Hurricane Katrina Case Study A2 Responses To Pick


The most significant number of deaths occurred in , which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland.  Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring regions became flooded, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks.  However, the worst property damage occurred in coastal areas, such as all Mississippi beachfront towns, which were flooded over 90% in hours, as boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland, with waters reaching 6–12 miles (10–19 km) from the beach.

Economic Impacts

Environmental Impacts

Social Impacts

The Bush Administration sought $105 billion for repairs and reconstruction in the region, this didn’t include potential interruption of the oil supply, destruction of the 's highway infrastructure, and exports of commodities such as grain.

Katrina damaged or destroyed 30 oil platforms and caused the closure of nine refineries;

1.3 million acres (5,300 km2) of forest lands were destroyed costing about $5 billion

Before the hurricane, the region supported approximately one million non-farm jobs, with 600,000 of them in .

It is estimated that the total economic impact in and may exceed $150 billion

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

The storm surge caused substantial beach erosion, in some cases completely devastating coastal areas. In , approximately 90 miles (150 km) to the east of the point where the hurricane made landfall, the sand that comprised the barrier island was transported across the island into the , pushing the island towards land

The Geological Survey has estimated 217 square miles (560 km2) of land was transformed to water by the hurricanes Katrina and Rita

The lands that were lost were breeding grounds for marine mammals, brown pelicans, turtles, and fish

The damage from Katrina forced the closure of 16 National Wildlife Refuges.

The storm caused oil spills from 44 facilities throughout southeastern , which resulted in over 7 million gallons (26 million L) of oil being leaked.

Finally, as part of the cleanup effort, the flood waters that covered were pumped into , a process that took 43 days to complete. 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

Katrina redistributed over one million people from the central Gulf coast elsewhere across the .  For example, , had an increase of 35,000 people

By late January 2006, about 200,000 people were once again living in , less than half of the pre-storm population.

By July 1, 2006, when new population estimates were calculated by the Census Bureau, the state of showed a population decline of 219,563, or 4.87%

Many people were totally traumatised

Racial tensions were exposed and intensified, as many of the victims were black African Americans



Most of the management and aid in response to hurricane Katrina came from within the (INTERNAL FEDERAL aid).  The storm was predicted by the National Hurricane centre and they gave a very accurate plot of the Hurricanes track and expected landfall, not far from .  This allowed for a coordinated EVACUATION but many people were left behind and many refused to move.  This warning also allowed some disaster recovery response to Katrina began before the storm, with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preparations that ranged from logistical supply deployments to a mortuary team with refrigerated trucks. Many volunteers gave 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.

Of the 60,000 people stranded in , the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,500. The also had a military on-scene response on Sunday, August 28.  Approximately 58,000 National Guard personnel were activated to deal with the storm's aftermath, with troops coming from all 50 states.

Early in September, Congress authorized a total of $62.3 billion in aid for victims. 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 Parish were supplied, resulting in an enormous housing shortage in the city of . 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. As of March 30, 2010, there were still 260 families living in FEMA-provided trailers in and .

Law enforcement and public safety agencies responded with manpower and equipment from as far away as California, New York, and . This response was welcomed by local authorities as their staff were either becoming fatigued, stretched too thin, or even quitting from the job.

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 and other cities over 250 miles (400 km) away and another 60,000 households went over 750 miles (1,200 km) away (source)

The government was critised for its response, with many critics claiming it was very slow to respond and that the management lacked coordination.  The use of emergency centres was also criticised, with the Superdome (designed to handle 800, yet 30,000 arrived) and the (not designed as an evacuation center, yet 25,000 arrived) deemed by many as inadequate.  Race and class were also stipulated as issues, with Kanye West claiming that there was a racial reason for the slow response, given that most of the stranded people were African American.

The international community also responded quickly, with over seventy countries pledging monetary donations or other assistance. Kuwait made the largest single pledge, $500 million; whilst 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. Charitable NGOs such as the American Red cross also waded in with assistance.

Timeline of the Crisis from the BBC

BBC special report

Hurricane Katrina

At least 1,500 people were killed and around $300 billion worth of damage was caused when Hurricane Katrina hit the south-eastern part of the USA. Arriving in late August 2005 with winds of up to 127 mph, the storm caused widespread flooding.

Physical impacts of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricanes can cause the sea level around them to rise, this effect is called a storm surge. This is often the most dangerous characteristic of a hurricane, and causes the most hurricane-related deaths. It is especially dangerous in low-lying areas close to the coast.

There is more about hurricanes in the weather section of the Met Office website

Hurricane Katrina tracked over the Gulf of Mexico and hit New Orleans, a coastal city with huge areas below sea-level which were protected by defence walls, called levees. The hurricane’s storm surge, combined with huge waves generated by the wind, pushed up water levels around the city.

The levees were overwhelmed by the extra water, with many collapsing completely. This allowed water to flood into New Orleans, and up to 80% of the city was flooded to depths of up to six metres.

Hurricane Katrina also produced a lot of rainfall, which also contributed to the flooding.

In pictures

House and car destroyed by the hurricane

Flooded New Orleans street

Boat on top of a house

Strong winds
The strongest winds during 25-30 August were over the coastal areas of Louisiana and Florida. A map of the maximum wind speeds which were recorded during the Hurricane Katrina episode is shown. Although the winds did not directly kill many people, it did produce a storm surge over the ocean which led to flooding in coastal areas and was responsible for many deaths.

Satellite Image

Fig. 1 Satellite Image of Hurricane Katrina, 28 August 2005 at 2045 GMT. Courtesy NOAA/CIMSS/SSEC.

Hurricane Katrina animated satellite image


Fig 2. Illustration showing different wave heights on a shoreline. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Hurricanes can create tornadoes. Thirty-three tornadoes were produced by Hurricane Katrina over a five-day period, although only one person died due to a tornado which affected Georgia.

Impact on humans

  • 1,500 deaths in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
  • Costs of about $300 billion.
  • Thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.
  • Criminal gangs roamed the streets, looting homes and businesses and committing other crimes.
  • Thousands of jobs lost and millions of dollars in lost tax incomes.
  • Agricultural production was damaged by tornadoes and flooding. Cotton and sugar-cane crops were flattened.
  • Three million people were left without electricity for over a week.
  • Tourism centres were badly affected.
  • A significant part of the USA oil refining capacity was disrupted after the storm due to flooded refineries and broken pipelines, and several oil rigs in the Gulf were damaged.
  • Major highways were disrupted and some major road bridges were destroyed.
  • Many people have moved to live in other parts of the USA and many may never return to their original homes.


The broken levees were repaired by engineers and the flood water in the streets of New Orleans took several months to drain away. The broken levees and consequent flooding were largely responsible for most of the deaths in New Orleans. One of the first challenges in the aftermath of the flooding was to repair the broken levees. Vast quantities of materials, such as sandbags, were airlifted in by the army and air force and the levees were eventually repaired and strengthened.

Although the USA is one of the wealthiest developed countries in the world, it highlighted that when a disaster is large enough, even very developed countries struggle to cope.

Weather Map

Fig 3. Map of America showing highest wind speeds. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Web page reproduced with the kind permission of the Met Office


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