Goofing (and spending money) in a New Orleans tourist shop (Scarborough photo)Three years ago tomorrow, on August 29, 2005, the category five Hurricane Katrina decimated the low-lying city of New Orleans (plus huge swaths of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.)

One year later, I made a quick visit to the city while moving from Florida to Texas; here is my somewhat grim snapshot report.

An excerpt:

“The smashed landscape goes for miles and looks as though it happened just 2-3 months ago, not last summer. This city is not “bouncing back” anytime soon and it is a shadow of what it was.

Yes, a few twists and turns found our minivan somehow absurdly cruising Bourbon Street, and that “den of iniquity” looks pretty much the same as always (this detour was not in my original quickie sightseeing plan, but my teenage daughter got to hoot at all of the girlie bars and soused adults wandering about.)

But drunks carrying daiquiris is not New Orleans.

The residential and business districts were dealt one hell of a body blow from which they are very slowly recovering, and all the powdered sugar beignets and chicory coffee slurped down at Cafe du Monde do not a real, live, sustainable city make.”

I closed the post with an exhortation for visitors to return to New Orleans, then wrote another post later highlighting the “Open for Travelers” sign hanging on Louisiana’s Cajun Country.

Today, as the city and the entire Gulf Coast prepare for the inbound Hurricane Gustav, I read a report in Editor & Publisher about how the local Times-Picayune newspaper is both reflecting on Katrina and simultaneously gearing up for a possible Gustav hit (almost exactly three years later, as many residents are finally moving back into their flattened homes.)

Since I’m returning to New Orleans on October 25 for the BlogHer Reach Out conference, my thoughts are with this unique city and those who live there, or used to.

I want to know why the city does not seem to have the protective structures that are a part of the elaborate anti-flooding DeltaWorks in the Netherlands.

Why did the Dutch get organized and spend a lot of their capital on flood control (especially after the disastrous 1953 North Sea flood that killed people and wiped out entire communities) but our nation can’t seem to find the same strength of will for New Orleans?

American gumption, know-how and focus — where y’at?