive than ever."

Those in the chemistry department at Tulane University also consider themselves lucky. The university continues to feel the aftershocks of restructuring and layoffs in Katrina's wake, but the chemistry department escaped relatively unscathed, according to chemistry professor Larry D. Byers.

Byers and a few colleagues weathered the storm in Tulane's science building. The building survived with minimal damage, but after the levees broke and the city flooded, the building's generator finally gave out, and the group was forced out by heat and humidity. Leaving their experiments behind and their reagents and enzymes without refrigeration, they scattered across the U.S.

What a difference a year makes. Now, Byers' enzymology lab is back in full operation, his reagents replaced, and his lab equipment in good shape.

Cleanup and restoration of the building has been completed, more than 90% of chemistry undergraduates and all of the chemistry faculty have returned, and 18 new graduate students are slated to begin in the fall.

"It's a lot less chaotic now," Byers says. "This past semester, particularly in the area right around campus, it's hard to tell anything happened."

The efficiency of the campus renovation surprised Tulane physics professor Ulrike Diebold. "It's unbelievable how fast they got things up and running," she says. "When I first came back, I thought there's no way the university would open in two months."

Linda Raber/C&EN

LEFT BEHIND Historically black Southern University at New Orleans was hard hit by Katrina. Campus housing now consists of a field of trailers (top). Chemistry department chair Al Bopp (left, in photo at bottom) recently gave Stocker a tour of the school's temporary laboratories, also in trailers and still lacking basics like spigots.

For the university as a whole, however, the picture isn't nearly so rosy. Although it continued to receive healthy endowments, Tulane was forced to restructure itself to help cope with a $100 million deficit. More than 200 faculty, about 180 of them in the medical school, have been let go. Four engineering majors, including mechanical and electrical engineering and computer science, were axed, although chemical engineering was spared. The remaining engineering departments are now folded in with science departments into a new School of Science & Engineering. This fall's freshman class will have about 500 fewer students than the 1,400 that Tulane had hoped for.

Katrina-related damages to the university totaled more than $300 million. So far, Tulane has received $105 million in reimbursement from insurance companies and $80,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Tulane has filed a lawsuit against Allianz Global Risks U.S. Insurance Co. for an additional $250 million.

The chemistry department, however, has fared remarkably well. "As far as the department's research goes, we've really only been minimally affected," Byers says. Even Diebold's 3,000-sq-ft surface science lab, which is housed in the science building's basement and had suffered extensive flooding and mold damage, was completely renovated by July.

Diebold reports that nearly all of her grad students have returned, and she has two more coming this fall.

Despite the major upheavals, research groups at Tulane and elsewhere have continued to get grants and publish. Last November, when C&EN spoke to UNO chemistry professors Zeev and Nitsa Rosenzweig at what was then, and still is, their temporary home at the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., Zeev made a point of telling their students and postdocs that they should focus on getting papers out. He optimistically predicted that 2006 would be an extremely productive year.

At the time, Zeev's declaration sounded like the bravado of a captain trying to keep his stressed-out crew from jumping ship. All of their research materials had been destroyed; they were wearing donated clothes.

Now, 10 months later, Zeev's remarks seem prescient. It has been a productive year for the Rosenzweigs and their international collection of graduate students and postdocs, who have dubbed themselves the Refugee Girls. They published in Langmuir, Analytical Chemistry, Biosensors & Bioelectronics, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. They say a fifth paper is in press, and a couple more should be out early next year.

"We all found out that we are better than we thought," Nitsa says. "It was really beautiful to see how everyone in the group helped each other. They've really become a little family."

Romanian graduate student Georgeta Crivat is on track to complete her Ph.D. on time, while her colleague Lifang Shi, from China, will probably finish her doctoral studies early. The Rosenzweigs have even managed to recruit a new postdoc and a graduate student, despite the fact they are still 1,100 miles from UNO.

Except for a few graduate students who had to return to New Orleans to complete classwork, the Rosenzweig lab plans to stay at NIST until the hurricane season ends in November. "We just didn't want the students to go through any other trauma," Nitsa explains. "We are fine here, and our hosts aren't pushing us out the door."

Indeed, UNO's chemistry building has only recently become habitable, reports Ed Stevens. Exposed stud walls in some offices and laboratories are signs of the continuing battle against mold, which took over the building during the eight months it went without power. The university continues to struggle to find the cash to make these and other repairs to its campus, he says.

"Everybody's research has been set back," he adds. He says the department has had good luck in getting insurance money to pay for moisture— and humidity—damaged equipment, "but far less luck in replacing chemicals and other consumables."

But, he too, is counting his department's blessings. Despite steep drops in undergraduate and graduate enrollment and layoffs of tenured faculty elsewhere at UNO, the chemistry department hasn't been forced to fire any of its faculty members. All but three have chosen to return. The department has even been given the go-ahead to fill two slots that have been empty since before Katrina hit.

But faculty recruiting is likely to remain a huge challenge, Ed Stevens notes. Finding competitive start-up funds is now next to impossible. "And the city itself is now more a detraction than a draw."

"There are areas that look like a boomtown, but in other parts of the city, the situation still looks bleak," Zeev says. "Driving there at night is a traumatic experience," Nitsa adds, "and we are used to driving through war zones in the Middle East." Zeev finishes her thought, "It's kind of difficult to comprehend that this is America."

Their UNO colleague Bruce Gibb has similar concerns about the department's ability to recruit graduate students. The area adjacent to UNO where many students live is still in shambles. And rents have skyrocketed throughout the city.

The department has hiked its graduate student stipend from $16,500 to $19,000 per year in an effort to improve recruiting. And it would appear they've been rewarded for their efforts. Twelve new chemistry grad students will start at UNO this month, a class size only slightly smaller than pre-Katrina levels.

Although he's happy to be back, Gibb points out that obstacles remain to getting his research back up to 100%. Both blackouts and brownouts remain all too common, threatening the lifetimes of computers and other equipment. And the city's estimated 17,000 leaking water pipes mean that water pressure remains too low to reliably run water-cooled condensers or rotary evaporators. "Not to mention that you have to go to the first floor of the building to use the washroom."

Like many of his colleagues, Gibb is also still struggling to get his own house in order. The contractor he hired to renovate his flooded home in Gentilly Ridge bit off more work than he could chew. Gibb and his family were able to move back in this summer. But construction has continued to drag on at a snail's pace.

Despite these hurdles, however, Gibb is counting his blessings. "There are plenty of people around here who consider FEMA a four-letter word," he says. He chalks up his own luck with the agency to his years of practice writing scientific grants.

FEMA has also come through for Gibb's postdoc Srinivasan Kannupal, who shared an apartment with Gibb, his wife Corinne and daughter Naomi, and an undergraduate student during the lab's sojourn in Texas in the wake of the storm. He has moved into a FEMA trailer on the university's east campus. But Gibb still has a full house: Another of his postdocs, who has been unable to find housing in the city's tight market, has moved in temporarily.

Eric Broussard encountered a similar problem when he returned to New Orleans this January to finish up his senior year at Xavier. "It's too expensive to get an apartment," says the chemistry major, who had been renting a place in Metairie before Katrina sent him fleeing back home to Southern California. "Rents have doubled or tripled." So he came back to a dorm on campus. The cafeteria opened only sporadically, the lights went out repeatedly, it was often unbearably hot and humid, and there were brief periods without water. "But honestly, we barely noticed it," Broussard says. "Everyone was working hard to graduate."

And Broussard succeeded. He graduated in mid-August, cheered on by 14 of his relatives who had trekked down to New Orleans to watch him get his diploma. "It's been a struggle but definitely worth it in the end," he says.

After Katrina shuttered Xavier last fall, Broussard spent the remainder of the year at the University of Southern California. "USC was a big eye-opening experience for me," he says. "It totally changed my study habits. The skills I learned there really helped me these last few months at Xavier."

This month, Broussard will begin a master's degree program in biomedical sciences at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Ill. He still hopes to go to medical school afterward. "The last year has forced me to learn how to take up information under pressure," he says. "I think it will help me in the future."

Saundra Y. McGuire has also been able to see a silver lining in the wake of the hurricanes' devastation of the Gulf Coast. McGuire—who serves as director of Louisiana State University's Center for Academic Success, associate dean of the University College, and adjunct professor of chemistry-notes that there is now far more emphasis on community service in LSU's college courses.

Center For Academic Success/LSU

RESILIENCE "Our students seem to have rebounded and their lives are pretty much back to normal," says LSU's McGuire, shown here with student Michael Sims. "I really haven't seen any lingering effects."

McGuire's center houses the Service Learning Initiative, which encourages faculty to incorporate community service into the regular course curricula. Analytical chemistry students, for example, may test local rivers, lakes, and wetlands for contamination. Civil engineering students may help design city parks or playgrounds. Architecture students may help design new structures to replace hurricane-damaged buildings.

BEFORE THE STORMS, the community outreach program at LSU was quite active, says Jan Shoemaker, who directs the program. "But there is more interest in service learning since the hurricanes," she notes. During the 2005-06 academic year, "we had about 145 sections, involving 35 or so different departments" in which service learning was a part of the course work, she says.

"The hurricanes have changed how we do service learning, and in many ways, they have helped us do what the best service learning classes have done all along," Shoemaker says. The storms created opportunities for faculty members to be more creative in how they reached out to the community, she says. "Faculty also have become more interested in how we can be involved in long-range planning, rather than simply immediate responses," she says. This means they are more interested in "long-range problem-posing and problem-solving," rather than putting Band-Aids on social, economic, and environmental problems, she explains.

"We are thinking of service learning in terms of the rest of our careers because the recovery process will last for many, many years," Shoemaker says. "And we assume that LSU will be involved in various kinds of research related to the recovery for many years-environmental toxicology, coastal engineering, public policy, and coastal ecosystems, for example."

The storms' devastation has expanded research opportunities at LSU, confirms chemistry department chair Luigi G. Marzilli. In the wake of the storms, LSU has received some grants to study water quality in the area, he notes, "basically chemical analysis assessing effects of Katrina." Marzilli also reports that there is now better collaboration between his colleagues at LSU and faculty in New Orleans schools.

But both Baton Rouge and LSU continue to struggle with population problems. The relatively untouched city and university absorbed many evacuees from their flooded neighbor New Orleans 70 miles away. "Baton Rouge definitely still seems crowded," McGuire says, although many of the students who transferred to LSU from then-shuttered UNO have returned to their home university. At least some of the population problems have begun to recede. For instance, traffic, which jammed after the city's population surged with Katrina evacuees, has improved. But no one is sure if such problems will return during this hurricane season.

And as in New Orleans, "the housing market is still severely stressed," adds LSU chemistry professor Isiah M. Warner. "For example, my new administrative assistant recently had a difficult time finding a one-bedroom apartment and finally found one for $850 per month," he says. "This price is almost twice the normal market."

Construction is transforming Baton Rouge, Warner and Marzilli report. New houses and apartments pop up constantly. Despite suspension of many planned campus projects, one floor of the chemistry building is currently undergoing conversion to undergraduate lab space. The price tag, however, is about one-third higher than anticipated before Katrina, Marzilli says.

In general, budgets remain an uneasy subject. "I think that everyone is cautiously optimistic" for the upcoming season, Marzilli says, but the general uncertainty right after Katrina and Rita lingers. Although university and chemistry department budgets were as expected, pre-Katrina, he adds, if another storm comes through, that all could change.

Despite that possibility, N. Dale Ledford is optimistic that the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast campus is on the road to recovery, too.

"I think we've made considerable progress at the university," says Ledford, a chemistry professor and director of the university's College of Science & Technology. As of Aug. 23, student enrollment at USM's Gulf Coast campus had reached 90% of what it had been before the hurricane.

Nicole Lacour Young

SLOW TO RECOVER One year later, Ledford's lab at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast campus still looks much as it did in the wake of the storm (top). But Ledford has been able to continue his work in temporary lab space at a nearby vacant hospital (bottom).

In particular, Ledford thinks support from USM's main campus in Hattiesburg has done a lot to keep students at the Gulf Coast school. For example, he says, small classes that probably would have been canceled in the past were allowed to go forward. That way the students, who were already dealing with personal hardships brought on by the storm, didn't also have to make the 148-mile round-trip journey to and from Hattiesburg to keep up with their course work.

"It's amazing how resilient people are," Ledford says. "I don't find that I hear very many complaints." If anything, he says, the past year's challenges have made the students more dedicated to their studies.

Ledford even managed to recruit two new faculty members to USM's biology and chemistry departments, a task he thought was going to be next to impossible, considering the pace of rebuilding in the region. "You'll see a lot of blue roofs around where we live," he says, referring to the polite slang locals use to describe the blue tarps that waterproof their houses.

Aside from their being drier, little has changed in the buildings that house his ruined office and lab space, Ledford says. It's almost impossible to distinguish photos taken last November from others snapped in late August. Those splendid old buildings—once prized for their coastal views—now sit in the region's new floodplain and face an uncertain future.

Although some of the old USM campus is being renovated, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning have decided to build a new Gulf Coast campus farther from the actual Gulf Coast. Ledford says the new science building will be one of the first to break ground. Even so, he expects to stay in the college's temporary home, a vacant hospital owned by USM Foundation Research Co., for at least three more years.

William L. Strayham hopes to leave his temporary home far sooner. He is still living in a trailer almost a year after Hurricane Katrina wiped away his home and the homes of his neighbors on Biloxi Bay.

Strayham, a mechanical maintenance team manager for DuPont's Delisle, Miss., titanium dioxide plant, says the storm was so severe that the concrete slab on which his former home was built was badly damaged, and it too had to be replaced. Builders have already framed in his new home, elevated 20 feet above the slab according to the building code now in effect. The home Katrina destroyed sat 12 feet above the slab. He hopes to occupy it in time to celebrate Thanksgiving in November with his family.

Just after the storm, Strayham, a former homeowners association president and community organizer, cleared the concrete rubble and bricks from his driveway. There, with help from his family and other volunteers, Strayham set up tents from which he distributed relief supplies that DuPont, church groups, and others sent in.

Once stores reopened in the area, the relief effort gave way to his own struggle to rebuild his home. Although Strayham successfully negotiated the building permits, bank loans, and search for a contractor, others nearby have not. Only one other home, in what was a community of about 65 homes, is under construction, he says. About 20 trailers house one-third of the people who formerly lived nearby. "The others are living with relatives or have moved away," he adds, daunted by the arduous prospect of rebuilding their lives.


LUCKY Pictured outside his temporary office, Strayham will soon move back into his refurbished office at DuPont's Delisle, Miss., TiO2 plant.

At the DuPont plant where he works, he says, he will soon move out of a temporary office trailer and back into his own office again. DuPont just moved new furniture into his old refurbished office which took on 8 feet of water during last year's storm, and it just needs a safety inspection before he can move back in. "The plant site is more normal than home life is now," he quips.

The titanium dioxide plant, crippled for months following the storm, is operating normally again. DuPont just completed a 12-foot-high flood wall built on top of a 20-foot-high earthen levee to protect the rebuilt site (C&EN, July 31, page 27). And plant workers still have jobs, but many like him still do not have permanent homes, Strayham says.

DuPont trucked in 50 trailers to house displaced workers at a site adjacent to the plant after Katrina struck. Between 20 and 25 families still live in those trailers, waiting, as Strayham and his family are waiting, for a more permanent solution.

A similar situation exists at DuPont's Sabine River Works in Orange, Texas, notes Gerald R. (Jerry) Ehrman, the plant's manager. Some of the 50 trailers DuPont brought in just after Hurricane Rita to house families whose homes were uninhabitable are still in use. About five to 10 families are still in the trailers and are just now making deals with contractors to restore their homes, he says.

The storm forced Ehrman to close Sabine River Works for the first time since DuPont undertook site development in 1946. Area residents, along with the plant's 1,600 employees and their families, evacuated to higher ground to avoid the 25-foot surge of water forecasters had predicted would come but never did. Although the storm did leave a wind- and rain-damaged infrastructure behind, it did not cause any fatalities or major injuries.

Some things quickly went back to normal. The 1,500-acre DuPont resin manufacturing operation Ehrman supervises withstood the storm and started up on Oct. 15, three weeks after Rita passed directly overhead on Sept. 24, 2005. The plant was "at capacity" just a few days later, he says.

Other things took a longer time to restore. The firm is just now completing repair of a nine-cell cooling tower. Offices for the R&D staff are still in temporary trailers about 30 yards away from the labs, which were not severely damaged in the storm. Repairs to the water-damaged offices are nearing completion.

"We've defined a new normal," Ehrman says. "Things are back to normal now."

The current norm calls for those in town to accept a new status quo. About half the trees in the area are gone. Ehrman says that some residents are replanting, but it will take years for the seedlings to replace the many mature trees downed in the storm.

Contractors, many from out of town, have completed structural and roof repairs, but some houses still have blue tarps covering their roofs or still have trees leaning on them, Ehrman says. "In my case, I'm just waiting for some rain gutters to be repaired," he says. A large oak tree hit the Ehrman home during the storm. The structure suffered roof damage and a collapsed chimney.

Schools and local services are back in operation. "But a number of businesses owned by older people have closed. They decided not to rebuild after the storm and retired," Ehrman says. Others who evacuated the area before the storm have decided not to come back because they lost everything.

One year after the storms, these and other difficulties continue to bedevil cities and towns all along the Gulf Coast. "I don't believe we'll recover for another year," says Jerry Merchant, a worker's compensation and medical supervisor at PPG's Lake Charles, La., chlor-alkali chemical complex. "And it may take another five to 10 years for New Orleans and surrounding cities to recover," he says.


FIRST RESPONDER PPG's Merchant says large parts of coastal Louisiana are still devastated.

A year ago, Merchant and a PPG rescue team rushed to aid New Orleans victims of Katrina at the end of August. And then a month later, as the civil defense director for Vinton, the town in which he and his family live, Merchant rode out Rita, doing what he and other civil officials could to limit the storm's damage. All the resources cobbled together to help in the recovery still haven't been enough, he says.

For one thing, Vinton and surrounding towns are bulging. An influx of people whose homes were wiped away in the storm surge in coastal Cameron Parish moved to towns on higher ground in Calcasieu Parish, where Lake Charles and Vinton are situated.

"Coastal towns from New Orleans to Galveston were pretty much wiped out," Merchant says. PPG counselors are helping 30 to 40 plant workers and their families from Cameron and southern Calcasieu Parishes who are still living in trailers while going through the long process of getting homes built.

Vinton is in better shape than most nearby towns, says Merchant. Most of the storm debris has been cleaned up. About 25 homes had to be demolished, and except for two undergoing work, all the others have been repaired. But in nearby Lake Charles, authorities have already issued more than 150 home demolition permits, and 70 additional permit applications are pending, he says.

Still, Rita could have done much more damage in Lake Charles, which is located on a deep water channel leading down to the Gulf of Mexico. Flooding in town and at the PPG complex would have been much worse if the storm had lasted another two to three hours, according to Merchant and Jim Rock, operations manager at the PPG site.

In case of another storm like Rita, PPG now stores thousands of military style "MREs," or meals ready to eat, for the team of 165 who would ride out a storm to safeguard the plant. And, they say, PPG has readied a shelter with two floors capable of withstanding a Category 5 storm. In case of severe flooding, the team could evacuate to the second story.

FEAR OF a repeat of last year's devastation has spurred everyone along the Gulf Coast to take a fresh look at whether they are better prepared now than they were then. Around the region, building codes have been revised to force homeowners to elevate flood-prone homes, UNO's Ed Stevens notes.

Universities have also begun to question how they could better respond to such disasters. Unable to secure visas from their shuttered universities and ineligible for temporary aid or housing, many foreign students have left the region for other programs or returned to their home countries, notes Zeev Rosenzweig. "I think universities have to come up with a plan to take care of international students in the event of this type of emergency," he says.

The storms' devastation spurred Tulane to require that every department come up with emergency preparedness plans, Diebold reports. But she points out that it's difficult to imagine what she could do differently. To move her equipment from the basement floor of Tulane's science building would take weeks, Diebold explains. "We are all nervous when a tropical depression forms somewhere near the Gulf."

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society