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Studying the Spirit of Resilience in Ironton

The story of a small coastal town struggling to survive is getting special attention from some of the top resilience researchers in the country.

Ironton sits just south of New Orleans where the last little bit of the Mississippi River trails off and terminates into the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Cassandra R. Davis spent time there earlier this year with a team trying to discover why disasters hit certain communities differently.

“Two years ago, [Ironton] had 52 homes, and it’s now down to 10 livable homes,” she explained.

Those numbers help to paint pictures of people hoping to keep their heads above water in the wake of floods from two huge hurricanes.

The devastating double punch delivered to the Mississippi River Delta by Katrina in 2005 and Ida in 2021 almost knocked Ironton out.

Megan Lacey took stock of this population on the ropes while working with Davis as a public policy scholar based out of UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Ultimately, it’s them being rendered invisible,” she noted.

Getting seen in Ironton has proven to be particularly difficult due to the shadow of racial segregation that seems to hang over the town.

Local residents had to wait until 1980 for access to the infrastructure that was previously providing running water to adjacent settlements.

Lingering levee damage on top of lagging municipal support is pushing this population to the point of no return according to Gary George. 

“Eventually, there won’t be a place for them to go home to,” he surmised.

George and Davis are working closely as colleagues to chronicle the circumstances that surround Ironton as it strives to stay alive.

Their research is focused on finding more than one way forward for all towns suffering from similar fates in the wake of such hard losses.

The Coastal Resilience Center continues to sponsor Davis as she makes the inquiries necessary to connect social science with disaster recovery.

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