NEW ORLEANS -- Hurricane Sandy's impact is renewing attention on the need for storm protection in an area not used to seeing that amount of storm surge.
The multiple levee and floodwall failures in New Orleans in 2005 brought a great deal of scrutiny over how to best protect heavily populated areas susceptible to storm surge. That scrutiny may now be coming to parts of the Northeast as well.
Hurricane Sandy's storm surge overtopped natural berms and overwhelmed the banks of rivers, flooding four northern New Jersey towns with 5 to 6 feet of water. Thousands of people are affected and potentially hundreds are in need of rescue, according to state officials there.
"Fifty-five percent of the American population lives in counties protected by levees," said Sandy Rosenthal, founder of Levees.org
Rosenthal just returned to New Orleans from the Northeast. She said what is happening there in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is a wake-up call for the nation, in ways that Hurricane Katrina may not have been.
"Up until today, most of America probably thought hurricanes were a southern problem or, perhaps, a Gulf problem," Rosenthal said. "I think today will open people's eyes that levee failure and flooding is a national problem."
In other ways, though, Hurricane Katrina may have shaped a template for how government and organizations, like the Red Cross, handle such storms.
The Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the Red Cross sent 11 volunteers to the east coast this weekend, ahead of the storm.
"We knew where the shelters were going to be," said Kay Wilkins, CEO of the Southeast Louisiana Red Cross Chapter. "We had pre-supplied the shelters with heater meals, so that when the power went out, we had a food source for persons."
Still, Rosenthal said more needs to be done to improve storm protection across the country.
"Right now, America has one-size-fits-all flood protection. Congress has decided that 100-year protection is good enough for us all," she said. "This storm, as it showed New Orleans, will show that one-size-fits-all protection is not enough. We need for metropolises, full of people, property and infrastructure -- we need at least 1,000-year protection."
Whether or not Congress takes another look at storm protection in the wake of Hurricane Sandy remains to be seen. In the meantime, the local Red Cross has 25 volunteers on stand-by, ready to head to the East coast.
For more information on how you can help, go to redcross.org.