Remembering Hurricane Katrina

A Tragic Flashback

Photo Credit: International Rescue Committee


15 years ago survivors of hurricane Katrina began to get evacuated out of NOLA. Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to make landfall United States killed an estimated 1,900 people its wakes or intensified wind strength and flooding in late August 2005. Millions of others were left homeless across the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans.

The Storms Development

Photo Credit: NOAA

Category 5 Katrina
Katrina’s formation took place about 200 miles (322 km) southeast of the Bahamas on 08/05/2005. Starting out as a tropical depression, according to the NOAA, a defined band of storm clouds wrapped around the north side of the storm’s eye in the early hours of 08/24/2005. Initial wind speeds of about 40 mph (65 kph), they dubbed the storm “Tropical Storm Katrina”.
On 08/25/2005, Katrina was a moderate Category 1 hurricane. The storm made 8ts first land fall in Florida. The storm created flooding and 2 civilians unfortunately lost their lives. To the field, this seemed to be just another hurricane in during the notable times for hurricanes to develop. Katrina weakened once it went over Florida and was dropped back down to a tropical storm.

At this time, the storm Katrina has made its way back out on to the ocean. Katrina was hidden beneath an extreme upper-level anticyclone that ravaged the whole Gulf of Mexico, and gained an immense amount of strength. Katrina winds were amplified, and it was dubbed as a hurricane again on 08/26/2005. Over the course of the next 2 days it would become a Category 5 with roaring winds u0 to speeds of 175 mph (280 kph). The storm turned north heading to the Louisiana coast. The storm’s strength decreased to a Category 3 before touchdown on the Louisiana/Mississippi border the morning of 8/29/2005 with a constant wind speed of 120 mph (193 kph).
Katrina’s strength decreased to a Category 1 after it began moving inland through southern and central Mississippi. It again decreases in strength to a tropical storm about six hours later just northwest of Meridian, Mississippi. Next, becoming an extratropical low on 08/31/2005. The storm was finally absorbed in to a frontal zone that same day over the Great Lakes, according to the NOAA.

The Fallout After the Destruction

Photo Credit: International Rescue Committee

Katrina, then the most destructive storm to strike the United States and the costliest storm in U.S. history. The storm caused $108 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Amongst the rankings, it is sixth overall in strength of hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic ocean. In terms of size; at its climax, at the max winds stretched anywhere from 25 to 30 nautical miles (46/55 kilometers). It’s swath of hurricane force winds was massive, at the minimum extending 75 nautical miles (138 km) eastward of the center.
When Katrina makes landfall, its front-right quadrant holding the strongest winds, demolished both Biloxi and Gulfport Mississippi. Both cities were a post-apocalyptic scape and A brutally forceful surge, anywhere between 10 to 28 feet reeked havoc on most coastal areas through out southeastern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi.
Sandy Rosenthal, the founder and director of an advocacy group that’s designed to educate people about the calamity of Katrina. She is a known critic of th army corps ands has gone on to state “The surge exposed engineering mistakes in the levees and floodwalls designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, causing extensive flooding throughout the New Orleans region.”
Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans and large areas along with nearby parishes were flooded, those floodwaters did not recede for weeks.
The National Guard was summoned n to help with evacuating citizens. Thousands packed into the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome, all seeking refuge. With the number of people trying to get in, both places were overwhelmed. This was one of the largest displacements of a population since the Great Depression, according to the NOAA. According to The Data Center, an independent research organization in New Orleans,  more than 1 million people in the Gulf Coast region were displaced because of the damage.

Katrina’s Aftermath: Politicized

Photo Credit: George W. Bush


The recovery and rescue efforts after Katrina became highly politicized. Federal, state and local officials blaming one another. Many blamed a grossly mismanaged levee system and a sloth-like response from both state and local after the devastation. There were numerous lives loss, many of the residents did not value the initial warnings to vacate their homes. That was also an issue as it put a massive strain on rescue operations.
President at the time, George W. Bush, gave praise to Michael D. Brown, the director of the F.E.M.A. But, it was short lived due to his part in the failed stirm response and forced resignation. Other city and state officials amongst that list were Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Eddie Compass. They all were severely scrutinized for not making evacuations mandatory sooner. In 2007, Blanco didn’t seek re-election and Nagin exited the mayors office in 2010. In 2014, Nagin was convicted of bribery, fraud and money laundering; moreover, Nagin committed these crimes while in office before and after Katrina. He now serves a 10-year sentence, as reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
There was an investigation done into the overall response to the disaster. A small, hand picked bipartisan committee of the U.S. House of Representatives did their due diligence in understanding the failures that took place. The committee reported that all levels of government failed the city and state, The report was finalized as “A Failure of Initiative.”

Rebuilding for the Future

Photo Credit: Carlos Barria

Many officials in the government wanted to learn from the disaster and deploy better communications, evacuations and environmental policies. The Army Corps of Engineers has since rebuilt the levee. The barriers are now higher and have steel beams supporting them and they extend as far as 65 feet (19.8 meters) below sea level. Congress passed an act to reorganize FEMA in 2006, The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act offers grants to help cities revise evacuation plans. Included in the plan: provisions for better communication with citizens who have disabilities as well as non-English speakers. It also recognizes the evacuation needs of people with pets. The funding for Urban Search and Rescue teams increased due to this and also requires establishment of family registry within six months after a storm.
New Orleans has improved resident access alert information and evacuation routes. For example, they have a text and email message system dubbed NolaReady that 13,000 residents have listed their numbers on.
A decade later, the region’s still recovering from the storm. The population of New Orleans metropolitan area dramatically dropped, from 1.386 million in 2005 to 1.04 million in 2006. But, in 2014 it had risen back to 1.252 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Also in 2014 the number of housing units and businesses had severely dropped and have not returned to pre-2005 levels.
Even though many of the areas tourists frequent have recovered like the French Quarter, there are many neighborhoods within a short ride from the city that were literally washed away.

Sources

Hurricane Katrina — A Look Back 10 Years Later
• The Data Center: The New Orleans Index at Ten
‘A Failure of Initiative: The Final Report by the bipartisan committee



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