5 Hurricanes in New Orleans: Disaster Migration and Adaptation, 1718–1794

in Cultural Dynamics of Climate Change and the Environment in Northern America
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This chapter explores the question what the first generation of French settlers of the Louisiana Gulf Coast and New Orleans knew about hurricanes, and how they and later generations of creoles and newcomers adapted to the recurring hurricane hazard. The article starts out with a snapshot of French Louisiana’s first group of settlers in order to establish the state of early hurricane knowledge in the colony. The hurricane and flood hazards, which both affect the city—the former less frequently than the latter—are juxtaposed and adaptation measures compared before diving into three hurricane case studies spanning the French (1718–1762) as well as the Spanish colonial period (1762–1803) of New Orleans. The case studies show that the city’s societies remained vulnerable to hurricane impacts throughout the eighteenth century and that disaster migration—permanent migration in the aftermath of disasters—was resorted to in particular after back-to-back hurricane events.

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