NEW ORLEANS — More than two years after Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, New Orleans is still recovering. What are the key benchmarks watch in 2008?
The New Orleans Recovery School district reopened 21 schools this past fall, watch for more to come in 2008.
Tourism industry continues to thrive
New Orleans had nearly 3 million more tourists during 2007 than it had in 2006. The number of airplane tickets sold to visitors to the city was up almost 20 percent from 2006. And nearly every hotel room has been sold out already for the start of 2008 thanks to the Sugar Bowl on New Years Day, the American Economic Association Conference on Jan. 4-6, and more college football Jan. 7 with the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). And things should stay busy with Mardi Gras coming early this year on Feb. 5.
Federal aid still essential
Federally subsidized funds from the Road Home Program will continue to be the economic gas driving recovery. Congress has been asked for an additional $3 billion to extend the program to assist more victims during 2008.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco became another victim of Katrina, choosing not to run for re-election. That paved the way for the Republicans and Bobby Jindal – who will be inaugurated as Louisiana’s new governor on Jan. 14. Jindal has a lot of plans, but also faces a lot of problems.
Affordable housing is scarce, with rents 46 percent higher than they were before Katrina hit, is beginning to create a crisis. And the number of homeless on New Orleans streets today is double what it was before the storm.
If you haven't been to the Gulf Coast post-Katrina, as I said in 2007, go. Even in 2008 you will still be shocked. Much has been done, and there is certainly more good news than bad, but the area and its ongoing recovery is still a site to see.
Martin Savidge is an NBC News correspondent. He reported from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has followed the city's ongoing recovery.