Hurricane Katrina: Coast Guard Rescues

The Marines

U.S. Marines Corps vehicles, assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Service Support Group, travels through Biloxi, Miss., to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 6, 2005. US Navy Photo

The Marine Corps Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) Katrina out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, initially commanded by Colonel John Shook, led the way for the Marines. The headquarters element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit flew into the Belle Chase, Louisiana, Reserve Naval Air Station, ten miles southeast of downtown New Orleans on Saturday, 3 September. The initial complement of 80 Marines would grow to over 1,000 Marines by the end of the Labor Day weekend.

Roughly 700 Marines from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment—commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James S. Alley—and Battery E, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment departed Camp Lejeune on 3 September to provide the security element. They joined other Marines already on the Gulf Coast that day. The ground force is expected to augment local law enforcement and National Guard units in providing security for the civilian population and their property.

The East Coast Marines were soon joined by their fellow leathernecks from California. Elements of the 11th MEU deployed 5 September from MCAS Miramar. These Camp Pendleton-based Marines will link up with the rest of the SPMAGTF, under the command of Major General Douglas V. O’Dell, the commanding general of the New Orleans-based Fourth Marine Division.

Marines aboard an Assault Amphibian Vehicle venture through waves and polluted water through the devastated neighborhoods around New Orleans looking for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. US Marine Corps Photo

The task force’s aviation component, which is continuing to grow, initially included 10 CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters, two CH-46E medium-lift helicopters, three UH-1N utility helicopters, and dedicated KC-130F aerial refueler/transports. The UH- INs alone lifted more than 450 residents from rooftops and small pieces of high ground where they had taken refuge from the flooding caused by Katrina. Reserve helicopters are augmenting this force.

The Marine aviation contingent deployed from MCAS New River on 1 September and moved to Pensacola, Florida, before flying into New Orleans International Airport. The heavy-lift capabilities of the squadron’s CH-53E’s were first put to use in bringing several tons of bottled water and food to the recovery effort. The Marine CH-53Es were among the first to begin bringing the mostly elderly and ill victims of the hurricane to the airport, where they received immediate medical attention. The squadron and its 120 Marines arrived Thursday, and helped augment other Marine Reserve air assets in the region.

Marine Service Support Group-24 (MSSG-24) deployed to New Orleans on board the Shreveport and the Whidbey Island with more than 250 Marines on 2 September.

Published August 29. 2015 7:20PM | Updated August 30. 2015 7:24PM

Julia Bergman

New London — Jen Gaudio, curator of the museum at the Coast Guard Academy, says some people have called Hurricane Katrina the Coast Guard's war.

On the 10th anniversary of the catastrophic hurricane, the event is still remembered as a defining moment for the Coast Guard.

Until then, some people still believed the Coast Guard was a reserve unit of the Navy, as one local Coast Guardsman put it recently.

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, there was no coordinated or formalized response plan. 

"We were the only ones out there doing it initially because no one could figure out how to do it," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Cain, a flight mechanic stationed out of Clearwater, Fla., at the time of Katrina.

He spoke last week in an interview at the Coast Guard Museum on the academy campus, which exhibits historical items that demonstrate the service's unique missionset.

It was the Coast Guard's standardized training that enabled the service to do its job efficiently despite the chaotic conditions, said Cain and Lt. Cmdr. Crist Holveck, who at the time of Katrina was a junior copilot stationed in Miami.

"The first three days, you'd just grab anybody asking for help," Holveck said. 

At timesਊir crews tackled neighborhoods, flying over street by street. When they saw a hand sticking out the side of a house or someone stranded on a roof top, they went in.

Coast Guard air crews often flew together for the first time. Flight mechanics, rescue swimmers and pilots who had never met each other, let alone worked together, were going out to conduct search and rescues.

Holveck described how this played out in the hangar where aircrafts refueled and underwent maintenance.

Maybe a crew member couldn't fly anymore because he'd reached the end of the legally allowed flight hours, so a crew would need a new member.

"Someone would walk over and say, 'You're qualified. Come with me. Hey, by the way, my name's Mike, let's go fly,'" Holveck said.

He recalled a piece of advice he offered to a Marine Corps aircraft commander who had just landed in the hangar. "He was like, 'Who do I check in with?' I said, 'Sir, if I was you, I would just get gas and just start grabbing people.'"

Ten years later, one rescue still stands out in Holveck's mind. While their aircraft was flying by a house that was submerged in water up to the second floor, the crew's flight mechanic said, "Sir, come back around. I see a hand."

"And we were doing 80-90 knots, or something, maybe 100 knots," Holveck said

"We're like, 'Uh, you see a hand?'" he recalled. "I remember almost laughing, like 'What are you talking about?'"

The flight mechanic was right. An elderly woman, Holveck said, had heard the aircraft above and poked her hand out of a hole in the side of an attic.

The crew lowered their rescue swimmer, then the swimmer's crash axe, and the swimmer ripped open the roof to get to the woman out safely.

"We don't really train for a lot of these scenarios," Holveck said. "We certainly don't go flying to somebody's house with the roof open for training."

Holveck is now an admissions officer at the Coast Guard Academy, and Cain isਊ company chief at the academy.

About five days after Katrina hit New Orleans, Cain headed to the area with a heavy maintenance team stationed in Mobile, Ala., and flying into New Orleans for rescue efforts.

"We were flying aircraft 24 hours a day so there was a lot of round-the-clock maintenance that had to be done," Cain said.

Holveck's crew, in the five days it spent responding in New Orleans, rescuedꂫout 130 people, he said. Records now show that the Coast Guard saved more than 33,500 people in the aftermath of Katrina.

Both men said they felt the catastrophic event raised awareness in the minds of the American public about who the Coast Guard is and what its members do.

"If nothing else, it certainly solidified our branding," Holveck said, in the minds of people who thought the Coast Guard was part of the Navy.

"I hope that put a lot of confidence in the American people in what we can do, and if and when another major disaster happens, that we're going to be doing the same thing and ready to respond," Cain said.

As they talked about the rescue operations the two men sat just a few hundred feet from the Coast Guard Academy museum's Katrina exhibit, which features Adm. Thad Allen's operational dress uniform or "ODU" as it isꃊlled.

Now retired, Allen was appointed the principal federal official in New Orleans on Sept. 6 by President George W. Bush, and his arrival on scene marked a turning point in response efforts.

The morning he�me the principal federal official in New Orleans, a job he held for six months, he talked to a FEMA worker outside the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, La., and asked her how she was doing.

"She was very proud of what she was doing and was working਎xhaustive hours but knew she was doing meaningful work," Allen said. The woman said it was difficult to return to her hotel each evening knowing about the morale issues going on within FEMA.

After the news conference where it was announced that he was assuming this new role, Allen called for an "all hands" meeting.

He stood on a desk and looked out at about 2,000 people, all of whom had the same look of concern on their faces as the woman earlier, he said.

He told them, "I'm giving you all an order."

In a phone interview last week, Allen said, "I didn't have any legal authority to give an order but you do what you can."

He told them, "Treat everyone you come into contact with as if they're a member of your family. If you make a mistake and err on the side of doing too much, I'm OK with that. If somebody has a problem with what you did, they have a problem with me, not you."

People were openly weeping in the room, Allen recalled. Nobody had told this massive number of people in very simple terms what the mission was, he said.

Noting that people told him that was a major turning point in operations, he continued, "Most importantly, nobody ever told these people that they had their back." 

Allen is in New Orleans this weekend to commemorate the anniversary.

He said he also plans to bring attention to the conversation around national resiliency, and how that can play out at the local, state and national levels.

Individuals, he said, "need to understand that the first responder in any situation will be them and the second first responder will be their neighbor."

LAFD History – Hurricane Katrina – LAFD Response

Frank’s Note: Hurricane Katrina was a devastating disaster for the gulf coast region of the USA. At the request from FEMA, the LAFD responded with a variety of desperately needed resources. The following story contains two articles published with first-hand accounts of the disaster followed by a summary I edited from an excellent LAFD Situation report. These reports were done on a daily basis. In all, Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people and affected some 90,000 square miles. According to FEMA, the total damage for Katrina is estimated at $108 billion.


Mission: Utilizing boats and personal water craft to locate and rescue hurricane victims in and around New Orleans.
Base: Metarie, Louisiana at the New Orleans Saints
Football Training Camp.

USAR TASK FORCE (CATF-1) – 70 Members
Mission: Conduct technical search and rescue operations within the hotel/casinos damaged by hurricane.
Base: Gulfport, Mississippi

Mission: To assist local authorities.
Base: Deployed in and around New Orleans

L.A. Fire Teams
See Devastation in South up Close
By Josh Kleinbaum
Staff Writer Daily News
Photos added by Frank Borden

The 14 members of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s swift-water rescue team were shocked by the sight of ruin and desperation when they arrived this week on the outskirts of New Orleans, officials said Friday. While far from the Superdome and the convention center, where lawlessness and suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have grabbed headlines, the pain and suffering they witnessed was just as heart-rending.

“They were horrified,” Fire Department spokeswoman Melissa Kelly said. “There were dead bodies floating in the water. There were so many snakes and animals and all kinds of things that they stopped and purchased machetes for their own protection – protection from the elements, not the people.” On Wednesday, the team was deployed to a 2-mile-by-6-mile zone in Louisiana outside New Orleans, where they rescued 197 adults and 47 children, Kelley said.

But with victims crying for help everywhere, the firefighters were forced to prioritize – more critical victims became more desperate and the region descended into lawlessness, the rescue operation became too dangerous, and FEMA ordered the unit to pull back. “(They) went to people with immediate need,” Kelley said. “When you have a person who can survive for a couple hours and a person clinging to life, the person clinging to life is the person in immediate need, rather than the person walking around screaming about his broken ankle.” Prioritization is where people started getting angry. That’s why they were called off that night. We were told to stand down because of the uprising.”

Seventy more Los Angeles firefighters, from the department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, left for Jackson, Miss. on Wednesday to join the relief effort. With telephone lines and other means of communication down, the LAFD can only communicate with the team through satellite phone, and only when the team calls Los Angeles. The team has not checked in since arriving in Dallas on Thursday morning to await their instructions, Kelly said.

Local Firefighter Recounts Scene in New Orleans

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, September 9, 2005
Adam Clark Signal Staff Writer
Photos added by Frank Borden

You can’t necessarily see the bodies, but you can smell them, said veteran firefighter Brian LaBrie. In New Orleans since the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall, LaBrie, of Santa Clarita, said it is the worst disaster he has seen in his 17-year career as a swift water rescue specialist for the Los Angeles Fire Department. LaBrie was deployed to New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was in Oklahoma City for the bombing of the federal building in 1995, and he was in Los Angeles for the 1992 riots.

On Aug. 29, he and the 13 other members of his team were deployed to New Orleans where they have been rescuing hundreds of men, women and children.
People ask me to describe it. I tell them it’s the (Los Angeles) riots, Sept. 11 and the Sacramento floods all rolled into one, said LaBrie, who also is affiliated with FEMA and is part of a rescue team that is generally the first on site at any national disaster. LaBrie said he and members of his team have met death, destruction and violence at every turn. (There is) the massive destruction of the water and the flooding, he said. There is the violence where rescue workers are being shot at and boats are being stolen at gun point, and then there is the massive death (toll).

Despite the horrible conditions, LaBrie said he and his team have been bringing in survivors by the hundreds. Their first night in the water, they rescued 197 adults and 40 children. Some families have managed to stay together, he said, but many have been ripped apart. One of the hardest things to deal with are the orphans they find, he said. One particularly difficult situation involved four children who were brought in without parents. The police department was overloaded at the time and was unable to do anything, LaBrie said. Usually we would turn them over to the police department … we couldn’t do that this time because there were too many of them. We had to put them on the bus and send them to the shelter.
Many of the men have families of their own, so it was really hard for (them), LaBrie said.

The violence is also unbelievably bad, he said. His team had to stop going out at night because of looters. It was too violent at night, he said. Most of the looters come out at night. Even during the day, the rescue teams didn’t go out without armed patrol. We had DEA and military with us, he said. They all carried machine guns.

Worse than the violence are the water conditions, he said. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. There were rumors of E. coli in there we were swimming in raw sewage, dead bodies, chemicals (from) the chemical plant and pesticides, and a crude oil spill at one point, LaBrie said. He said the EPA has tested the water and is awaiting the results.
Despite the hardships, LaBrie and his team continue to work using every means available to them. One day all the teams had to be airlifted into an area because that was the only way to get there. LaBrie said they find people everywhere, on their roofs and in upper levels of houses that are not completely submerged.
Nevertheless, as many as 50 percent did not want to be rescued, he said.
A lot of them didn’t want to leave their pets, he said. We weren’t able to take pets because we couldn’t take a pet over another person

Situation Report Prepared by LAFD Special Operations Division, Homeland Security Intelligence Section. (Edited version)
September 5, 2005, 0800 HOURS PST

I. Situation Summary:

• The Coast Guard reports that over 22,785 survivors have been rescued so far. 9,400 patients have been evacuated from area hospitals.
• Federal officials chartered three Carnival Cruise Lines ships for six months to provide shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Two of these cruise ships will deploy to Galveston and will be used for elderly care and people with special needs. The third ship is scheduled to arrive in Mobile, Ala to begin lodging about 1,800 displaced persons.
• Seven Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are now operational (6 in Alabama 1 in Texas).
• 34,845 National Guard members from 42 states are currently deployed. 36,245 are anticipated to be in place by September 6.
• Chief Naval Operations (CNO) approved a waiver for civilian helicopter operations on board USN amphibious ships in support of relief operations.
• The USS BATAAN is in the region and is ready to begin accepting patients
• One destroyer and two frigates by Canadian Navy are expected to arrive on September 10 to assist as needed.
• England has offered aircraft and 1,100 tons of meals-ready-to-eat.
• The Department of Transportation is coordinating pharmaceutical shipments from the Netherlands and Canada.
• A total of 59 corpses have so far been recovered in New Orleans, officials said overnight, cautioning that the first official death toll from Hurricane Katrina was just a fraction of those killed.
• A total of 466 public water systems (serving 1.2 million people) have been negatively impacted and are not operating normally.
• A major oil spill into the Mississippi River was reported 30 miles south of New Orleans.
• An anhydrous ammonia leak occurred from an estimated 25,000 ton tank in the Bayou Casotte area of Pascagoula, MS
• The national preparedness increased to level 4 on September 1 in recognition of current and predicted support to Hurricane Katrina. National Preparedness Level 4 means two or more geographic areas are experiencing incidents requiring Type 1 Teams..

• A Eurocopter AS 332 Super Puma helicopter crashed northwest of downtown New Orleans Sunday evening. The pilot and crew sustained minor injuries and were rescued by the Coast Guard.
• CNN has developed a service to allow refugees and others affected by the hurricane to post their name and let others know that they are safe.
• Weather Forecast:

— Mon Tue Wed Thu
General Isolated Thunderstorms Mostly Sunny
High/Low 92°/74° 90°/73° 91°/72° 91°/73°
Precip. Chance 30% 30% 30% 30%

Hurricane Maria continues to slowly strengthen. Warm waters have aided in Maria’s intensification as current sustained winds are now 90mph. Maria is located several hundred miles east of Bermuda and thankfully is forecast to move north and eventually to the northeast making no impact on the United States.

III. Current Actions:

CATF-1 (Team 3 – Swift Water Rescue) worked a full operational period yesterday (Sunday). They were airlifted to the same isolated area that they worked on Saturday. Many of the areas in this sector were only under one foot of water. Therefore, they commandeered a forklift, dump truck, and a fire truck to move about more easily. This enabled them to deliver meals-ready-to-eat and water too many of the residents that are still stranded in this area of Louisiana

Morale remains high, no injuries or illnesses have been reported, and they are now receiving full logistical support (showers, hot meals, decon, etc.).

CATF-1 (USAR) received deployment orders last night. They are en route to Gulfport Mississippi, approximately 580 miles from Dallas, where they will be assigned to work.

LAFD’s B/C Richard Warford, as part of an Incident Management Team, has been assigned to the FEMA Program Office in Washington DC

LAFD’s B/C Mark Saxelby and Captain Wade White, as part of an Incident Support Team, are currently deployed to Gulfport, Mississippi.

This incident marks the first deployment of Swift Water Rescue resources as part of a FEMA deployment.

The LAFD still has three USAR Task Forces (FS 88, FS 27, FS 85) available to handle local incidents, if needed.

100 California Highway Patrol officers will be deployed to Louisiana.

IV. Miscellaneous Important Information:

Fatalities (Confirmed): No current update available for this report.

Louisiana Mississippi Alabama Florida Texas Total
126* 185** 2 11 1 325
*Estimates are in the thousands. **Estimates are in the hundreds.

The report continued with information on Security, Electrical Outages, Communications and Shelters (274,100 in shelters or in transit). The LAFD Swift Water and US&R Task Force (CATF 1) have responded to many California and US disasters since Katrina.


Hurricane Katrina formed as Tropical Depression Twelve over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005, as the result of the merger of a tropical wave and the remnants of Tropical Depression Ten four days earlier. The storm 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. [10] Thereafter, Katrina rapidly intensified over the "unusually warm" waters of the Loop Current from a Category 3 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane in just nine hours. [11]

After attaining Category 5 hurricane status on the morning of August 28, Katrina reached its peak strength at 1800 UTC, 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 fifth 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, before Rita broke the record. [10] The hurricane subsequently weakened due to another eyewall replacement cycle, and Katrina made its second landfall at 1110 UTC on August 29, as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 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 and final landfall near the Louisiana–Mississippi border with 120 mph (190 km/h) sustained winds, still at Category 3 hurricane intensity. [12] 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 its remnants were absorbed by a cold front in the eastern Great Lakes region on August 31. The resulting extratropical storm moved rapidly to the northeast and affected eastern Canada. [10]

Federal government

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. [13] Aircrews from the Aviation Training Center, in Mobile, staged rescue aircraft from Texas to Florida. [14] All aircraft were returning towards the Gulf of Mexico by the afternoon of August 29. Aircrews, 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. [15]

President of the United States George W. Bush declared a state of emergency in selected regions of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi on August 27. [16] "On Sunday, August 28, President Bush spoke with Governor Blanco to encourage her to order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans." [17] However, during the testimony by former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Michael Brown before a U.S. House subcommittee on September 26, Representative Stephen Buyer (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. [18] 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. [19] [20] Brown testified that this was because Louisiana Governor Blanco 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, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines. [21]

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. [10]

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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. [22] 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. [23] 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." [24] Additionally, the National Hurricane Center issued many tropical cyclone warnings and watches throughout the duration of Katrina:

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 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 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 Dry Tortugas to Key West, Florida
Hurricane Watch Morgan City to 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
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

Florida and Gulf Coast

In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency on August 24 in advance of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. [25] By the following day, Florida's Emergency Operations Center was activated in Tallahassee to monitor the progress of the hurricane. [26] 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. [27] 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. [25] Shelters were opened across the region. [28] Officials closed the Miami International Airport, [29] 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. [30]

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 fifty national guardsmen were called on duty by August 30. [31] 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]

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. Since Hurricane Katrina, Amtrak's Sunset Limited service has never been restored past New Orleans. [32] [33]


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. [34] 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. [35] Louisiana's Emergency Operations Plan Supplement 1C (Part II, Section II, Paragraph D) calls for use of school and other public buses in evacuations. [36] 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. [37]

By August 26, the possibility of an 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. [38] 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), while the levees offered protection to 23 feet (7.0 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. [39]

At a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT 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." [40] 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. [41] [42] 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. [43]

Deaths by state
Alabama 2
Florida 14
Georgia 2
Kentucky 1
Louisiana 986–1,577*
Mississippi 238
Ohio 2
Total 1,245–1,836 [44] [45]
Missing 135 [46]
*Includes out-of-state evacuees
counted by Louisiana

On August 29, 2005, Katrina's storm surge caused 53 breaches to various flood protection structures in and around the greater New Orleans area, submerging 80% of the city. A June 2007 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers indicated that two-thirds of the flooding was caused by the multiple failures of the city's floodwalls. [47] The storm surge also devastated the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, making Katrina one of the most destructive hurricanes, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, tied with Hurricane Harvey in 2017, [1] and the deadliest hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. The total damage from Katrina is estimated at $125 billion (2005 U.S. dollars). [10] [48]

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 Kentucky, 2 each in Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio, 14 in Florida, 238 in Mississippi, and 1,577 in Louisiana. [44] [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. [10] 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. [45] A follow-up study by the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals determined that the storm was directly responsible for 1,170 fatalities in Louisiana. [49]

Federal disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles (230,000 km 2 ) 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. [50]

Even in 2010, debris remained in some coastal communities. [51]

Florida, Bahamas, and Cuba

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. [52] 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.

Significant impacts were 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. [10] In the Florida Panhandle, 77,000 customers lost power. [53] Overall, the hurricane killed 14 people and caused at least $623 million in damage.

Before striking South Florida, Katrina traversed the Bahamas as a tropical storm. However, minimal impact was reported, with only "fresh breezes" on various islands. [54]

Although Hurricane Katrina stayed well to the north of Cuba, on August 28 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 town of Surgidero de Batabanó was 90% underwater. [55]


On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana, with 125 mph (200 km/h) winds, as a strong Category 3 hurricane. Although the storm surge to the east of the path of the eye in Mississippi was higher, a 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. The hurricane made its 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. [10]

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. [10] Almost 900,000 people in Louisiana lost power as a result of Hurricane Katrina. [56]

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. [57]

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. [58]

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 Plaquemines Parish 80% (7,212) were damaged. [59]

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. [60]

New Orleans

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 based on this information, the NHC concluded that much of the city likely experienced sustained winds of Category 1 or 2 hurricane strength.

Katrina's storm surge caused 53 levee breaches in the federally built levee system protecting metro New Orleans and the failure of the 40 Arpent Canal levee. 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 eastern 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. [61]

Most of the major roads traveling into and out of the city were damaged. The only major intact highway 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. [62] However, access to downtown New Orleans and the "shelter of last resort" at the Convention Center was never closed because River Road in Jefferson Parish and Leake Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans were not flooded, and would have allowed access throughout the immediate post-storm emergency period.

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. [63] 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. [64]

The Superdome, which was sheltering many people who had not evacuated, sustained significant damage. [65] Two sections of the Superdome's roof were compromised and the dome's waterproof membrane was essentially 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. [66]

Levee breaches in New Orleans also caused a significant number of deaths, with over 700 bodies recovered in New Orleans by October 23, 2005. [67] 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. [68]

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. An estimated 215 bodies were found in nursing homes and hospitals in New Orleans, [69] the largest number being at Memorial Medical Center where 45 corpses were recovered. [70] Some 200 patients at Charity Hospital were not evacuated until Friday, September 2, having been without power or fresh water for five days. [71] 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. [72]

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". [73] [74] [75]


The Gulf coast of Mississippi suffered extremely severe 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. [76] Katrina traveled up the entire state as a result, all 82 counties in Mississippi were declared disaster areas for federal assistance, 47 for full assistance. [76]

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). [10] 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. [10] 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. [10]

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. [10]

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, [77] and that storm surges traveled as much as 6 miles (10 km) inland in portions of the state's coast. [48] 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. [77]

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 [10] 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.

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 Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties were inundated by the storm surge, in all three cases affecting most of the populated areas. [78] 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 storm 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.

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. [56]

Southeast United States

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, [10] 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). [10] The surge caused significant flooding several miles inland along Mobile Bay. Four tornadoes were also reported in Alabama. [10] 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.

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. [10] 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. [56]

Northern and central Georgia were affected by heavy rains and strong winds from Hurricane Katrina as the storm moved inland, with more than 3 inches (75 mm) of rain falling in several areas. At least 18 tornadoes formed in Georgia on August 29, 2005, the most on record in that state for one day in August. The most serious of these tornadoes was an F2 tornado which affected Heard County and 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. [79]

Eastern Arkansas received light rain from the passage of Katrina. [80] 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.

Other U.S. states and Canada

In Kentucky, rainfall from Katrina compounded flooding from a storm that had moved through during the previous weekend. A 10-year-old girl drowned in Hopkinsville. Dozens of businesses were closed and several families evacuated due to rising floodwaters. [81] As a result of the flooding, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher declared three counties disaster areas and a statewide state of emergency. [82] [83] 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.

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 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. [84] 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. [85]

Economic effects

The economic effects of the storm reached high levels. The Bush Administration sought $105 billion for repairs and reconstruction in the region, [88] 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 [48] 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%. [89] The forestry industry in Mississippi was also affected, as 1.3 million acres (5,300 km 2 ) of forest lands were destroyed. [90] The total loss to the forestry industry from Katrina is calculated to rise to about $5 billion. [90] 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. [91] Forensic accountants were involved in the assessment of economic damages resulting from this catastrophe. [92]

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. [93] 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, Illinois received over 6,000 people, the most of any non-southern city. [94] By late January 2006, about 200,000 people were once again living in New Orleans, less than half of the pre-storm population. [95] 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%. [96] 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. [97]

Environmental effects

Large oil spills caused by Hurricane Katrina
Spills exceeding 10,000 US gallons (38,000 L) [98]
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

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. [99] The storm surge and waves from Katrina also severely damaged the Chandeleur Islands, which had been affected by Hurricane Ivan the previous year. [100] The US Geological Survey has estimated 217 sq mi (560 km 2 ) of land was transformed to water by the hurricanes Katrina and Rita. [101] Before the storm, subsidence and erosion caused loss of land in the Louisiana wetlands and bayous. This, along with the canals built in the area, let Katrina keep more of its intensity when it struck. [102] The lands that were lost were breeding grounds for marine mammals, brown pelicans, turtles, and fish, and migratory species such as redhead ducks. [90] Overall, about 20% of the local marshes were permanently overrun by water as a result of the storm. [90]

The damage from Katrina forced the closure of 16 National Wildlife Refuges. Breton National Wildlife Refuge lost half its area in the storm. [103] As a result, the hurricane affected the habitats of sea turtles, Mississippi sandhill cranes, Red-cockaded woodpeckers, and Alabama Beach mice. [103]

Katrina also produced massive tree loss along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana's Pearl River Basin and among bottomland hardwood forests. Before the storm, the standard mortality rate for the area's trees was 1.9%, but this interval increased to 20.5% by the end of 2006. [104] Delayed mortality as an effect of the storm continued with rates up to 5% until 2011. [105] This significant loss in biomass caused greater decay and an increase in carbon emissions. For example, by 2006 the decreased biomass in bottomland hardwood forests contributed an amount of carbon which equated to roughly 140% of the net annual U.S. carbon sink in forest trees. [106]

The storm caused oil spills from 44 facilities throughout southeastern Louisiana, which resulted in over 7 million US gallons (26,000 m 3 ) 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. [98] 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. [98]

Finally, as part of the cleanup effort, the floodwaters that covered New Orleans were pumped into Lake Pontchartrain, a process that took 43 days to complete. [48] 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. [90]

Reestablishing governance

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. [107] 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. [108]

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. [109] 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." [110] Several shootings occurred between police and New Orleans residents, some involving police misconduct including an incident where police officers killed two unarmed civilians and seriously injured four others at Danziger Bridge. [111] 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. [112]

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. [113]

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. [114] 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. [115] [116] [117]

Government response

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. [118]

Some disaster recovery response to Katrina began before the storm, with the 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 [118]

Of the 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,500. [119] Congress recognized the Coast Guard's response with an official entry in the Congressional Record, [120] and the Armed Service was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. [121]

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. [122] Approximately 58,000 National Guard personnel were activated to deal with the storm's aftermath, with troops coming from all 50 states. [123] The Department of Defense also activated volunteer members of the Civil Air Patrol.

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, decided to take over the federal, state, and local operations officially on August 30, 2005, citing the National Response Plan. [124] This was refused by Governor Blanco who indicated that her National Guard could manage. Early in September, Congress authorized a total of $62.3 billion in aid for victims. [125] Additionally, President Bush enlisted the help of former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush to raise additional voluntary contributions, much as they did after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. [126] American flags were also ordered to be half-staff from September 2, 2005, to September 20, 2005, in honor of the victims. [127]

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. [128] 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. [129] As of March 30, 2010, there were still 260 families living in FEMA-provided trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi. [130]

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. [131]

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. [132]

Criticism of government response

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 city. [72] The neologism Katrinagate was coined to refer to this controversy, and was a runner-up for "2005 word of the year." [133]

Within days of Katrina's August 29 landfall, public debate arose about the local, state and federal governments' role in the preparations for and response to the hurricane. Criticism was initially prompted by televised images of visibly shaken and frustrated political leaders, and of residents who remained stranded by floodwaters without water, food, or shelter. Deaths from thirst, exhaustion and violence days after the storm had passed fueled the criticism, as did the dilemma of the evacuees at facilities such as the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Civic Center. Some alleged that race, class, and other factors could have contributed to delays in government response. For example, during A Concert for Hurricane Relief, a benefit concert for victims of the hurricane, rapper Kanye West veered off script and harshly criticized the government's response to the crisis, stating that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." [134]

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. [135] Eight days later, Brown was recalled to Washington and Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen replaced him as chief of hurricane relief operations. [136] Three days after the recall, Michael D. Brown resigned as director of FEMA in spite of having received recent praise from President Bush. [137]

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]

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. [138] 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. [139]

International response

Over seventy countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance. 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. [140] [141] [142] [143] Kuwait made the largest single pledge, $500 million other large donations were made by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (each $100 million), South Korea ($30 million), Australia ($10 million), India, China (both $5 million), New Zealand ($2 million), [144] Pakistan ($1.5 million), [145] Norway ($1.8 million), [146] and Bangladesh ($1 million). [147]

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.

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. [148] 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 underway. The team administered first aid to survivors, rescued abandoned pets and discovered hurricane victims. [149]

Countries like Sri Lanka, which was still recovering from the Indian Ocean Tsunami, also offered to help. 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. The United Kingdom's donation of 350,000 emergency meals did not reach victims because of laws regarding mad cow disease. [150]

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. [151]

Non-governmental organization response

The American Red Cross, America's Second Harvest (now known as Feeding America), Southern Baptist Convention, Salvation Army, Oxfam, Common Ground Collective, Burners Without Borders, [152] Emergency Communities, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, Direct Relief, Service International, "A River of Hope", The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, [153] [154] [155] and many other charitable organizations provided aid to victims in the aftermath of the storm. They were not allowed into New Orleans proper by the National Guard for several days after the storm because of safety concerns. These organizations raised US$4.25 billion in donations from the public, with the Red Cross receiving over half of these donations. [156] Some smaller organizations and individuals ignored the access restrictions and provided early relief. For example, two privately chartered planes from FasterCures evacuated 200 patients from Charity Hospital in New Orleans. [157]

Volunteers from 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. [158] In Hancock County, Mississippi, ham radio operators provided the only communications into or out of the area and even served as 911 dispatchers. [159]

Many private corporations also contributed to relief efforts. On September 13, 2005, it was reported that corporate donations amounted to $409 million, and were expected to exceed $1 billion. [160]

During and after the Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita, the American Red Cross had opened 1,470 shelters 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 (including such basic necessities 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. [161] [162]

Direct Relief provided a major response in the Gulf states so health providers could treat the local patients and evacuees. Direct Relief furnished $10 million in medical material aid and cash grants to support clinics and health centers in the area. [163]

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. [164]

Analysis of New Orleans levee failures

According to a modeling exercise conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), two-thirds of the deaths in Greater New Orleans were due to levee and flood wall failure. [165] 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." [166]

A June 2007 report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers determined that the failures of the levees and flood walls in New Orleans were found to be primarily the result of system design and construction flaws. [47] The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been federally mandated in the Flood Control Act of 1965 with responsibility for the conception, design, and construction of the region's flood-control system. All of the major studies in the aftermath of Katrina concluded that the USACE was responsible for the failure of the levees. This was primarily attributed to a decision to use shorter steel sheet pilings during construction in an effort to save money. [6] According to a 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 (5 m) instead of between 31 and 46 feet (9 and 14 m). That decision saved approximately US$100 million, but significantly reduced overall engineering reliability. [167]

In January 2008, Judge Stanwood Duval of the U.S. District Court ruled that despite the Corps' role in the flooding, the agency [7] 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." [168]

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. [169] The Army Corps of Engineers built and maintained the canal. Furthermore, according to storm surge researcher Hassan Mashriqui:

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. [170]

The Corps of Engineers disputes these causalities. [171] 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.

Many of the levees have been reconstructed since 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, which have a horizontal concrete base that protects against soil erosion underneath the flood walls. [172]

Funding battles continue 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. [173] On May 2, 2008, Louisiana Governor 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. [174]

Media involvement

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. [175] 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. [176] The cellular phone antenna network was severely damaged and completely inoperable for several months.

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 [177] and shared the Public Service Pulitzer with the Biloxi-based Sun Herald. [178] 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. [179] In the wake of these online-only efforts, the Pulitzer Committee for the first time opened all its categories to online entries. [180]

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. [181]


Because of the large death toll and destruction of property along the Gulf Coast, the name Katrina was officially retired on April 6, 2006, by the World Meteorological Organization at the request of the U.S. government. The name will never again be used for another 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. [182]

Studies concerning post-Katrina victims

An article published in the Community Mental Health Journal from January 2016 revealed information about a recent study on the psychosocial needs of Hurricane Katrina evacuees that temporarily resided in Dallas, Texas. More than one-fourth of the sample met the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD). About one-third of the individuals received a referral to mental health services for meeting symptom criteria for incident MDD and PTSD. [183]

In a study published in Maternal and Child Health Journal, five to seven years after the disaster, 308 New Orleans pregnant women were interviewed about their exposure to Katrina. Researchers found that there were associations between experiencing damage during Katrina and birthweight, thus researchers concluded that natural disasters may have long-term effects on pregnancy outcomes. Furthermore, it was concluded that women who are most vulnerable to disaster may be more vulnerable to poor pregnancy outcome. [184]

From a September 2015 journal of Current Psychology, a study examined the attitudes of older, long-term residents of Baton Rouge, Louisiana toward displaced newcomers to their community. After using multiple tests, analyses, and descriptive statistics, the study suggested residents grew to become more patient, tolerant, and friendly towards newcomers. The study also suggests, however, that residents felt more fearful and suspicious of the evacuees, as well as the fact that they were being taken advantage of more. [185]

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. [186]

The Technical Report includes:

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

Katrina is the costliest tropical cyclone on record, tying with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. [1] The storm was the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the contiguous United States, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Michael in 2018. [187] Katrina was also the earliest eleventh named storm in the Atlantic until Tropical Storm Kyle surpassed it on August 14, 2020, beating Katrina by 10 days, as it was named on August 24, 2005. [9]

The Secret History of Hurricane Katrina

James Ridgeway

Photo by flickr user <a href="">tidewater muse</a> used under a <a href="">Creative Commons</a> license.

Confronted with images of corpses floating in the blackened floodwaters or baking in the sun on abandoned highways, there aren’t too many people left who see what happened following Hurricane Katrina as a purely “natural” disaster. The dominant narratives that have emerged, in the four years since the storm, are of a gross human tragedy, compounded by social inequities and government ineptitude&mdasha crisis subsequently exploited in every way possible for political and financial gain.

But there’s an even harsher truth, one some New Orleans residents learned in the very first days but which is only beginning to become clear to the rest of us: What took place in this devastated American city was no less than a war, in which victims whose only crimes were poverty and blackness were treated as enemies of the state.

It started immediately after the storm and flood hit, when civilian aid was scarce&mdashbut private security forces already had boots on the ground. Some, like Blackwater (which has since redubbed itself Xe), were under federal contract, while a host of others answered to wealthy residents and businessmen who had departed well before Katrina and needed help protecting their property from the suffering masses left behind. According Jeremy Scahill’s reporting in The Nation, Blackwater set up an HQ in downtown New Orleans. Armed as they would be in Iraq, with automatic rifles, guns strapped to legs, and pockets overflowing with ammo, Blackwater contractors drove around in SUVs and unmarked cars with no license plates.

“When asked what authority they were operating under,” Scahill reported, “one guy said, ‘We’re on contract with the Department of Homeland Security.’ Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, ‘He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary.’ The man then held up the gold Louisiana law enforcement badge he wore around his neck.”

The Blackwater operators described their mission in New Orleans as “securing neighborhoods,” as if they were talking about Sadr City. When National Guard troops descended on the city, the Army Times described their role as fighting “the insurgency in the city.” Brigadier Gen. Gary Jones, who commanded the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, told the paper, “This place is going to look like Little Somalia. We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

Ten days after the storm, the New York Times reported that although the city was calm with no signs of looting (though it acknowledged this had taken place previously), “New Orleans has turned into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers.” The local police superintendent ordered all weapons, including legally registered firearms, confiscated from civilians. But as the Times noted, that order didn’t “apply to hundreds of security guards hired by businesses and some wealthy individuals to protect property&hellip[who] openly carry M-16’s and other assault rifles.” Scahill spoke to Michael Montgomery, the chief of security for one wealthy businessman who said his men came under fire from “black gangbangers” near the Ninth Ward. Armed with AR-15s and Glocks, Montgomery and his men “unleashed a barrage of bullets in the general direction of the alleged shooters on the overpass. ‘After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped. That was it. Enough said.'”

Malik Rahim, a Vietnam veteran and longtime community activist, was one of the organizers of the Common Ground Collective, which quickly began dispensing basic aid and medical care in the first days after the hurricane. But far from aiding the relief workers, Rahim told me this week, the police and troops who began patrolling the streets treated them as criminals or “insurgents.” African American men caught outside also ran the risk of crossing paths with roving vigilante patrols who shot at will, he says. In this dangerous environment, Common Ground began to rely on white volunteers to move through a city that had simply become too perilous for blacks.

In July, the local television station WDSU released a home video, taken shortly after the storm hit, of a local man, Paul Gleason, who bragged to two police officers about shooting looters in the Algiers section of New Orleans.

“Did you have any problems with looters,” [sic] asked an officer.

“They’re all dead,” said Gleason.

The officer asked, “What happened?”

“We shot them,” said Gleason.

“Thirty-eight people? What did you do with the bodies?”

“We gave them to the Coast Guard,” said Gleason.

Gleason told his story with a cup of red wine in one hand and riding a tractor from Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.

Although the government’s aid efforts were in chaos, those involved in the self-generated community rescue and relief efforts were often seen as a threat. Even so, Common Ground, founded in the days after Katrina hit, eventually managed to serve more than half a million people, operating feeding stations, opening free health and legal clinics, and later rebuilding homes and planting trees. But they “never got a dime” from the federal government, says Rahim. The feds did, however, recruit one of Common Ground’s founders, Brandon Darby, as an informant, later using him to infiltrate groups planning actions at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

And while the government couldn’t seem to keep people from dying on rooftops or abandoned highways, it wasted no time building a temporary jail in New Orleans.
Burl Cain, the warden of the notorious Angola Prison, a former slave plantation that’s now home to 5,000 inmates, was rushed down to the city to oversee “Camp Greyhound” in the city’s bus terminal. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the jail “was constructed by inmates from Angola and Dixon state prisons and was outfitted with everything a stranded law enforcer could want, including top-of-the-line recreational vehicles to live in and electrical power, courtesy of a yellow Amtrak locomotive. There are computers to check suspects’ backgrounds and a mug shot station&mdashcomplete with heights marked in black on the wall that serves as the backdrop.”

In the virtual martial law imposed in New Orleans after Katrina, the war on the poor sometimes even spilled over into the war on terror. In his latest book Zeitoun, published in July, Dave Eggers tells the story of a local Syrian immigrant who stayed in New Orleans to protect his properties and ended up organizing makeshift relief efforts and rescuing people in a canoe. He continued right up until he was arrested by a group of unidentified, heavily armed men in uniform, thrown into Camp Greyhound, and questioned as a suspected terrorist. In an interview with Salon, Eggers said:

Zeitoun was among thousands of people who were doing “Katrina time” after the storm. There was a complete suspension of all legal processes and there were no hearings, no courts for months and months and not enough folks in the judicial system really seemed all that concerned about it. Some human-rights activists and some attorneys, but otherwise it seemed to be the cost of doing business. It really could have only happened at that time 2005 was just the exact meeting place of the Bush-era philosophy towards law enforcement and incarceration, their philosophy toward habeas corpus and their neglect and indifference to the plight of New Orleanians.

Through all the time that the federal and local governments, in concert with wealthy New Orleanians, were pitching their battle, there was virtually no one fighting on the other side. Reviewing the “available evidence” a month after Katrina, the New York Times concluded that “the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations.” The reports of residents firing at National Guard helicopters, of tourists being robbed and raped on Bourbon Street, and of murderous rampages in the Superdome&mdashall turned out to be false.

Since then it has become increasingly clear that the truth of what happened in New Orleans&mdashvigilantism and racially tinged violence, a military response that supplanted a humanitarian one&mdashis equally sinister.

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Book Description

Meet the heroes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

&ldquoAn in-depth, first-hand, on-the-scene account of the valiant efforts of the men and women of America&rsquos Coast Guard during one of the nation&rsquos worst natural disasters, and the resolve, grit, and determination which led to the saving of tens of thousands of lives.&rdquo--Clayton Evans, author of

&ldquoTremendous. Canney describes how a service smaller than the New York City police department was able to rise to the occasion with near perfect execution of its missions.&rdquo--Vincent W. Patton III, Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard (retired)

Of all the Homeland Security agencies operating in New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina&rsquos landfall, no agency performed its duties with the same level of diligence and heroism as did the U.S. Coast Guard. Tirelessly, Coasties in helicopters and small boats pulled survivors from rooftops, floating debris, and high ground and ferried them to safety as the rest of us watched live on CNN.

Only a few days later, disaster struck again in the form of Hurricane Rita, which left even more people in desperate need of rescue and assistance. In the aftermath of the storms, some 5,000 Coast Guard personnel rescued 33,735 individuals--six times more than the annual average number rescued by the service nationwide. Then, unobserved by the media, the Coast Guard successfully restored the vital navigation aids in the region, preventing further death and destruction.

Hurricane Katrina disaster relief

The disaster recovery response to Hurricane Katrina included federal government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), state and local-level agencies, federal and National Guard soldiers, non-governmental organizations, charities, and private individuals. Tens of thousands of volunteers and troops responded or were deployed to the disaster most in the affected area but also throughout the U.S. at shelters set up in at least 19 states.

Published August 30. 2020 12:01AM | Updated August 31. 2020 8:12PM

Thad Allen

The call came at 10 a.m. on Labor Day, 5 September 2005, one week after Hurricane Katrina had made landfall on the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts.

A distraught nation was trying to come to grips with the unfolding tragedy in New Orleans anguished people on rooftops frantically waving to be rescued, deaths in nursing homes, flooded parking lots full of school buses, and the decimation of the Lower Ninth Ward due to a levee collapse. It shocked the conscience of the country. Breakdowns of order, first in the Superdome and then in the Convention Center, underscored the desperation of those trapped in a city largely under water.

The call was from Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at the direction of President George Bush. He directed me to go to New Orleans and assist FEMA Administrator Michael Brown in any way I could.

The call was not unexpected.

Then serving as Coast Guard Chief of Staff, I had been contacted earlier by the senior military advisor to the secretary who advised me the issue was being discussed at the highest levels in the White House. He wanted to know if I were asked, would I accept the assignment to take full command of the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts? My wife reminded me that I had often said that my favorite definition of leadership is the ability to reconcile opportunity and competency. I was in.

What followed was an exhausting six months to first stabilize the response, conduct house-to-house searches, repair the damaged levees and drainage canals, remove water and debris, restore utilities, and restart the city.

Fifteen years later long-term recovery is still a work in progress, the history of the storm still being written.

There were too many Coast Guard heroes in the Katrina response to name. The most compact and cogent description of the Coast Guard’s performance can be found in the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the entire Service, “Responding with more than 4,500 personnel, 130 small boats, 4 cutters, and 60 aircraft to devastation and despair across more than 90,000 square miles and 6,400 miles of coastline, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,000 people, began clean-up operations of 9.4 million gallons of oil, replaced and repaired over 1,800 aids to navigation, and most importantly provided hope to hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens through its proactive and vigorous actions.”

Looking back from the perspective of my new role as the Dr. James S. Tyler Distinguished Chair in Leadership Studies at the Coast Guard Academy’s Loy Institute for Leadership — and through the lens of leader development — I am reflecting on some extraordinary individual and team performances. I gained great insight and grew as a person and a leader during the Katrina response. During a press interview, I was once asked what experience in my background prepared me for Katrina. My answer was, 𠇎very assignment I ever had beginning when I walked through the gates of the Coast Guard Academy in 1967.”

The challenge in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes was considerable. On Sept. 6 my helicopter, after overflying the city, landed at a makeshift landing zone by the Convention Center. While emergency repairs were underway to repair levees and drainage canals, the city was without power, potable water, and sewer. Large areas were still underwater.

By the end of that day I reached the conclusion that we 𠅎veryone — had been trying to solve the wrong problem for a week. Following emergency declarations by President Bush, resources were pouring into the region, standard procedure following a hurricane.

But this wasn’t a standard hurricane.

With the collapse of the levees and drainage canals, the city was more like the victim of a weapon of mass destruction. Surrounding areas had lost continuity of government and with it the ability to receive and deploy resources where they were needed most and to manage those operations. My task was to create a structure that supported local leaders without assuming their authorities. It required a coalition of the willing, or at least non-objectors.

One lesson learned is that no complex problem — be it a natural or manmade disaster, pandemic, or cyberattack — can be addressed by a single entity, individual, agency, or company. Effective outcomes are co-produced based on trust, a clear objective and unity of effort. Today’s Coast Guard Academy’s Leader Development Program is centered on self-awareness and accountability as prerequisites for building and leading teams to create unity of effort.

That was the journey we all took together in New Orleans.

We hammered out a process to search the city and touch every structure to account for any missing or distressed persons and begin to deal with the difficult task of recovering the dead. To do that we divided the city into sectors and assigned each sector to a component of Lieutenant General Russ Honore’s Joint Task Force and the Louisiana National Guard. The military forces provided access, security, logistical support, and communications to local law enforcement, who went door to door. Once created, this structure stabilized the immediate response in 72 hours.

While I had no legal authority to direct any state, local, or federal resources, my team was able to establish credibility and trust so that our advice and recommendations became the presumed way ahead. If a local leader or stakeholder complained, we revisited and changed plans as needed to satisfy their concerns. It wasn’t perfect but it worked.

I often get undeserved credit for the Coast Guard response to Katrina. The fact is, most of the rescues occurred before I arrived. My role transcended any individual agency. My charge was to make sense of what had happened, define the problem, and determine the right federal role in order to collectively create an art of the possible where none previously existed.

The Coast Guard thrives in times of crisis because of the ability of our men and women to engage partners at the federal, state and the local level based on trust. With the move in 1998 of the Officer Candidate School (college graduates and prior enlisted members), all officer accessions now pass through the gates of the Coast Guard Academy in New London. Their stories begin here, in this community.

Building Leaders of character demands the indispensable skills of self-awareness and empathy, in short, emotional intelligence.

The Loy Institute of Leadership works with cadet and officer candidate programs among faculty, staff, coaches and the crew of the Barque Eagle, to develop and deploy programs that build these competencies. My journey to Katrina began here in this community where you continue to support the development of Coast Guard officers. I look forward to seeing the central exhibit at the National Coast Guard Museum in New London, a helicopter suspended in the atrium commemorating the Service’s performance in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Admiral Thad Allen served as the Commandant of the Coast Guard from 2006 to 2010, before retiring from the service.

2012: HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty sailed on Oct. 25 from New London, Connecticut, for St. Petersburg, Florida. On Oct. 29, Hurricane Sandy was heading toward land. In an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for its notoriously treacherous seas, the 108-foot-long three-masted tall ship attempted to transit into the forecasted path of the hurricane, approximately 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In 18-foot seas and 40 mph winds, Bounty had lost power, was taking on water, and its pumps were failing, forcing the crew of 16 to abandon ship.

The HMS Bounty is seen submerged in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 29, 2012. Of the 16-person crew, the Coast Guard rescued 14, recovered a woman, and the captain was not found. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski

As the mariners drifted in two life rafts, the Coast Guard’s Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, dispatched an HC-130 Hercules aircraft. Once on scene, it flew above the survivors to keep watch. As it did so, the first MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter was launched from the air station.

Weather conditions had deteriorated, with winds increasing to nearly 70 mph. Flying at about 300 feet above the sea to remain beneath the clouds, the first Jayhawk arrived at Bounty’s position. The crew had to overcome the challenge of safely deploying the rescue swimmer and hoist basket. In one attempt to manage the basket in the wind and high seas, the aircrew placed weight bags into it however, as soon as it hit water, it sank. After multiple attempts to safely deploy and lower the swimmer and manage the basket, their teamwork paid off rescue swimmer Petty Officer 2nd Class Randy Haba was finally lowered to begin pulling the sailors from one of the life rafts.

Coast Guard crewmembers from subsequent aircraft as well as personnel from the CGCs Elm and Gallatin searched for the two missing sailors.

A second Jayhawk arrived to assist with rescuing sailors from the second life raft, as 30-foot waves washed over it. The pilot hovered above the raft, which was approximately 1 mile from the first. Petty Officer 3rd Class Dan Todd, the rescue swimmer, swam to the huddled, cold survivors, and said, “Hi, I’m Dan. I heard you guys need a ride.” His hope was that the greeting would calm the sailors and let them know the Coast Guard was in charge of the situation, he explained later in an interview.

Of the 16 sailors, 14 returned to the air station. Coast Guard crewmembers from subsequent aircraft as well as personnel from the CGCs Elm and Gallatin searched for the two missing sailors. One crewmember was recovered 7 nautical miles from the Bounty’s original position when it reported it was sinking. The search for the 16th sailor, Bounty’s captain, lasted for more than 90 hours and covered 12,000 overlapping nautical miles before it was called off. He was not found.