Many anniversaries are happy occasions, a day of the year that serves as a reminder of weddings, graduations and similar milestone events and achievements. Others, like the one states along the Gulf Coast observed Friday and that the entire free world will remember on Sept. 11, are sad occasions.

An even darker shadow was cast on Friday’s third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall as residents from Texas to western Florida turned their attention to the Gulf of Mexico to see if another massive hurricane would strike their states. Gustav’s emergence as a major storm has revived many painful memories for people who are just now beginning to regain a sense of normalcy.

Katrina, described by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the worst natural disaster in American history, made landfall near Buras, La., on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm practically decimated New Orleans and dozens of other coastal cities and towns, killed more than 1,400 people, displaced almost a million residents and damaged or destroyed some 200,000 homes.

As an indication of the extent of the damage, The Advocate in Baton Rouge reports that about 10,000 Louisiana residents remain in temporary housing, down from a peak of 92,000 at the height of the relief effort. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, because Flozell Daniels Jr., the head of the nonprofit Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, said he expects his agency will be involved in the recovery from Katrina for 12 to 15 years.

The prospect of the Gulf Coast - and especially the embattled citizens of New Orleans - absorbing another Katrina-like blow is difficult to swallow. But if the fall of 2005 teaches us anything, it teaches us that the law of averages doesn’t always work in your favor. As evidence, remember that Hurricane Rita slammed the Gulf Coast while residents were still reeling from Katrina.

While we all hope for the best, coastal residents are wise to prepare for the worst.

Brownwood Bulletin