Cultural Adaption to Repeated Disasters: The Case of Buras LA
Researcher: Joliet MacColl Nicholson
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Steve Jacob
Abstract: Buras, LA is a vulnerable community due to the intersections of population composition and natural and technological disasters. Located approximately 30 miles south of New Orleans, Buras is on a precarious spit of land that extends out into the Gulf of Mexico in the Bird’s Foot Delta. Buras has been beset by numerous disasters including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Isaac, restructuring of shrimping, the Deepwater Horizon event, and numerous flooding and/or tidal inundation events. The population fluctuates drastically after each disaster losing about 70% since Katrina. With these disasters occurring more frequently over the last decade, the population of Buras has been forced to change their shelters to avoid losing their homes when a disaster hits. Many citizens have shifted to mobile home living finding that the homes are more efficient when looking at the vulnerability of the area. This study uses population and housing data to analyze Buras’s resiliency, and how they have suffered due to the disasters. The focus will be on community resiliency vs. community vulnerability and individual resiliency vs. individual vulnerability. While the community has shown a shift in their resiliency by changing their shelters, “grass roots” organizations have continued to struggle. The town survives but its social networks are seriously disrupted. We have been concerned with the stress and mental health outcomes of the natural and technological disasters. We have been able to document substantial impacts related to the event in a natural experiment design. With the collection of population and survey data we have been able to see the vulnerability of the Buras community at the individual and community levels, recognizing the acts of resiliency, and focusing on other areas where resiliency is needed.