The Devastation of 2005: Hurricane Katrina

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A natural disaster is exactly what the term says it is: a disaster that the Earth processes naturally. It is an event such as an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, tsunami, flood, etc., that causes great damage or loss of life. Natural disasters not only occur in the U.S., but all over the world; sometimes even worse in other countries. But the one that will be broken down piece by piece in this paper, from damage and deaths to the aftermath and facts about this devastating tragedy, is one of the top 10 worst natural disasters to ever hit the United States of America: Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina gusted her 125 mph winds through Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29, 2005, claiming the lives of more than 1,800 unfortunate people and leading to damages estimating at about $108 billion. This hurricane began as a tropical depression in the Atlantic Ocean around the area of the Bahamas, which is about 350 miles from Miami, Florida on August 23, 2005. A couple of days passed, and this tropical storm started gaining strength and made its way through southern Florida with winds hitting at a range of between 74 and 95 mph, classifying it as a category 1 hurricane, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. Another couple of days passed, and as the storm moved on from Florida, it hastily intensified when it reached the waters of the Gulf of Mexico ranking up to a category 3 hurricane with winds surpassing 115 mph and covering virtually the entire Gulf of Mexico. At one point throughout its course, it reached winds exceeding 170 mph, classifying it as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record.

Once this monstrous hurricane touched down in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana on August 29, 2005, it then grew to a category 4 hurricane and eventually made its way through Mississippi with waters greater than 26 feet high, slamming into and destroying homes and resorts along the coastal cities of Mississippi. Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana is about 45 miles from New Orleans, so the city of New Orleans thought they were in the clear once the hurricane moved on to Mississippi. But little did they know, the real threat was soon to appear.

Since the majority of the metropolitan area is below sea level, by the afternoon of August 29, 2005, about 20 percent of the city of New Orleans was underwater due to the levee system of Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne being extremely overwhelmed by 10 inches of rain and Katrina’s storm surge. The Mayor of New Orleans demanded a mandatory evacuation of the city the previous day, convincing 1.2 million people to leave before the storm hit. While that is an extremely high number of people to leave the city, there were still tens of thousands of residents who could not or refused to leave their city. Some stayed in their homes while others were seeking shelter elsewhere, such as the New Orleans Convention Center or the Louisiana Superdome. As the levee system continued to fail, it proceeded to leave 80 percent of the city of New Orleans under water by August 30, 2005.

With the failed levee system releasing all of its contaminated water and flooding the neighborhoods of New Orleans, Louisiana, it caused the water to be unsafe for consumption unless it was boiled and caused power outages in an estimated 370,000 residents’ homes and the number was only expected to rise as the day continued. Experts then predicted it would take up to two months before all of the power in the city is restored, leaving ten major hospitals running on emergency backup power. As much as local agencies wanted help these people in desperate need of relief, they were unfortunately unable to respond due to their own headquarters and control centers being under 20 feet of water. Helicopters then had to come to the rescue of hundreds of people on the rooftops of their own homes to avoid drowning in the flood.

Some of the people who were rescued were taken to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, which housed 15,000 refugees, but the majority of the people remained in the city of New Orleans. It was on September 1, 2005 that about 30,000 people were seeking shelter at the Superdome, whose roof was terribly damaged from the hurricane, and another 25,000 were seeking shelter at the Convention Center. Due to the hurricane and flood wiping out the entire city, food and water shortages became an issue very quickly, all while the daily temperatures were reaching up to 90 degrees. These poor, desperate people were suffering from starvation and dehydration all while burning up due to the extremely hot temperatures. Then, to top everything off, a public health emergency was created from the lack of sanitation and bacteria filled floodwaters.

It was September 2, 2005 when the military and National Guard troops finally made its way over to the city of New Orleans to distribute food and water to these desperate people. Hurricane victims continued to be evacuated from the city while crews began to rebuild the breached levees. As the victims and the city began to recover from this hurricane, many other countries contributed to help out New Orleans with things such as funds and supplies. Troops were deployed from Mexico and Canada to the Gulf Coast to help with cleaning up and rebuilding the very unfortunate cities that were struck by this hurricane in Mississippi and Louisiana. It wasn’t until October 11, 2005 when the last of the floodwaters were pumped out of the city; 43 days after Hurricane Katrina hit.

The fatalities resulting from this horrendous hurricane, either directly or indirectly, added up to about 1,833 from states such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and of course Louisiana. Mississippi calculated up to 238 deaths while Louisiana lost nearly seven times more people at 1,577 deaths. In an analysis, it was concluded that the major causes of death were drowning, which were of 40 percent of the deaths, 25 percent were caused by injury and trauma, and 11 percent were caused by heart conditions. Experts then found that nearly half (49%) of the fatalities in Louisiana were people of the ages 75 and up. Studies say that Hurricane Katrina is the deadliest hurricane to strike the US Gulf Coast since Hurricane Okeechobee in 1928.

Once everything finally cooled down a bit and the hurricane passed, people were able to leave these shelters, but thousands had nowhere to go. Many displaced residents including elderly residents, parents, and terrified children, were lined up on the side of the highway just trying to catch a ride out of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina caused so much destruction and so much hurt for the families who lost their homes and loved ones. Once everything was calm enough for people to return to their hometown, the pain and devastation kicked in once they saw their homes and businesses torn down to pieces and shreds. Everything they have ever worked for was gone; destroyed. The thought of starting all over in rebuilding their homes or businesses was overwhelming for most. Some didn’t even have the money to rebuild and didn’t know exactly what to do moving on.

As stated previously, we know that Louisiana was not the only state affected by this hurricane, as was Mississippi with at least 100 fatalities in Harrison County and at least 800,000 residents were without power and about 8,500 people were staying in shelters throughout the state. Not only did this storm demolish homes and businesses, but it also swept sailboats onto the streets of Gulfport. In Alabama, more than 790,000 people were left without power and over 5,300 were staying in shelters. Research says that floodwaters reached over 11 feet and flooded over a major bridge over the Mobile River in Mobile, Alabama. Not only are people left without electricity and homes, but the effects of the storm also shut down oil refineries, causing an expected boost of already high gas prices.

As if the damage to peoples’ homes and the taking of peoples’ lives wasn’t enough, Hurricane Katrina also destroyed infrastructure by overwhelming the levee in New Orleans, contaminating the water, leaving people without power for an extended period of time, and blocking roads with debris making it even harder for officials to get to people who are in desperate need of rescuing. It also had a huge impact on oil causing their normal prices of $3 per barrel to rise above $70 per barrel. It is said that Hurricane Katrina shut down oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico, representing about 8 percent of US refining capacity, or equal to about 1 million barrels a day. Hurricane Katrina also caused insurance losses in the billions, running anywhere from $9 billion to $26 billion, making it more expensive than the previous destructive storm, Hurricane Andrew, which cause about $21 billion in insurance losses in Florida in 1992. And lastly, this hurricane had a huge effect on the environment causing Louisiana to slowly sink into the Gulf of Mexico, losing about 24 square miles of land every year and will likely result in the boosting of height of future storm surges and waves by several feet. This storm also destroyed sea and swamp animals’ habitats such as sea turtles and alligators, but it is said that thankfully both species will likely bounce back.

13 years later, survivors still mourn in remembrance to this day. To pay respects to and honor the lives lost and to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, artist Sally Heller designed a memorial named “Scrap House”, built from debris from the storm, to be built in front of the Convention Center in New Orleans, where many refugees resided after their homes were destroyed, on August 29, 2009; four years after the hurricane hit. Victims of the storm decided to search for a new home in other cities and states. More than 22,500 people relocated to Houston, Texas immediately after the storm causing the New Orleans population to decrease by 29 percent between 2005 and 2011.

The destruction of this hurricane is enough to make anybody break down, but thinking about all the lives lost from humans to very loved pets is just heartbreaking. To think that people were trying their absolute best to survive these floodwaters and could not do anything to help their pets and loved ones must really be a dagger to the heart. It is said that more than 250,000 pets were lost during Hurricane Katrina. Survivors now have PTSD and do whatever it takes to never have to relive the horrifying set of events that took place in late August of 2005. After all of the commotion and destruction and devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused, people still try to live their lives as normal. Many people lost their homes and the lives of their loved ones that they will unfortunately never get back, but there is not much more they can do than to try their best to move on from it. As much as it hurts, life goes on; but the survivors will never forget.


Cite this paper

The Devastation of 2005: Hurricane Katrina. (2021, Jun 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-devastation-of-2005-hurricane-katrina/

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