Louisiana and New Orleans in particular have always had a love/hate relationship with water, benefitting from strategic shipping positions and access to coastal fisheries, but also suffering from floods and hurricanes. Historically, Louisianians primarily worried about flooding from the river. Efforts to levee the Mississippi began shortly after the 1718 founding of New Orleans. Primitive levees often breached, leading to the most destructive river flood in history – The Great Flood of 1927 which submerged nearly one-third of New Orleans. This tragedy did inspire better flood control strategies, inlcuding spillways and the world's longest system of levees! Today, we no longer worry about flooding from the Mississippi but of that caused by Hurricanes. The success of river control inadvertently helped destroy coastal wetlands, which acted as a buffer to absorb storm-induced surges prior to reaching the city. Hurricanes Betsy (1965), Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), and Gustav (2008) flooded inland areas much worse than equivalent storms did historically.
To learn more on this subject, we highly recommend visiting the exhibit Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond at the Presbytere in the Louisiana State Museum right in Jackson Square. If you want to learn even more, take our City and Katrina Tour, where you can see first hand the areas of the city damaged by our most recent battle with water.
Click here for hours/prices on the exhibit.