Hurricane Katrina, the tropical cyclone that hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, was the third strongest hurricane to hit the United States in its history at the time. With maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, the storm killed a total of 1,833 people and left millions homeless in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. .
The hurricane’s heavy toll and the flooding it caused gained international attention, along with widespread and lasting criticism of how local, state and federal authorities handled the storm and its aftermath.
1. Katrina made landfall for the first time in South Florida.
The storm initially formed as a tropical depression in the southeastern Bahamas on August 23. By the evening of August 25, when it made landfall north of the Broward-Miami-Dade County line, it had intensified into a Category 1 hurricane. With high winds of around 80 mph , the storm was relatively weak, but enough to cut off energy by about $ 1 million and cause $ 630 million in damage.
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2. Katrina stalled on the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength.
After passing through Florida, Katrina weakened again and was reclassified as a tropical storm. But over the Gulf of Mexico, some 165 miles west of Key West, the storm intensified over the warmer waters of the Gulf. On August 28, the storm was transformed into a Category 5 hurricane, with steady winds of 160 mph.
3. The eye of the storm struck the Gulf Coast near Buras, Louisiana on August 29.
On the morning of August 29, 2005, Katrina made landfall approximately 60 miles southeast of New Orleans. In less than an hour, almost all the buildings in the lower parish of Plaquemines would be destroyed. Although downgraded to a Category 3, the storm’s relatively slow forward movement (around 12 mph) covered the area with significantly more rain than a fast moving storm would have. 125 mph winds and 28 foot storm surges devastated much of Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi.
4. Half of New Orleans’ 350 mile long dike and flood wall protection system has been submerged.
At 5 a.m. on August 29, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which administered the dikes, received a report that water had passed through the concrete wall between the 17th Street Canal and the city. The industrial canal was also subsequently breached, flooding the neighborhood known as Lower Ninth Ward.
By late afternoon, the breakwaters of the London Avenue Canal had left 80% of New Orleans underwater. In some areas, floodwaters reached depths of 10 to 15 feet and did not recede for weeks. Although New Orleans’ levees and flood walls were designed to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, half of the network gave way to water.
5. No less than 50,000 people have sought refuge at the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome.
By some estimates, between 80 and 90 percent of New Orleans’ population was able to evacuate the city before Katrina. Still, an estimated 100,000 people were trapped in the city when the storm struck, and many took refuge in the New Orleans Superdome and the Ernest J. Morial Convention Center as the storm approached. Some 25,000 people gathered in the convention center, while more than 25,000 filled the Superdome.
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6. After wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast, Katrina moved inland and weakened, but New Orleans remained in crisis.
As Katrina moved inland over the Mississippi, she weakened into a Category 1 hurricane and later a tropical storm. By 11 a.m. on August 30, Katrina had fallen in heavy rain and winds of around 35 mph. Meanwhile, the flooding continued to worsen in New Orleans.
The arrival of 13,000 US National Guard and 7,000 US troops deployed by President George W. Bush helped evacuate and resupply food and water for those stranded at the Superdome and the Congress Center, which were all finally evacuated on September 3. Many Katrina evacuees traveled to Houston, Texas, where they were accommodated in the Astrodome and other shelters.
7. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath killed 1,833 people.
Katrina’s death toll is the fourth highest of any hurricane in US history, following Hurricane Galveston of 1900, which killed between 8,000 and 12,000 people; Hurricane Maria, which killed more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico in 2017; and Hurricane Okeechobee, which hit Florida in 1928 and killed up to 3,000 people.
In Louisiana, where more than 1,500 people are believed to have died from the impact of Katrina, drowning (40%), injuries and trauma (25%) and heart disease (11%) were the leading causes of death, according to a report released in 2008 by the American Medical Association.
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8. Katrina is the costliest American hurricane in history.
The Data Center, a New Orleans-based research organization, estimated that the storm and subsequent flooding displaced more than a million people, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. It damaged more than a million homes in the region. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Katrina is the costliest U.S. hurricane on record, causing some $ 125 billion in damage in total.
9. Local, state and federal officials have been criticized for their handling of the disaster.
Widespread criticism of the federal response to Katrina led to the resignation of Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and caused lasting damage to the reputation of President Bush, who was nearing end. of a month. vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas when Katrina struck.
In 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for the design of the levee system in New Orleans, recognized that the outdated and flawed engineering practices used to construct the levees were at the root of most flooding from Katrina. State and local level, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin have faced criticism for not ordering mandatory evacuations earlier. Blanco refused to seek re-election in 2007 and died in 2019. Nagin stepped down in 2010, and was subsequently convicted on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering committed while in office .
10. Katrina has had a lasting impact on the region and its people.
The massive exodus from the Gulf Coast and New Orleans during and after Katrina was one of the largest and most sudden relocations in U.S. history. Some 1.2 Louisianans were displaced for months, if not years, and thousands never returned.
In April 2000, according to the Data Center, the population of New Orleans was 484,674; by July 2006, not quite a year after Katrina, it had fallen from over 250,000 to around 230,172. Some of those who left later returned, and by 2020 the population was just over 390,000, or about 80% of its pre-Katrina population.