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Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina
Category 5 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Katrina at peak strength
on August 28, 2005
Formed August 23, 2005
Dissipated August 31, 2005[1]
(Extratropical after August 30, 2005)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 175 mph (280 km/h)
Lowest pressure 902 mbar (hPa); 26.64 inHg
Fatalities 1,245–1,836
Damage $108 billion (2005 USD)
(Costliest on record[2])
Areas affected Bahamas, South Florida, Cuba, Louisiana (especially Greater New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida Panhandle, most of eastern North America
Part of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Katrina was the eleventh named storm and fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. The storm is currently ranked as the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Overall, at least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods, making it the deadliest United States hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Total property damage was estimated at $108 billion (2005 USD),[1] roughly four times the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.[3]

Katrina originated over the Bahamas on August 23 from the interaction between a tropical wave and the remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. Early the following day, the new depression intensified into Tropical Storm Katrina. The cyclone headed generally westward toward Florida and strengthened into a hurricane only two hours before making landfall Hallandale Beach and Aventura on August 25. After very briefly weakening to a tropical storm, Katrina emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26 and began to rapidly deepen. The storm strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29 in southeast Louisiana.

Katrina caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge and levee failure. Severe property damage occurred in coastal areas, such as Mississippi beachfront towns; over 90 percent of these were flooded. Boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland; water reached 6–12 miles (10–19 km) from the beach.

Over fifty breaches in New Orleans's hurricane surge protection are the cause of the majority of the death and destruction during Katrina on August 29, 2005. Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks.[4] At least 1,400 died directly due to levee failure. All of the major studies concluded that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the designers and builders of the levee system as mandated by the Flood Control Act of 1965 is responsible. This is mainly due to a decision to use shorter steel sheet pilings in an effort to save money.[5] In January of 2008, Judge Stanwood Duval, U.S. District Court, ruled that despite the corps role in the flooding, the agency [6] could not be held financially liable because of sovereign immunity in the Flood Control Act of 1928. Exactly ten years after Katrina, J. David Rogers, lead author of a new report in the official journal of the World Water Council concluded that the flooding during Katrina “could have been prevented had the corps retained an external review board to double-check its flood-wall designs.”[7]

There was also an investigation of the responses from federal, state and local governments, resulting in the resignation of United States Coast Guard (USCG), National Hurricane Center (NHC), and National Weather Service (NWS) were commended for their actions. They provided accurate hurricane weather tracking forecasts with sufficient lead time.[8]


  • Meteorological history 1
  • Preparations 2
    • Federal government 2.1
      • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2.1.1
    • Florida and Gulf Coast 2.2
      • Louisiana 2.2.1
  • Impact 3
    • Florida, Bahamas, and Cuba 3.1
    • Louisiana 3.2
      • New Orleans 3.2.1
    • Mississippi 3.3
    • Southeast United States 3.4
    • Other U.S. states and Canada 3.5
  • Aftermath 4
    • Economic effects 4.1
    • Environmental effects 4.2
    • Reestablishing governance 4.3
    • Government response 4.4
    • Criticism of government response 4.5
    • International response 4.6
    • Non-governmental organization response 4.7
    • Analysis of New Orleans levee failures 4.8
    • Media involvement 4.9
    • Retirement 4.10
  • Reconstruction 5
  • Representation in other media 6
  • See also 7
  • Further Reading 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale

Hurricane Katrina formed as Tropical Depression Twelve over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005, as the result of an interaction of a tropical wave and the remains of Tropical Depression Ten. It strengthened into Tropical Storm Katrina on the morning of August 24. The tropical storm moved towards Florida, and became a hurricane only two hours before making landfall between Hallandale Beach and Aventura on the morning of August 25. The storm weakened over land, but it regained hurricane status about one hour after entering the Gulf of Mexico, and it continued strengthening over open waters. On August 27, the storm reached Category 3 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, becoming the third major hurricane of the season. An eyewall replacement cycle disrupted the intensification, but caused the storm to nearly double in size.[1] The storm rapidly intensified after entering the Gulf, growing from a Category 3 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane in just nine hours. This rapid growth was due to the storm's movement over the "unusually warm" waters of the Loop Current.[9]

Katrina on August 28, nearing the Gulf Coast.

Katrina attained Category 5 status on the morning of August 28 and reached its peak strength at 1800 UTC that day, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 902 mbar (26.6 inHg). The pressure measurement made Katrina the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record at the time, only to be surpassed by Hurricanes Rita and Wilma later in the season; it was also the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico at the time. However, this record was later broken by Hurricane Rita.[1] The hurricane subsequently weakened, and Katrina made its second landfall at 1110 UTC on August 29 as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph (200 km/h) near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. At landfall, hurricane-force winds extended outward 120 miles (190 km) from the center and the storm's central pressure was 920 mbar (27 inHg). After moving over southeastern Louisiana and Breton Sound, it made its third landfall near the Louisiana–Mississippi border with 120 mph (190 km/h) sustained winds, still at Category 3 intensity. Katrina maintained strength well into Mississippi, finally losing hurricane strength more than 150 miles (240 km) inland near Meridian, Mississippi. It was downgraded to a tropical depression near Clarksville, Tennessee, but its remnants were last distinguishable in the eastern Great Lakes region on August 31, when it was absorbed by a frontal boundary. The resulting extratropical storm moved rapidly to the northeast and affected eastern Canada.[1]


Federal government

Flanked by White House Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Recovery on August 31, 2005, in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

The United States Coast Guard began pre-positioning resources in a ring around the expected impact zone and activated more than 400 reservists. On August 27, it moved its personnel out of the New Orleans region prior to the mandatory evacuation.[10] Aircrews from the Aviation Training Center, in Mobile, staged rescue aircraft from Texas to Florida.[11] All aircraft were returning towards the Gulf of Mexico by the afternoon of August 29. Air crews, many of whom lost their homes during the hurricane, began a round-the-clock rescue effort in New Orleans, and along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines.[12]

  • Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath Photos by
  • Photographs and Video of Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath
  • Weather satellite imagery (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
  • Photographs of Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath


  • Katrina's Angels Resource Coordination
  • Houston's Noble Experiment - An article in the City Journal
  • The KatrinaRitaVille Express Tour from Dollars & Sense magazine
  • Beyond Katrina: The Voice of Recovery est. 8/28/2005

Disaster recovery:

  • Levees.Org non-profit flood protection group in New Orleans
  • National Hurricane Center's archive on Hurricane Katrina
  • Hydrometeorological Prediction Center's archive on Hurricane Katrina
  • NASA's Hurricane Katrina Archive
  • Geology and Hurricane-Protection Strategies in the Greater New Orleans Area Louisiana Geological Survey publication on Hurricane Katrina

External links

  • Brennan, Virginia (2009). Natural Disasters and Public Health: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Baltimore:  
  • Center for Public Integrity, ed. (2007). City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina. Baton Rouge: LSU Press.  
  • .  
  • Hartman, Chester; Squires, Gregory D., eds. (2006). There Is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina. Routledge. .  
  • Saint-Saens, Alain (2010). Ordeal at the Superdome. Escaping Katrina's Wrath. New Orleans: University Press of the South. .  
  • Spielman, David G. (2007). Katrinaville Chronicles: Images and Observations from a New Orleans Photographer. Baton Rouge: LSU Press.  

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Knabb, Richard D; Rhome, Jamie R; Brown, Daniel P; National Hurricane Center (December 20, 2005). Hurricane Katrina: August 23 – 30, 2005 (PDF) (Tropical Cyclone Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved December 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Blake, Eric S; Landsea, Christopher W; Gibney, Ethan J; National Hurricane Center (August 2011). The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (And Other Frequently Requested Hurricane Facts) (PDF) (NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS NHC-6). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Archived from the original on November 27, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ Rappaport, Edward N; National Hurricane Center (December 10, 1993). Hurricane Andrew: August 16 – 28 (Preliminary Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Robertson, Campbell (May 23, 2015). "Decade after Katrina pointing finger more firmly at Army Corps". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  6. ^ Nossiter, Adam (2008-02-01). "In Court Ruling on Floods, More Pain for New Orleans". New Orleans (La): New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d  
  9. ^ Leben, Robert; Born, George; Scott, Jim (September 15, 2005). "CU-Boulder Researchers Chart Katrina's Growth In Gulf Of Mexico".  
  10. ^ Amanda Ripley (October 23, 2005). "Hurricane Katrina: How the Coast Guard Got it Right".  
  11. ^ Bruce Jones and David Callahan. Leadership Talent Emerges During Hurricane Katrina Aviation Rescue Operations (PDF) (Report). Mobile, Alabama:  
  12. ^ Stephen Barr (September 6, 2005). "Coast Guard's Response to Katrina a Silver Lining in the Storm".  
  13. ^ George W. Bush (August 27, 2005). "Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana".  
  14. ^ Congressional Reports: S. Rpt. 109-322 – Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.:  
  15. ^ "Former FEMA Director Testifies Before Congress".  
  16. ^ George W. Bush (August 28, 2005). "Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Mississippi". White House Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  17. ^ George W. Bush (August 28, 2005). "Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Alabama". White House Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
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  19. ^ Stacy R. Stewart (August 26, 2005). Hurricane Katrina Discussion Number 14. National Hurricane Center (Report) (Miami, Florida: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  20. ^ Urgent – Weather Message.  
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  144. ^ Jones, Steven T. (2006-02-22). "From here to Katrina". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 2006-05-18. 
  145. ^ "Church Providing Relief to Hurricane Katrina Victims".  
  146. ^ "Latter-day Saints to Mobilize Another 4,000 Volunteers in Chainsaw Brigade’s Second Wave".  
  147. ^ Jared Johnson (October 20, 2005). "Mormon Helping Hands Make a Difference". Meridian Magazine. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  148. ^ Staff writer (2006). "Where Did The Money Go?". Hurricane Katrina: One Year Later.  
  149. ^ "Al Gore Airlifts Evacuees — Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum —". 2005-09-09. Archived from the original on 20 April 2007. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  150. ^ Staff Writer (2005-09-16). "ARRL President Submits Congressional Testimony on Hams' Katrina Response" 24 (36). American Radio Relay League. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  151. ^ Rick Palm. "ARES E-Letter for September 22, 2005." The American Radio Relay League. September 22, 2005. Retrieved on 2010-04-14.
  152. ^ "Corporate Katrina gifts could top $1B." CNN. September 13, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
  153. ^ "A Year of Healing" (PDF).  
  154. ^ "Hurricane Season 2005: Facts and Figures". American Red Cross. 2006-09-29. Archived from the original on 1 May 2006. 
  155. ^ "Salvation Army Reflects on Largest Disaster Response Ever at One-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina".  
  156. ^ Staff Writers "Problems with the design of levees." Unregistered News. September 29, 2005. Retrieved on 2010-04-14.
  157. ^ J. David Rogers, G. Paul Kemp; et al. (2015). "Interaction between the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Orleans Levee Board preceding the drainage canal wall failures and catastrophic flooding of New Orleans in 2005" (PDF). Water Policy. p. 707. Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  158. ^ Freudenburg, William R., Robert Gramling et al. (2009). Catastrophe in the Making. Island Press. p. 120. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  159. ^
  160. ^ Warrick, Joby; Grunwald, Michael. "Investigators Link Levee Failures to Design Flaws." Washington Post. October 24, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
  161. ^ Crenson, Matt (2006-02-02). "Levee Repairs to Be Finished By First Day of Hurricane Season". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  162. ^ Burdeau, Cain (2008-02-12). "White House Budget for Levee Work Riles Many Louisiana Elected Officials". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  163. ^ Shields, Gerard (2008-05-03). "Jindal asks Bush for levee cash". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  164. ^ "Geraldo Rivera & Shepard Smith Unleashed." — Video. 2005. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
  165. ^ Katy Bachman and Tony Sanders (2005-08-31). "Local Media Outlets Struggle to Carry On Post Katrina". Billboard Radio Monitor. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  166. ^ The Pulitzer Board (2006). "2006 Pulitzer Prize Winners — Breaking News Reporting". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  167. ^ The Pulitzer Board (2006). "2006 Pulitzer Prize Winners — Public Service". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  168. ^ Mark Glaser (September 13, 2005). " blogs and forums help save lives after Katrina". Online Journalism Review. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  169. ^  
  170. ^ Staff Writer. "U.S. won't ban media from New Orleans searches." CNN. September 11, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-06-05.
  171. ^ "Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan, and Wilma "Retired" from List of Storm Names". NOAA. April 6, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2006. 
  172. ^  
  173. ^ Britt, M. "Las Vegas Teen Helps Hurricane Victims In New Orleans", Las Vegas Daily Optic, December 19, 2005,
  174. ^ "Ben Toledano, New Orleans - An Autopsy, September 2007". Retrieved June 8, 2014. 
  175. ^ Waddington, Chris (7 April 2014). "Thomas Zigal wins top Texas book prize for Katrina-themed novel set in New Orleans".  
  176. ^ Galehouse, Maggie (13 April 2014). "Winners of Texas Institute of Letters competitions".  


"Dead_2011" means the link is dead.

  1. ^ All damage figures are in USD amounts of their respective year.


  • The "Katrina Effect": On the Nature of Catastrophe, 2015, edited by William M. Taylor and others, Bloomsbury Academic
  • Is This America? Katrina as Cultural Trauma by Ron Eyerman, 2015, University of Texas Press

Further Reading

See also

  • Hurricane Katrina has also been the subject of several documentary films, including Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke, and Darren Martinez's film, Hellp.[173]
  • An episode of the Fox TV series House, first broadcast on May 16, 2006, featured a teenage victim of Hurricane Katrina in the medical storyline.
  • An episode of the BBC show Top Gear was praised for being one of the first to show the full scale of the destruction after the waters had receded.
  • Dave Eggers' non-fiction book, Zeitoun, featured an Arab-American family man caught in an anti-terrorist round-up as he was trying to help neighbors in the aftermath of the hurricane.
  • Paul Harris' non-fiction book, "Diary From the Dome" is a personal memoir of a tourist's account of his experience trapped in the Louisiana Superdome before and after Katrina and the flooding.
  • Ben C. Toledano, a lawyer and author formerly from New Orleans, wrote a controversial column in 2007 in Commentary magazine, "New Orleans -- An Autopsy", a lengthy examination of the long-range political implications from Katrina. Toledano concludes that New Orleans was in rampant social decay for a generation before the storm struck so severely and led to a mass exodus of mostly poorer residents. He considers the decay to have been insurmountable since the early 1970s, the time of his own failed campaign for mayor of New Orleans.[174]
  • Michael Eric Dyson's 2006 nonfiction book, Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster explored the disaster through the lens of race as it connected to political, social, and media responses to the hurricane.
  • The FOX television series K-Ville (2007) depicts the efforts of several members of the New Orleans Police Department to police the city in the aftermath of the storm.
  • The HBO television series Treme (2010–2013) details the experiences of New Orleanians trying to rebuild their lives and musical culture in the aftermath of the storm.
  • The modern day hospital scenes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) were set a few days before the emergence of Hurricane Katrina. At the end of the film, the hurricane eventually approaches and rattles the hospital building.
  • Thomas Zigal's novel Many Rivers to Cross is set in the post-Katrina chaos.[175][176]

Representation in other media

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submitted the report to the U.S. Congress for consideration, planning, and response in mid-2009.

  • locations of possible new levees to be built
  • suggested existing levee modifications
  • "Inundation Zones", "Water depths less than 14 feet, Raise-In-Place of Structures", "Water depths greater than 14 feet, Buyout of Structures", "Velocity Zones" and "Buyout of Structures" areas for five different scenarios.

The Technical Report includes:

Reconstruction of each section of the southern portion of Louisiana has been addressed in the Army Corps LACPR (Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration) Final Technical Report, which identifies areas to not be rebuilt and areas where buildings need to be elevated.[172]

Volunteers from AmeriCorps in New Orleans, January 2006


Because of the large death toll and destruction of property along the North Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced by Katia on List III of the Atlantic hurricane naming lists, which was used in the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.[171]


As the U.S. military and rescue services regained control over the city, there were restrictions on the activity of the media. On September 9, the military leader of the relief effort announced that reporters would have "zero access" to efforts to recover bodies in New Orleans. Immediately following this announcement, CNN filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order against the ban. The next day the government backed down and reversed the ban.[170]

The storm also brought a dramatic rise in the role of Internet sites—especially blogging and community journalism. One example was the effort of, the web affiliate of New Orleans' Times-Picayune. A group of reporters were awarded the Breaking News Pulitzer Prize,[166] and shared the Public Service Pulitzer with the Biloxi-based Sun Herald.[167] The newspaper's coverage was carried for days only on NOLA's blogs, as the newspaper lost its presses and evacuated its building as water rose around it on August 30. The site became an international focal point for news by local media, and also became a vital link for rescue operations and later for reuniting scattered residents, as it accepted and posted thousands of individual pleas for rescue on its blogs and forums. NOLA was monitored constantly by an array of rescue teams—from individuals to the Coast Guard—which used information in rescue efforts. Much of this information was relayed from trapped victims via the SMS functions of their cell phones, to friends and relatives outside the area, who then relayed the information back to The aggregation of community journalism, user photos and the use of the internet site as a collaborative response to the storm attracted international attention, and was called a watershed moment in journalism.[168] In the wake of these online-only efforts, the Pulitzer Committee for the first time opened all its categories to online entries.[169]

Many representatives of the news media reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina became directly involved in the unfolding events, instead of simply reporting. Because of the loss of most means of communication, such as land-based and cellular telephone systems, field reporters in many cases became conduits for information between victims and authorities. The authorities, who monitored local and network news broadcasts, as well as internet sites, would then attempt to coordinate rescue efforts based on the reports. One illustration was when Geraldo Rivera of Fox News tearfully pleaded for authorities to either send help or evacuate the thousands of evacuees stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.[164] The role of AM radio was also of importance to the hundreds of thousands of persons with no other ties to news, providing emergency information regarding access to assistance for hurricane victims. Immediately after Katrina, WWL-AM was one of the few area radio stations in the area remaining on the air. This emergency service, simulcasted on shortwave outlet WHRI, was named "The United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans." Their ongoing nighttime broadcasts continued to be available up to 500 mi (800 km) away. Announcers continued to broadcast from improvised studio facilities after the storm damaged their main studios.[165] The cellular phone antenna network was severely damaged and completely inoperable for several months.

Media involvement

On May 2, 2008, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal used a speech to The National Press Club to request that President Bush free up money to complete work on Louisiana's levees. Bush promised to include the levee funding in his 2009 budget, but rejected the idea of including the funding in a war bill, which would pass sooner.[163]

However, there are funding battles over the remaining levee improvements. In February 2008, the Bush administration requested that the state of Louisiana pay about $1.5 billion of an estimated $7.2 billion for Corps of Engineers levee work (in accordance with the principles of local cost sharing required by Congress as early as the Flood Control Act of 1928), a proposal which angered many Louisiana leaders.[162]

Many of the levees have been reconstructed since the time of Katrina. In reconstructing them, precautions were taken to bring the levees up to modern building code standards and to ensure their safety. For example, in every situation possible, the Corps of Engineers replaced I-walls with T-walls. T-walls have a horizontal concrete base that protects against soil erosion underneath the floodwalls.[161]

The Corps of Engineers disputes these causalities.[160] Nonetheless, in June 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District submitted a Deep-Draft De-authorization Study of the MRGO which stated that “an economic evaluation of channel navigation use does not demonstrate a Federal interest in continued operation and maintenance of the channel.” Congress ordered the MRGO closed as a direct result.

“Storm surge pushing across shallow Lake Borgne from the east is constrained by these MRGO levees to the south and, to the north, by the long-standing levees of the Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW). Initially ten or more miles apart, these two channels meet, and when they do, the water building between their levees is squeezed into a single channel – the Funnel – only 260 yards wide, constrained by levees 14 feet to 16 feet high….In concert with the denuded marshes, it could increase the local storm surge hitting the Intracoastal Waterway by 20 percent to 40 percent – a critical and fundamental flaw.”[159]

Other factors may have contributed to the flooding. According to the authors of Catastrophe in the Making (Island Press, 2009), the straight design and lack of outward flow into the Gulf allowed the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal to become “the perfect shortcut for salt-water intrusion” which damaged buffering cypress forests and wetlands which historically had protected New Orleans from storm surge.[158] The Army Corps of Engineers built and maintained the canal. Furthermore, according to storm surge researcher Hassan Mashriqui:

A June 2007 report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers determined that the failures of the levees and floodwalls in New Orleans were found to be primarily the result of system design and construction flaws.[44] The US Army Corps of Engineers is federally mandated in the Flood Control Act of 1965 with responsibility for the responsible for the conception, design and construction of the region's flood-control system. According to report published in August 2015 in the official journal of the World Water Council, the corps misinterpreted the results of a 1985 study and wrongly concluded that sheet piles in the flood walls needed to be driven to depths of only 17 feet (1 foot ¼ 0.3048 meters) instead of between 31 and 46 feet. That decision saved approximately US$100 million, but significantly reduced overall engineering reliability. [157]

On April 5, 2006, months after independent investigators had demonstrated that levee failures were not caused by natural forces beyond intended design strength, Lieutenant General Carl Strock, Chief of Engineers and Commander of the Corps of Engineers, testified before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water that "We have now concluded we had problems with the design of the structure."[156]

View of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina taken on August 28, 2005, as seen from a NOAA WP-3D hurricane hunter aircraft before the storm made landfall on the United States Gulf Coast.

Analysis of New Orleans levee failures

In the year following Katrina's strike on the Gulf Coast, The Salvation Army allocated donations of more than $365 million to serve more than 1.7 million people in nearly every state. The organization's immediate response to Hurricane Katrina included more than 5.7 million hot meals and about 8.3 million sandwiches, snacks, and drinks served in and around New Orleans. Its SATERN network of amateur radio operators picked up where modern communications left off to help locate more than 25,000 survivors. Salvation Army pastoral care counselors were on hand to comfort the emotional and spiritual needs of 277,000 individuals. As part of the overall effort, Salvation Army officers, employees, and volunteers contributed more than 900,000 hours of service.[155]

During and after the Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita, the American Red Cross had opened 1,470 different shelters across and registered 3.8 million overnight stays. None were allowed in New Orleans however. A total of 244,000 Red Cross workers (95% of which were non-paid volunteers) were utilized throughout these three hurricanes. In addition, 346,980 comfort kits (such as toothpaste, soap, washcloths and toys for children) and 205,360 cleanup kits (containing brooms, mops and bleach) were distributed. For mass care, the organization served 68 million snacks and meals to victims of the disasters and to rescue workers. The Red Cross also had its Disaster Health services meet 596,810 contacts, and Disaster Mental Health services met 826,590 contacts. Red Cross emergency financial assistance was provided to 1.4 million families. Hurricane Katrina was the first natural disaster in the United States in which the American Red Cross utilized its "Safe and Well" family location website.[153][154]

Many corporations also contributed to relief efforts. On September 13, 2005, it was reported that corporate donations to the relief effort were $409 million, and were expected to exceed $1 billion.[152]

Volunteers from amateur radio's emergency service wing, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, provided communications in areas where the communications infrastructure had been damaged or totally destroyed, relaying everything from 911 traffic to messages home.[150] In Hancock County, Mississippi, ham radio operators provided the only communications into or out of the area, and even served as 911 dispatchers.[151]

The FasterCures evacuated 200 patents from Charity Hospital in New Orleans.[149]

Residents of Louisiana, who had to flee their homes because of Hurricane Katrina, are inside the Houston Astrodome and being helped by the Red Cross and other agencies and associations.

Non-governmental organization response

In addition to receiving aid from around the world, there was criticism to go along with it, including accusations of racism. Quoted from the UK Mirror, "Many things about the United States are wonderful, but it has a vile underbelly which is usually kept well out of sight. Now in New Orleans it has been exposed to the world."[143]

Countries like Sri Lanka, which was still recovering from the Indian Ocean Tsunami, also offered to help. Countries including Canada, Mexico, Singapore and Germany sent supplies, relief personnel (like Technisches Hilfswerk), troops, ships and water pumps to aid in the disaster recovery. Belgium sent in a team of relief personnel. Britain's donation of 350,000 emergency meals did not reach victims because of laws regarding mad cow disease.[141] Russia's initial offer of two jets was declined by the U.S. State Department but accepted later. The French offer was also declined and requested later.[142]

Israel sent an IDF delegation to New Orleans to transport aid equipment including 80 tons of food, disposable diapers, beds, blankets, generators and additional equipment which were donated from different governmental institutions, civilian institutions and the IDF.[139] The Bush Administration announced in mid-September that it did not need Israeli divers and physicians to come to the United States for search and rescue missions, but a small team landed in New Orleans on September 10 to give assistance to operations already under way. The team administered first aid to survivors, rescued abandoned pets and discovered hurricane victims.[140]

India sent tarps, blankets and hygiene kits. An Indian Air Force IL-76 aircraft delivered 25 tonnes of relief supplies for the Hurricane Katrina victims at the Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, on September 13, 2005.

Over seventy countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance. Notably, Cuba and Venezuela (both considered as hostile to US government interest) were the first countries to offer assistance, pledging over $1 million, several mobile hospitals, water treatment plants, canned food, bottled water, heating oil, 1,100 doctors and 26.4 metric tons of medicine, though this aid was rejected by the U.S. government.[131][132][133][134] Kuwait made the largest single pledge, $500 million; other large donations were made by Qatar and United Arab Emirates (each $100 million), South Korea ($30 million), Australia ($10 million), India, China (both $5 million), New Zealand ($2 million),[135] Pakistan ($1.5 million),[136] Norway ($1.8 million),[137] and Bangladesh ($1 million).[138]

United States Navy personnel unload Canadian relief supplies from a Royal Canadian Air Force transport aircraft in Pensacola, Florida.

International response

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina raised other, more general public policy issues about emergency management, environmental policy, poverty, and unemployment. The discussion of both the immediate response and of the broader public policy issues may have affected elections and legislation enacted at various levels of government. The storm's devastation also prompted a Congressional investigation, which found that FEMA and the Red Cross "did not have a logistics capacity sophisticated enough to fully support the massive number of Gulf coast victims." Additionally, it placed responsibility for the disaster on all three levels of government.[8] An ABC News poll conducted on September 2, 2005, showed more blame was being directed at state and local governments (75%) than at the Federal government (67%), with 44% blaming Bush's leadership directly.[129] A later CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll showed that respondents disagreed widely on who was to blame for the problems in the city following the hurricane — 13% said Bush, 18% said federal agencies, 25% blamed state or local officials and 38% said no one was to blame.[130]

Politicians, activists, pundits, and journalists also directed criticism at the local and state governments headed by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and Louisiana Governor Blanco. Nagin and Blanco were criticized for failing to implement New Orleans' evacuation plan and for ordering residents to a shelter of last resort without any provisions for food, water, security, or sanitary conditions. Perhaps the most important criticism of Nagin was that he delayed his emergency evacuation order until 19 hours before landfall, which led to hundreds of deaths of people who could not find any way out of the city.[8]

In accordance with federal law, President George W. Bush directed the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, to coordinate the Federal response. Chertoff designated Michael D. Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the Principal Federal Official to lead the deployment and coordination of all federal response resources and forces in the Gulf Coast region. However, the President and Secretary Chertoff initially came under harsh criticism for what some perceived as a lack of planning and coordination. Brown claimed that Governor Blanco resisted their efforts and was unhelpful. Governor Blanco and her staff disputed this.[126] Eight days later, Brown was recalled to Washington and Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen replaced him as chief of hurricane relief operations.[127] Three days after the recall, Michael D. Brown resigned as director of FEMA in spite of having received recent praise from President Bush.[128]

Within days of Katrina's August 29 landfall, public debate arose about the local, state and federal governments' role in the black people."[125]

The criticisms of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina primarily consisted of criticism of mismanagement and lack of leadership in the relief efforts in response to the storm and its aftermath. More specifically, the criticism focused on the delayed response to the flooding of New Orleans, and the subsequent state of chaos in the Crescent City.[66] The neologism Katrinagate was coined to refer to this controversy, and was a runner-up for "2005 word of the year."[124]

USNS Comfort takes on supplies at Mayport, Florida, en route to the Gulf Coast.

Criticism of government response

Two weeks after the storm, more than half of the states were involved in providing shelter for evacuees. By four weeks after the storm, evacuees had been registered in all 50 states and in 18,700 zip codes—half of the nation's residential postal zones. Most evacuees had stayed within 250 miles (400 km), but 240,000 households went to Houston and other cities over 250 miles (400 km) away and another 60,000 households went over 750 miles (1,200 km) away.[123]

Law enforcement and public safety agencies, from across the United States, provided a "mutual aid" response to Louisiana and New Orleans in the weeks following the disaster. Many agencies responded with manpower and equipment from as far away as California, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Texas. This response was welcomed by local Louisiana authorities as their staff were either becoming fatigued, stretched too thin, or even quitting from the job.[122]

FEMA provided housing assistance (rental assistance, trailers, etc.) to more than 700,000 applicants—families and individuals. However, only one-fifth of the trailers requested in Orleans Parish were supplied, resulting in an enormous housing shortage in the city of New Orleans.[119] Many local areas voted to not allow the trailers, and many areas had no utilities, a requirement prior to placing the trailers. To provide for additional housing, FEMA has also paid for the hotel costs of 12,000 individuals and families displaced by Katrina through February 7, 2006, when a final deadline was set for the end of hotel cost coverage. After this deadline, evacuees were still eligible to receive federal assistance, which could be used towards either apartment rent, additional hotel stays, or fixing their ruined homes, although FEMA no longer paid for hotels directly.[120] As of March 30, 2010, there were still 260 families living in FEMA-provided trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi.[121]

Michael Chertoff, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[117] American flags were also ordered to be half-staff from September 2, 2005, to September 20, 2005, in honor of the victims.[118]

The United States Northern Command established Joint Task Force (JTF) Katrina based out of Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to act as the military's on-scene response on Sunday, August 28, with US Army Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré as commander.[113] Approximately 58,000 National Guard personnel were activated to deal with the storm's aftermath, with troops coming from all 50 states.[114] The Department of Defense also activated volunteer members of the Civil Air Patrol.

Of the 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,500.[110] Congress recognized the Coast Guard's response with an official entry in the Congressional Record,[111] and the Armed Service was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.[112]

Some disaster recovery response to Katrina began before the storm, with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preparations that ranged from logistical supply deployments to a mortuary team with refrigerated trucks. A network of volunteers began rendering assistance to local residents and residents emerging from New Orleans and surrounding parishes as soon as the storm made landfall (even though many were directed to not enter the area), and continued for more than six months after the storm[109]

Within the United States and as delineated in the National Response Plan, disaster response and planning is first and foremost a local government responsibility. When local government exhausts its resources, it then requests specific additional resources from the county level. The request process proceeds similarly from the county to the state to the federal government as additional resource needs are identified. Many of the problems that arose developed from inadequate planning and back-up communication systems at various levels.[109]

President Bush stands with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt during a press conference from the Rose Garden, regarding the devastation along the Gulf Coast caused by Katrina.
Chart showing some common uses of the FEMA marking system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

Government response

In West Virginia where roughly 350 refugees were located, local officials took fingerprints to run criminal background checks on the refugees. The background checks found that 45% of the refugees had a criminal record of some nature, and that 22% had a violent criminal record.[105] Media speculation fueled a popular perception that the displaced New Orleans residents brought a wave of crime into the communities where they relocated, however, detailed studies of crime statistics in these communities did not reveal a significant increase in violent crime.[106][107][108]

Overall, a number of arrests were made throughout the affected area, including some near the New Orleans Convention Center. A temporary jail was constructed of chain link cages in the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, the city's main train station.[104]

Thousands of National Guard and federal troops were mobilized and sent to Louisiana, with 7,841 in the area on August 29, to a maximum of 46,838 on September 10. A number of local law enforcement agents from across the country were temporarily deputized by the state. "They have M16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will," Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said. Congressman Bill Jefferson told ABC News: "There was shooting going on. There was sniping going on. Over the first week of September, law and order were gradually restored to the city."[101] Several shootings occurred between police and New Orleans residents, some involving police misconduct; including an incident that killed two unarmed civilians and seriously injured other others at Danziger Bridge.[102] Five former police officers pleaded guilty to charges connected to the Danziger Bridge shootings in the aftermath of the hurricane. Six other former or current officers appeared in court in June 2011.[103]

Shortly after the hurricane moved away on August 30, 2005, some residents of New Orleans who remained in the city began looting stores. Many were in search of food and water that were not available to them through any other means, as well as non-essential items.[99] Additionally, there were reports of carjacking, murders, thefts and rapes in New Orleans. Some sources later determined that many of the reports were inaccurate, greatly exaggerated or completely false, leading news agencies to print retractions.[100]

A Border Patrol Special Response Team searches a hotel room-by-room in New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. Army Infantry on patrol in New Orleans in an area previously underwater, September 2005.

Reestablishing governance

Finally, as part of the cleanup effort, the flood waters that covered New Orleans were pumped into Lake Pontchartrain, a process that took 43 days to complete.[45] These residual waters contained a mix of raw sewage, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, toxic chemicals, and oil, which sparked fears in the scientific community of massive numbers of fish dying.[85]

The storm caused oil spills from 44 facilities throughout southeastern Louisiana, which resulted in over 7 million US gallons (26,000 m3) of oil being leaked. Some spills were only a few hundred gallons and most were contained on-site, though some oil entered the ecosystem and residential areas. After a spill at the Murphy Oil refinery, for example, 1,800 homes were oiled in the towns of Chalmette and Meraux.[93] Unlike Hurricane Ivan no offshore oil spills were officially reported after Hurricane Katrina. However, Skytruth reported some signs of surface oil in the Gulf of Mexico.[93]

The Chandeleur Islands, before Katrina (left) and after (right), showing the impact of the storm along coastal areas.

The damage from Katrina forced the closure of 16 National Wildlife Refuges. Breton National Wildlife Refuge lost half its area in the storm.[98] As a result, the hurricane affected the habitats of sea turtles, Mississippi sandhill cranes, Red-cockaded woodpeckers and Alabama Beach mice.[98]

Katrina also had a profound impact on the environment. The storm surge caused substantial beach erosion, in some cases completely devastating coastal areas. In Dauphin Island (a barrier island), approximately 90 mi (140 km) to the east of the point where the hurricane made landfall, the sand that comprised the island was transported across the island into the Mississippi Sound, pushing the island towards land.[94] The storm surge and waves from Katrina also severely damaged the Chandeleur Islands, which had been affected by Hurricane Ivan the previous year.[95] The US Geological Survey has estimated 217 sq mi (560 km2) of land was transformed to water by the hurricanes Katrina and Rita.[96] Prior to the storm, subsidence and erosion caused erosion in the Louisiana wetlands and bayous. This, along with the canals built in the area, allowed for Katrina to maintain more of its intensity when it struck.[97] The lands that were lost were breeding grounds for marine mammals, brown pelicans, turtles, and fish, as well as migratory species such as redhead ducks.[85] Overall, about 20% of the local marshes were permanently overrun by water as a result of the storm.[85]

Large oil spills caused by Hurricane Katrina
Spills exceeding 10,000 US gallons (38,000 L)[93]
Spill Location Quantity
(US gal) (L)
Bass Enterprises (Cox Bay) 3,780,000 14,300,000
Shell (Pilot Town) 1,050,000 4,000,000
Chevron (Empire) 991,000 3,750,000
Murphy Oil (Meraux and Chalmette) 819,000 3,100,000
Bass Enterprises (Pointe à la Hache) 461,000 1,750,000
Chevron (Port Fourchon) 53,000 200,000
Venice Energy Services (Venice) 25,000 95,000
Shell Pipeline Oil (Nairn) 13,440 50,900
Sundown Energy (West Potash) 13,000 49,000

Environmental effects

Katrina displaced over one million people from the central Gulf coast to elsewhere across the United States, becoming the largest diaspora in the history of the United States.[88] Houston, Texas, had an increase of 35,000 people; Mobile, Alabama, gained over 24,000; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over 15,000; and Hammond, Louisiana, received over 10,000, nearly doubling its size. Chicago received over 6,000 people, the most of any non-southern city.[89] By late January 2006, about 200,000 people were once again living in New Orleans, less than half of the pre-storm population.[90] By July 1, 2006, when new population estimates were calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of Louisiana showed a population decline of 219,563, or 4.87%.[91] Additionally, some insurance companies have stopped insuring homeowners in the area because of the high costs from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, or have raised homeowners' insurance premiums to cover their risk.[92]

The economic effects of the storm were far-reaching. The Bush Administration sought $105 billion for repairs and reconstruction in the region,[83] which did not account for damage to the economy caused by potential interruption of the oil supply, destruction of the Gulf Coast's highway infrastructure, and exports of commodities such as grain. Katrina damaged or destroyed 30 oil platforms and caused the closure of nine refineries;[45] the total shut-in oil production from the Gulf of Mexico in the six-month period following Katrina was approximately 24% of the annual production and the shut-in gas production for the same period was about 18%.[84] The forestry industry in Mississippi was also affected, as 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2) of forest lands were destroyed.[85] The total loss to the forestry industry from Katrina is calculated to rise to about $5 billion.[85] Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of local residents were left unemployed. Before the hurricane, the region supported approximately one million non-farm jobs, with 600,000 of them in New Orleans. It is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi may eventually exceed $150 billion.[86] Forensic accountants such as Esther A. Young of MDD Forensic Accountants were involved in the assessment of economic damages resulting from this catastrophe.[87]

Costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricanes
Cost refers to total estimated property damage
Rank Hurricane Season Damage
1 Katrina 2005 $108 billion
2 Sandy 2012 $71.4 billion
3 Ike 2008 $29.5 billion
4 Andrew 1992 $26.5 billion
5 Wilma 2005 $21 billion
6 Ivan 2004 $18.8 billion
7 Irene 2011 $15.6 billion
8 Charley 2004 $15.1 billion
9 Rita 2005 $12 billion
10 Frances 2004 $9.51 billion
Source: National Hurricane Center[2][81][82][nb 1]

Economic effects


In Canada, the remnants of Katrina brought rainfall amounts in excess of 3.94 in (100 mm) to many locations between the Niagara Peninsula and the Saint Lawrence River valley.[79] Severe local flooding occurred in Quebec, forcing the evacuations of dozens of homes in some communities as rivers began overflowing their banks and sewage systems were becoming overwhelmed by the influx of precipitation. Inundated and washed out roads, including Route 138 along the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River, Route 172 north of Tadoussac, and Route 385 near Forestville left several communities isolated for at least a week.[80]

Katrina spawned five tornadoes in Pennsylvania, though none resulted in significant damage. Up to 5 in (130 mm) of rain fell in western New York. Gusty winds also left approximately 4,500 people in Buffalo without electricity. The remnants of Katrina brought 3 to 6 in (76 to 152 mm) of rain to portions of Massachusetts, causing flash flooding in Bristol and Plymouth counties. Several roads were closed due to floodwater inundation in Acushnet, Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Wareham, including Route 18 in New Bedford. Very minimal impact was reported in Rhode Island, with winds downing a tree and two electrical poles in the city of Warwick. In Vermont, 2.5 in (64 mm) of rain in Chittenden County caused cars to hydroplane on Interstate 89, resulting in many automobile accidents. The storm brought 3 to 5 in (76 to 127 mm) of precipitation to isolated areas of Maine and up to 9 in (230 mm) near Patten. Several roads were inundated or washed out by overflowing brooks and streams, including sections of U.S. Route 1 and Maine routes 11 and 159. Several structures and one parked vehicle were also affected by the waters. Wind gusts up to 60 mph (97 km/h) also impacted parts of Maine, felling trees and causing power outages in Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Dover-Foxcroft, Sedgwick Ridge, and Sorrento.

In Kentucky, a storm that had moved through the weekend before had already produced flooding and the rainfall from Katrina added to this. A 10-year-old girl drowned in Hopkinsville. Dozens of business were closed and several families evacuated due to rising flood waters.[76] As a result of the flooding, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher declared three counties disaster areas and a statewide state of emergency.[77][78] Additionally, wind gusts up to 72 mph (116 km/h) resulted in some damage. Downed trees and power lines were reported in several counties in western Kentucky, especially Calloway and Christian counties. Overall, more than 10,000 utility customers in western Kentucky experienced power outages. The remnants of Katrina spawned a tornado in Virginia, damaging at least 13 homes in Marshall. In addition, approximately 4,000 people lost electricity. Over 3 in (76 mm) of rain fell in portions of West Virginia, causing localized flooding in several counties. At least 103 homes and 7 buildings suffered some degree of water damage. A number of roads and bridges were inundated or washed out. The remnants of Katrina produced locally heavy precipitation in northeast Ohio, ranging from about 2 to 4 in (51 to 102 mm). Numerous streams and rivers overflowed their banks, forcing the closure of several roads, including Interstate 90 in Cleveland. Two deaths occurred due to a flood-related automobile accident in Huron County. Additionally, hundreds of homes and businesses suffered flood damage.

Total rainfall from Katrina in the United States. Data for the New Orleans area is not available.

Other U.S. states and Canada

Eastern Arkansas received light rain from the passage of Katrina.[75] Gusty winds downed some trees and power lines, though damage was minimal. Katrina also caused a number of power outages in many areas, with over 100,000 customers affected in Tennessee, primarily in the Memphis and Nashville areas.

Northern and central Carroll County. This tornado caused three injuries and one fatality and damaged several houses. The other tornadoes caused significant damages to buildings and agricultural facilities. In addition to the fatality caused by the F2 tornado, there was another fatality in a traffic accident.[74]

Bayou La Batre: cargo ship and fishing boats were grounded

An oil rig under construction along the Mobile River broke its moorings and floated 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northwards before striking the Cochrane Bridge just outside Mobile. No significant damage resulted to the bridge and it was soon reopened. The damage on Dauphin Island was severe, with the surge destroying many houses and cutting a new canal through the western portion of the island. An offshore oil rig also became grounded on the island. As in Mississippi, the storm surge caused significant beach erosion along the Alabama coastline.[1] More than 600,000 people lost power in Alabama as a result of Hurricane Katrina and two people died in a traffic accident in the state. Residents in some areas, such as Selma, were without power for several days.[53]

Although Hurricane Katrina made landfall well to the west, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were both affected by tropical-storm force winds and a storm surge varying from 12 to 16 feet (3.7–4.9 m) around Mobile Bay,[1] with higher waves on top. Sustained winds of 67 mph (108 km/h) were recorded in Mobile, Alabama, and the storm surge there was approximately 12 feet (3.7 m).[1] The surge caused significant flooding several miles inland along Mobile Bay. Four tornadoes were also reported in Alabama.[1] Ships, oil rigs, boats and fishing piers were washed ashore along Mobile Bay: the cargo ship M/V Caribbean Clipper and many fishing boats were grounded at Bayou La Batre.

Flood waters come up the steps of Mobile's federal courthouse.

Southeast United States

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials also recorded deaths in Forrest, Hinds, Warren and Leake counties. Over 900,000 people throughout the state experienced power outages.[53]

All three coastal counties of the state were severely affected by the storm. Katrina's surge was the most extensive, as well as the highest, in the documented history of the United States; large portions of both Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties were inundated by the storm surge, in all three cases affecting most of the populated areas.[73] Surge covered almost the entire lower half of Hancock County, destroying the coastal communities of Clermont Harbor and Waveland, much of Bay St. Louis, and flowed up the Jourdan River, flooding Diamondhead and Kiln. In Harrison County, Pass Christian was completely inundated, along with a narrow strip of land to the east along the coast, which includes the cities of Long Beach and Gulfport; the flooding was more extensive in communities such as D'Iberville, which borders Back Bay. Biloxi, on a peninsula between the Back Bay and the coast, was particularly hard hit, especially the low-lying Point Cadet area. In Jackson County, storm surge flowed up the wide river estuary, with the combined surge and freshwater flooding cutting the county in half. Remarkably, over 90% of Pascagoula, the easternmost coastal city in Mississippi, and about 75 miles (120 km) east of Katrina's landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border, was flooded from surge at the height of the storm. Other large Jackson County neighborhoods such as Porteaux Bay and Gulf Hills were severely damaged with large portions being completely destroyed, and St. Martin was hard hit; Ocean Springs, Moss Point, Gautier and Escatawpa also suffered major surge damage.

Surge damage in Pascagoula, Mississippi

A number of streets and bridges were washed away. On U.S. Highway 90 along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, two major bridges were completely destroyed: the Bay St. Louis–Pass Christian[1] bridge, and the Biloxi–Ocean Springs bridge. In addition, the eastbound span of the I-10 bridge over the Pascagoula River estuary was damaged. In the weeks after the storm, with the connectivity of the coastal U.S. Highway 90 shattered, traffic traveling parallel to the coast was reduced first to State Road 11 (parallel to I-10) then to two lanes on the remaining I-10 span when it was opened.

Battered by wind, rain and storm surge, some beachfront neighborhoods were completely leveled. Preliminary estimates by Mississippi officials calculated that 90% of the structures within half a mile of the coastline were completely destroyed,[72] and that storm surges traveled as much as 6 miles (10 km) inland in portions of the state's coast.[45] One apartment complex with approximately thirty residents seeking shelter inside collapsed. More than half of the 13 casinos in the state, which were floated on barges to comply with Mississippi land-based gambling laws, were washed hundreds of yards inland by waves.[72]

The storm also brought heavy rains with 8–10 inches (200–250 mm) falling in southwestern Mississippi and rain in excess of 4 inches (100 mm) falling throughout the majority of the state. Katrina caused eleven tornadoes in Mississippi on August 29, some of which damaged trees and power lines.[1]

Damage to Long Beach, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina

After making a brief initial landfall in Louisiana, Katrina had made its final landfall near the state line, and the eyewall passed over the cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 120 mph (190 km/h).[1] Katrina's powerful right-front quadrant passed over the west and central Mississippi coast, causing a powerful 27-foot (8.2 m) storm surge, which penetrated 6 miles (10 km) inland in many areas and up to 12 miles (19 km) inland along bays and rivers; in some areas, the surge crossed Interstate 10 for several miles.[1] Hurricane Katrina brought strong winds to Mississippi, which caused significant tree damage throughout the state. The highest unofficial reported wind gust recorded from Katrina was one of 135 mph (217 km/h) in Poplarville, in Pearl River County.[1]

The Gulf coast of Mississippi suffered massive damage from the impact of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, leaving 238 people dead, 67 missing, and billions of dollars in damage: bridges, barges, boats, piers, houses and cars were washed inland.[71] Katrina traveled up the entire state, and afterwards, all 82 counties in Mississippi were declared disaster areas for federal assistance, 47 for full assistance.[71]

U.S. Route 90's Bay St. Louis Bridge on Pass Christian was destroyed as a result of Katrina.


There is evidence that many prisoners were abandoned in their cells during the storm, while the guards sought shelter. Hundreds of prisoners were later registered as "unaccounted for".[67][68][69][70]

The first deaths reported from the city were reported shortly before midnight on August 28, as three nursing home patients died during an evacuation to Baton Rouge, most likely from dehydration. While there were also early reports of fatalities amid mayhem at the Superdome, only six deaths were confirmed there, with four of these originating from natural causes, one from a drug overdose, and one a suicide. At the Convention Center, four bodies were recovered. One of the four is believed to be the result of a homicide.[66]

A U.S. Coast Guardsman searches for survivors in New Orleans in the Katrina aftermath.

Levee breaches in New Orleans also caused a significant amount of deaths, with over 700 bodies recovered in New Orleans by October 23, 2005.[64] Some survivors and evacuees reported seeing dead bodies lying in city streets and floating in still-flooded sections, especially in the east of the city. The advanced state of decomposition of many corpses, some of which were left in the water or sun for days before being collected, hindered efforts by coroners to identify many of the dead.[65]

The Superdome, which was sheltering many people who had not evacuated, sustained significant damage.[62] Two sections of the Superdome's roof were compromised and the dome's waterproof membrane had essentially been peeled off. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport was closed before the storm but did not flood. On August 30, it was reopened to humanitarian and rescue operations. Limited commercial passenger service resumed at the airport on September 13 and regular carrier operations resumed in early October.[63]

On August 29, at 7:40 am CDT, it was reported that most of the windows on the north side of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans had been blown out, and many other high rise buildings had extensive window damage.[60] The Hyatt was the most severely damaged hotel in the city, with beds reported to be flying out of the windows. Insulation tubes were exposed as the hotel's glass exterior was completely sheared off.[61]

Most of the major roads traveling into and out of the city were damaged. The only routes out of the city were the westbound Crescent City Connection and the Huey P. Long Bridge, as large portions of the I-10 Twin Span Bridge traveling eastbound towards Slidell, Louisiana had collapsed. Both the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and the Crescent City Connection only carried emergency traffic.[59]

Katrina's storm surge led to 53 levee breaches in the federally built levee system protecting metro New Orleans and the failure of the 40 Arpent Canal levee. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans was breached as Hurricane Katrina passed just east of the city limits. Failures occurred in New Orleans and surrounding communities, especially St. Bernard Parish. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) breached its levees in approximately 20 places, flooding much of east New Orleans, most of St. Bernard Parish and the East Bank of Plaquemines Parish. The major levee breaches in the city included breaches at the 17th Street Canal levee, the London Avenue Canal, and the wide, navigable Industrial Canal, which left approximately 80% of the city flooded.[58]

As the eye of Hurricane Katrina swept to the northeast, it subjected the city to hurricane conditions for hours. Although power failures prevented accurate measurement of wind speeds in New Orleans, there were a few measurements of hurricane-force winds. From this the NHC concluded that it is likely that much of the city experienced sustained winds of Category 1 or Category 2 strength.

Flooded I-10/I-610/West End Blvd interchange and surrounding area of northwest New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana

New Orleans

In addition, the combined effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was the destruction of an estimated 562 square kilometres (217 sq mi) of coastal wetlands in Louisiana.[57]

According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, in St. Bernard Parish, 81% (20,229) of the housing units were damaged. In St. Tammany Parish, 70% (48,792) were damaged and in Placquemines Parish 80% (7,212) were damaged.[56]

Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Hard-hit St. Bernard Parish was flooded because of breaching of the levees that contained a navigation channel called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) and the breach of the 40 Arpent canal levee that was designed and built by the Orleans Levee Board. The search for the missing was undertaken by the St. Bernard Fire Department because of the assets of the United States Coast Guard being diverted to New Orleans. In the months after the storm, many of the missing were tracked down by searching flooded homes, tracking credit card records, and visiting homes of family and relatives.[55]

Katrina’s storm surge inundated all parishes surrounding Lake Pontchartrain, including St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, St. John the Baptist, and St. Charles Parishes. St. Tammany Parish received a two-part storm surge. The first surge came as Lake Pontchartrain rose and the storm blew water from the Gulf of Mexico into the lake. The second came as the eye of Katrina passed, westerly winds pushed water into a bottleneck at the Rigolets Pass, forcing it farther inland. The range of surge levels in eastern St. Tammany Parish is estimated at 13–16 feet (4.0–4.9 m), not including wave action.[54]

Hurricane Katrina also brought heavy rain to Louisiana, with 8–10 inches (200–250 mm) falling on a wide swath of the eastern part of the state. In the area around Slidell, the rainfall was even higher, and the highest rainfall recorded in the state was approximately 15 inches (380 mm). As a result of the rainfall and storm surge the level of Lake Pontchartrain rose and caused significant flooding along its northeastern shore, affecting communities from Slidell to Mandeville. Several bridges were destroyed, including the I-10 Twin Span Bridge connecting Slidell to New Orleans.[1] Almost 900,000 people in Louisiana lost power as a result of Hurricane Katrina.[53]

On August 29, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana, with 125 mph (200 km/h) winds, as a strong Category 3 storm. However, as it had only just weakened from Category 4 strength and the radius of maximum winds was large, it is possible that sustained winds of Category 4 strength briefly impacted extreme southeastern Louisiana. Although the storm surge to the east of the path of the eye in Mississippi was higher, a very significant surge affected the Louisiana coast. The height of the surge is uncertain because of a lack of data, although a tide gauge in Plaquemines Parish indicated a storm tide in excess of 14 feet (4.3 m) and a 12-foot (3.7 m) storm surge was recorded in Grand Isle. Hurricane Katrina made final landfall near the mouth of the Pearl River, with the eye straddling St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, and Hancock County, Mississippi, on the morning of August 29 at about 9:45M CST.[1]

Flooding in Venice, Louisiana


Prior to striking South Florida, Katrina traversed the Bahamas as a tropical storm. However, minimal impact was reported, with only "fresh breezes" on various island.[51] Although Hurricane Katrina stayed well to the north of Cuba, on August 29 it brought tropical-storm force winds and rainfall of over 8 in (200 mm) to western regions of the island. Telephone and power lines were damaged and around 8,000 people were evacuated in the Pinar del Río Province. According to Cuban television reports the coastal city of Surgidero de Batabano was 90% underwater.[52]

Significant impact was also reported in the Florida Panhandle. Although Katrina moved ashore in Louisiana and Mississippi, its outer periphery produced a 5.37 ft (1.64 m) storm surge in Pensacola. High waves caused beach erosion and closed nearby roadways. There were five tornadoes in the northwestern portion of the state, though none of them caused significant damage. Throughout the Florida Panhandle, the storm resulted in an estimated $100 million in damage. There were two indirect fatalities from Katrina in Walton County as a result of a traffic accident.[1] In the Florida Panhandle, 77,000 customers lost power.[50] Overall, the hurricane killed 14 people and caused at least $623 million in damage.

Hurricane Katrina first made landfall between Hallandale Beach and Aventura, Florida on August 25. The storm dropped heavy rainfall in portions of the Miami metropolitan area, with a peak total of 16.43 in (417 mm) in Perrine. As a result, local flooding occurred in Miami-Dade County, damaging approximately 100 homes. Farther south in the Florida Keys, a tornado was spawned in Marathon on August 26. The tornado damaged a hangar at the airport there and caused an estimated $5 million in damage.[49] The rains caused flooding, and the combination of rains and winds downed trees and power lines, leaving 1.45 million people without power. Damage in South Florida was estimated at $523 million, mostly as a result of crop damage. Twelve deaths occurred in South Florida, of which three were caused by downed trees in Broward County, three from drowning in Miami-Dade County, three were from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by generators, one was due to a vehicle accident, one occurred during debris cleanup, and one was associated with a lack of electricity.

Damage to a mobile home in Davie, Florida following Hurricane Katrina

Florida, Bahamas, and Cuba

Even in 2010, debris remained in some coastal communities.[48]

Federal disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles (230,000 km2) of the United States, an area almost as large as the United Kingdom. The hurricane left an estimated three million people without electricity. On September 3, 2005, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff described the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as "probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes," in the country's history, referring to the hurricane itself plus the flooding of New Orleans.[47]

The death toll from Katrina is uncertain, with reports differing by hundreds. According to the National Hurricane Center, 1,836 fatalities can be attributed to the storm: 1 in Ohio, 14 in Florida, 238 in Mississippi, and 1,577 in Louisiana.[41][46] However, 135 people remain categorized as missing in Louisiana,[46] and many of the deaths are indirect, but it is almost impossible to determine the exact cause of some of the fatalities.[1] A 2008 report by the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal indicates that 966 deaths can be directly attributed to the storm in Louisiana, including out of state evacuees, and another 20 indirectly (such as firearm related deaths and gas poisoning). Due to uncertain causes of death with 454 evacuees, an upper-bound of 1,440 is noted in the paper.[42] A followup study by the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals determined that the storm was directly responsible for 1,170 fatalities in Louisiana.[43]

On August 29, Katrina's storm surge caused 53 different breaches to various flood protection structures in and around the greater New Orleans area, submerging eighty percent of the city. A June 2007 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers indicated that two-thirds of the flooding were caused by the multiple failures of the city's floodwalls.[44] The storm surge also devastated the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, making Katrina the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, and the deadliest hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. The total damage from Katrina is estimated at $108 billion (2005 U.S. dollars).[1][45]

Deaths by state
Alabama 2
Florida 14
Georgia 2
Kentucky 1
Louisiana 986–1,577*
Mississippi 238
Ohio 2
Total 1,245–1,836[41][42]
Missing 10–66[43]
*Includes out-of-state evacuees
counted by Louisiana
In Katrina's Wake - short film by NASA


At a news conference at 10 am on August 28, shortly after Katrina was upgraded to a Category 5 storm, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the city, calling Katrina "a storm that most of us have long feared."[37] The city government also established several "refuges of last resort" for citizens who could not leave the city, including the massive Louisiana Superdome, which sheltered approximately 26,000 people and provided them with food and water for several days as the storm came ashore.[38][39] Some estimates claimed that 80% of the 1.3 million residents of the greater New Orleans metropolitan area evacuated, leaving behind substantially fewer people than remained in the city during the Hurricane Ivan evacuation.[40]

By August 26, the possibility of unprecedented cataclysm was already being considered. Many of the computer models had shifted the potential path of Katrina 150 miles (240 km) westward from the Florida Panhandle, putting the city of New Orleans directly in the center of their track probabilities; the chances of a direct hit were forecast at 17%, with strike probability rising to 29% by August 28.[35] This scenario was considered a potential catastrophe because some parts of New Orleans and the metro area are below sea level. Since the storm surge produced by the hurricane's right-front quadrant (containing the strongest winds) was forecast to be 28 feet (8.5 m), emergency management officials in New Orleans feared that the storm surge could go over the tops of levees protecting the city, causing major flooding.[36]

In Louisiana, the state's hurricane evacuation plan calls for local governments in areas along and near the coast to evacuate in three phases, starting with the immediate coast 50 hours before the start of tropical storm force winds. Persons in areas designated Phase II begin evacuating 40 hours before the onset of tropical storm winds and those in Phase III areas (including New Orleans) evacuate 30 hours before the start of such winds.[30] Many private caregiving facilities that relied on bus companies and ambulance services for evacuation were unable to evacuate their charges because they waited too long. Louisiana's Emergency Operations Plan Supplement 1C (Part II, Section II, Paragraph D) calls for use of school and other public buses in evacuations.[31] Although buses that later flooded were available to transport those dependent upon public transportation, not enough bus drivers were available to drive them as Governor Blanco did not sign an emergency waiver to allow any licensed driver to transport evacuees on school buses.[32] However, 20-year-old Jabbar Gibson armed with only a standard operator's permit took it upon himself to take a school bus and drive it to Houston with 50 to 70 evacuees.[33][34]

Vertical cross-section of New Orleans, showing maximum levee height of 23 feet (7 m). Vertical scale exaggerated.


By Sunday, August 28, most infrastructure along the Gulf Coast had been shut down, including all freight and Amtrak rail traffic into the evacuation areas as well as the Waterford Nuclear Generating Station.[29]

On August 28, Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared a state of emergency for the approaching Hurricane Katrina. On the same day, he requested President Bush to declare "expedited major disaster declaration" for six counties of south Alabama, which was quickly approved. Three-hundred and fifty national guardsmen were called on duty by August 30.[28] The state of Mississippi activated its National Guard on August 26 in preparation for the storm's landfall. Additionally, the state government activated its Emergency Operations Center the next day, and local governments began issuing evacuation orders. By 6:00 pm CDT on August 28, 11 counties and cities issued evacuation orders, a number which increased to 41 counties and 61 cities by the following morning. Moreover, 57 emergency shelters were established on coastal communities, with 31 additional shelters available to open if needed.[8]

Radar loop of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana

In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency on August 24 in advance of Hurricane Katrina's landfall.[22] By the following day, Florida's Emergency Operations Center was activated in Tallahassee to monitor the progress of the hurricane.[23] Before Katrina moved ashore, schools and businesses were closed in the Miami area. Cruise ships altered their paths due to seaports in southeastern Florida closing.[24] Officials in Miami-Dade County advised residents in mobile homes or with special needs to evacuate. To the north in Broward County, residents east of the Intracoastal Waterway or in mobile homes were advised to leave their homes. Evacuation orders were issued for offshore islands in Palm Beach County, and for residents in mobile homes south of Lantana Road. Additionally, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for vulnerable housing in Martin County.[22] Shelters were opened across the region.[25] Officials closed the Miami International Airport,[26] Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport, Key West International Airport, and Florida Keys Marathon Airport due to the storm. In Monroe and Collier counties, schools were closed, and a shelter was opened in Immokalee.[27]

Florida and Gulf Coast

Summary of tropical cyclone warnings and watches associated with Hurricane Katrina
Date Time Warning type Areas
August 23 23:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Central and northwest Bahamas
August 24 03:00 UTC Tropical Storm Watch Seven Mile Bridge to Vero Beach, Florida
15:00 UTC Tropical Storm Watch Seven Mile Bridge to Florida City, Florida
Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch Florida City to Vero Beach, Florida
21:00 UTC Tropical Storm Watch Vero Beach to Titusville, Florida
Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch Lake Okeechobee
August 25 03:00 UTC Hurricane Warning Florida City to Vero Beach, Florida, and Lake Okeechobee
09:00 UTC Tropical Storm Watch Florida City to Englewood, Florida, including Florida Bay
15:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Grand Bahama, Bimini, and the Berry Islands, Bahamas
21:00 UTC Hurricane Warning Florida City to Jupiter Inlet, Florida
Tropical Storm Warning Jupiter Inlet to Florida Keys and Florida City to Longboat Key, Florida
Tropical Storm Watch Longboat Key to Anclote Key, Florida
23:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning discontinued Grand Bahama, Bimini, and the Berry Islands, Bahamas
August 26 03:00 UTC Tropical Storm Watch discontinued Vero Beach to Titusville, Florida
Tropical Storm Warning discontinued Jupiter Inlet to Vero Beach, Florida
05:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Deerfield Beach to Florida City, Florida
Hurricane Warning discontinued Deerfield Beach to Jupiter, Florida, and Lake Okeechobee
Tropical Storm Warning Florida Keys including Florida Bay and Florida City to Longboat Key, Florida
15:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Florida City to Longboat Key and all the Florida Keys and Florida Bay
21:00 UTC Tropical Storm Watch discontinued All
Tropical Storm Warning discontinued Florida City to Longboat Key, Florida
August 27 09:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Dry Tortugas to Longboat Key, Florida
15:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Dry Tortugas to Key West, Florida
Hurricane Watch Pearl River, Louisiana
21:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warnings discontinued All
Hurricane Watch Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to Florida-Alabama border
August 28 03:00 UTC Hurricane Warning Morgan City, Louisiana, to Florida-Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain
Tropical Storm Warning Florida-Alabama border to Destin, Florida
Tropical Storm Warning Intracoastal City to Morgan City, Louisiana
Hurricane Watch Florida-Alabama border to Destin, Florida
09:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Destin to Indian Pass, Florida, and Intracoastal City to Cameron, Louisiana
August 29 15:00 UTC Hurricane Watches discontinued All
21:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning Pearl River, Louisiana, to Florida-Alabama border
Tropical Storm and Hurricane Warning discontinued Cameron to Pearl River, Louisiana, and Florida-Alabama border to Destin, Florida
August 30 03:00 UTC Tropical Storm Warning discontinued All

On the afternoon of August 26, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) realized that Katrina had yet to make the turn toward the Florida Panhandle and ended up revising the predicted track of the storm from the panhandle to the Mississippi coast.[19] The National Weather Service's New Orleans/Baton Rouge office issued a vividly worded bulletin on August 28 predicting that the area would be "uninhabitable for weeks" after "devastating damage" caused by Katrina, which at that time rivaled the intensity of Hurricane Camille.[20] During video conferences involving the president later that day and on August 29, NHC director Max Mayfield expressed concern that Katrina might push its storm surge over the city's levees and flood walls. In one conference, he stated, "I do not think anyone can tell you with confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very great concern."[21] Additionally, the National Hurricane Center issued many tropical cyclone warnings and watches throughout the duration of Katrina:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Voluntary and mandatory evacuations were issued for large areas of southeast Louisiana as well as coastal Mississippi and Alabama. About 1.2 million residents of the Gulf Coast were covered under a voluntary or mandatory evacuation order.[1]

[18] had not included those parishes in her initial request for aid, a decision that he found "shocking." After the hearing, Blanco released a copy of her letter, which showed she had requested assistance for "all the southeastern parishes including the City of New Orleans" as well specifically naming 14 parishes, including Jefferson, Orleans and Plaquemines.Governor Blanco Brown testified that this was because Louisiana [17][16] The declaration actually did not include any of Louisiana's coastal parishes, whereas the coastal counties were included in the declarations for Mississippi and Alabama.[15] (R-IN) inquired as to why President Bush's declaration of state of emergency of August 27 had not included the coastal parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemines.Stephen Buyer before a U.S. House subcommittee on September 26, Representative Michael Brown (FEMA) chief Federal Emergency Management Agency However, during the testimony by former [14] "On Sunday, August 28, President Bush spoke with Governor Blanco to encourage her to order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans."[13]

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