Hurricane Katrina: Storm Facts, Aftermath, and Hurricane Preparedness


On the list of famous storms, Hurricane Katrina often comes in in first place. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina blew in along the Gulf Coast, devastating about 90,000 square miles of Louisiana and Mississippi. This storm caused more than $160 billion in damage, and more than 1,800 people died from its destructive force. Learn important facts about Hurricane Katrina and what it was like during the aftermath of the storm to see how important it is to be prepared for a hurricane.

Before the Storm

The city of New Orleans was the epicenter of devastation after Hurricane Katrina. A popular tourist destination, New Orleans is known for its music, arts, and delicious food. New Orleans is also a place where poverty is common, murder rates are high, and racial inequity has been a continuing problem. Hurricanes are not an unexpected event in New Orleans, but many of the people living in the city were used to riding out storms instead of evacuating. Although Katrina didn’t hit New Orleans directly, it hit the Gulf Coast along Louisiana and Mississippi, which caused a breach in the levee system protecting New Orleans. This was what caused the extensive flooding of New Orleans after the storm subsided.

The Facts of Hurricane Katrina

On Aug. 25, 2005, Hurricane Katrina first reached hurricane status as a Category 1 storm, making landfall near Miami, Florida. The storm got stronger as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico, reaching Category 5 strength on Aug. 28. On Aug. 29 at just after 6 a.m., Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near Buras, Louisiana. It caused a levee breach in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which forced thousands of people up to their attics and roofs to escape the rising water. The hurricane made landfall again at 11 a.m., this time near the Louisiana and Mississippi border. The storm surge from the hurricane reached nearly 30 feet, it produced 33 tornadoes, winds reached 175 miles per hour, and 15 million people were affected by the storm. The official death toll of the storm was 1,833, according to the National Hurricane Center. This storm was the costliest hurricane in America’s history, damaging more than 850,000 homes, up to 350,000 vehicles, and 2,400 vessels. It’s estimated that at least 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater; 50 levees and flood walls failed.

The Aftermath

On Aug. 30, as Katrina slowly moved over Tennessee, New Orleans was left in devastation. Violence and looting began, and police officers were forced to manage these situations instead of trying to rescue people stranded on their roofs and elsewhere. On Aug. 31, officials decided to evacuate New Orleans, busing thousands of people out of the city to the Houston Astrodome. Over the following days, people were still waiting to be rescued, they were running out of food and water, and violence was getting worse. Slowly, crews were able to repair some of the levee breaches, and floodwaters started to go down. The damage left in the storm’s wake was devastating, though, and it took months for authorities to get a firm death toll.

Changes Since Katrina

Hurricane Katrina forced more than a million people to evacuate their homes, and many never went back to the area. The storm stripped New Orleans of much of its history, leaving very little left standing. Engineering flaws in the city’s levee system were to blame for the devastating floodwaters, but new levees and flood walls have now been built that should withstand even the strongest storms. Homes and business have been rebuilt, and disaster preparedness has been revamped. Evacuation plans, stored food and water, debris removal strategies, and cleanup protocols are just a few of the many preparations that are now in place. Communities are also better prepared to support at-risk residents who need extra help in emergencies, such as the elderly.

Preparing for a Hurricane

Preparing for a hurricane is very important for people who live in areas where hurricanes are a possibility. Hurricane season starts June 1 for people living near the Atlantic and Caribbean. Residents should assemble an emergency supply kit, write down emergency phone numbers, plan routes to the nearest shelters to evacuate, and decide what to do with pets. Getting the car ready to travel and the house ready to withstand the storm are also important tasks. Before severe weather, clear the yard of things that might blow around, cover windows and doors, be ready to turn off the power, and fill water containers. Authorities will tell residents whether they should stay home or evacuate. Residents should not ignore orders to evacuate, since even the strongest houses with the best roofs can be blown apart in a hurricane.

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