I had the chance to visit New Orleans and got to see the areas hit by the flooding. In most places the flood damage is enormous but invisible. The water is of course long gone, but the houses ruined by mold and rot are vacant. Where the levees broke and the water came with a rush, the scene is very different. Here, houses are knocked on their sides and cars and flipped upside down. The surprising thing is that, except for clearing the roads, very little else has been visibly altered, at least where I was. I had expected to see bulldozers at work and huge areas where everything had been razed. From what people told me, not knowing the rules for where and how rebuilding will be allowed are the primary reason. And it is private property, so the government can’t just go and clear everything away without buying/taking the lots first.
The person showing me around says the current population is half of what was there before the hurricane. I had anticipated one small benefit of this depopulation would be no traffic jams on the roads. My intuition was wrong. I hit terrible traffic. So many people are commuting in from outlying areas because the city’s housing stock was destroyed, that congestion is apparently worse on the highways than before. The people in New Orleans just can’t get a break.