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New Orleans still ‘a work in progress’ 14 years after Hurricane Katrina

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Posted Aug 29, 2019
Source: Penn Live, Patriot News
Deb Kiner |

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005.

Katrina, a category 3 storm when it landed in Louisiana, was 400 miles wide and had winds of 100 mph to 140 mph.

The damage was extensive – 85 percent of New Orleans, La., was under water after the levee system failed.

The day before the storm arrived, the mayor of New Orleans had issued the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation order. The Superdome was designated as a “shelter of last resort.” More than 10,000 people sought shelter there.

Still, tens of thousands of people chose to remain in their homes.

According to, it had already been raining heavily in New Orleans before the hurricane hit.

Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed and more than 1,800 people died.

Katrina also did substantial damage in Mississippi and Alabama.

The damage estimate from the storm topped $100 billion. According to FEMA, Katrina was “the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.”

The Coast Guard rescued around 34,000 people in New Orleans. Private citizens also used boats to help in rescues and offered food and shelter to people who were displaced.

The federal government, however, seemed unprepared for the storm. From, “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took days to establish operations in New Orleans, and even then did not seem to have a sound plan of action.

Officials, even including President George W. Bush, seemed unaware of just how bad things were in New Orleans and elsewhere: how many people were stranded or missing; how many homes and businesses had been damaged; how much food, water and aid was needed. Katrina had left in her wake what one reporter called a ‘total disaster zone’ where people were ‘getting absolutely desperate.’

For one thing, many had nowhere to go. At the Superdome in New Orleans, where supplies had been limited to begin with, officials accepted 15,000 more refugees from the storm on Monday before locking the doors. City leaders had no real plan for anyone else. Tens of thousands of people desperate for food, water and shelter broke into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center complex, but they found nothing there but chaos.

Meanwhile, it was nearly impossible to leave New Orleans: Poor people especially, without cars or anyplace else to go, were stuck. For instance, some people tried to walk over the Crescent City Connection bridge to the nearby suburb of Gretna, but police officers with shotguns forced them to turn back.”

Hundreds of thousands of people who had been evacuated scattered around the United States to resettle and never returned.

“According to The Data Center, an independent research organization in New Orleans, the storm ultimately displaced more than 1 million people in the Gulf Coast region,” from history.com

Afterward, all levels of government – state, local and federal – were criticized for the now only slow response but also inadequate response.

The director of FEMA, Michael Brown, was forced to resign.

The New Orleans Police Department superintendent also resigned.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco did not seek re-election and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted in 2014 of bribery, fraud and money laundering.

A U.S. Congress investigation spawned some reforms including “a requirement that all levels of government train to execute coordinated plans of disaster response.”

A Habitat for Humanity volunteer with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Nicolette Santos, reported this spring, “The rebuilding of New Orleans, 14 years after the hurricane’s landfall, is still a work in progress.”

What does extreme weather look like where you live? How long has this extreme weather been happening? What were the results of extreme weather in your area?

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