Hurricane Katrina's Effects on New Orleans
In 2005, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, a destructive Category 5 hurricane. Hurricane Katrina landed on Florida and Louisiana and caused an immense amount of damage from Central Florida all the way to eastern Texas. Due to fatal engineering mistakes in the levees around New Orleans, major flooding caused most of the lives that were lost. Hurricane Katrina was the 3d major hurricane in 2005 and the 4th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall until Hurricane Michael in 2018.
On August 23rd, 2005, Hurricane Katrina began forming over the Bahamas from a merge between a tropical wave and remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. The next day the tropical depression transformed into a tropical storm as it headed toward Florida, strengthening into a hurricane just two hours before making landfall on August 25th. The hurricane briefly weakened back to a tropical storm, but when it emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26th, it once again began to intensify. While over the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katrina strengthened into a Category 5, but then weakened again before hitting land for the second time. On August 29th, Hurricane Katrina made landfall over southeast Louisiana and Mississippi.
On August 28th, the day before Katrina made landfall over Louisiana, Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, ordered the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. The New Orleans government also established some “refuges of last resort” for people who were unable to leave the city. The Louisiana Superdome, one of the refuges of last resort, gave shelter to around 26,000 people and provided them with necessities while the storm rained destruction over the city. It is estimated that about 1.3 million of New Orleans’ residents evacuated, leaving fewer people remaining in the city than the Hurricane Ivan evacuation.
At least 1,836 people died during Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent floods. This makes Katrina the deadliest hurricane in the U.S. since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. There were over 50 breaches in the surge protection levees that surrounded the city of New Orleans, which is what led to most of the deaths and destruction during Hurricane Katrina.
About 80% of the city, along with neighboring parishes, became severely flooded for weeks. Because of all the flooding, most of the communication networks and transportation in New Orleans were damaged or disabled. This left thousands of people who had not evacuated prior to Katrina making landfall stranded with little to no access to basic necessities, food, or shelter. In addition to this, almost 900,000 people lost power as a result of Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina caused so much devastation in New Orleans that massive national and international response efforts were called into action. Rescue missions took place over the following weeks to evacuate displaced persons out of the city. Investigations took place after the storm and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was found responsible for the failure of the levees surrounding New Orleans.