In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast with 125 mile per hour winds at its peak. Like scenes from a heartbreaking film, or newsflashes from a far-flung, war-torn nation, Americans across the country turned on their televisions and saw real-life devastation and suffering unfolding before them. The surging waters of the powerful storm resulted in levee failures at multiple New Orleans, Louisiana locations, flooding 80 percent of the city, up to 20 feet in some places, and taking the lives of over 1,800 people. For days, thousands of people were stranded on sun-baked rooftops and bridges without food and water, as the soiled currents around them carried seemingly endless debris and bodies of those who perished under the force of Katrina’s wrath.
Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath exposed weaknesses of not only the coastline levee systems, but of local, state and federal organizations to implement effective emergency management for its citizens– particularly in New Orleans. It also made apparent the reality of the racial divides that tended to determine who had the advantage and means to get out of the storm’s path to safety, and who had little choice but to endure its effects. With resources scarce, power and communications systems down, the city collapsed into disorder and lawlessness. Merchandise was looted from destroyed stores, and desperate citizens grabbed what they could to feed their families. Violence ran rampant as National Guardsmen and police struggled to regain order. Even sites designated as shelters were dangerous and in disarray. Over 20,000 people crammed into the humid Superdome seeking food and shelter, yet found a damaged structure, limited supplies, backed up facilities, and unsanitary conditions. It took days for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate busses to transport refugees to sufficient shelters in neighboring states. Once there, many had neither the means or homes to return to in New Orleans and remained.
Approximately 200,000 homes were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, displacing tens of thousands of people, and cutting the New Orleans population in half. Hard-hit neighborhoods including the Lower Ninth Ward became ghost towns of abandoned, dilapidated homes and small businesses.
But a decade later there are signs of hope. Thousands of volunteers have flocked to the region, millions of dollars have been pledged from around the world, and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity have provided much-needed housing. The restaurant and tourism industry in popular areas such as the French Quarter have recovered and are thriving.
The storm, however, brought on $100 billion in damage, making rebuilding a long, complicated and controversial process. While the population has rebounded to 78 percent of its pre-Katrina numbers, many of those new residents are white entrepreneurs, as opposed to low income black families returning to the homes and neighborhoods they were born and raised in. According to a Louisiana State University survey, “many residents in the city feel the rebuilding effort proceeded without their voice.” The report also notes “A majority (60 percent) agree with the statement: ‘People like me had no say in the rebuilding process.’”
This page is designed to help you understand the places that were affected by the storm and how a series of decisions made throughout history led to the destruction of the property and livelihoods of people living in the region.
Use the timeline below to learn more about the circumstances that led to the failure of the levees and flooding of the city.
Resources from NOLA.com
Hurricane Katrina Then & Now: Images from the storm and today
Interactive: The Sinking Wetlands
Keith and Arielle traveled to New Orleans to speak with survivors and look at how the area recovered from the hurricane. See behind the scenes photos of their trip in the slideshow below.
My teacher last year was talking to us about Hurricane Katrina.She said that her husband works for At&t and he helps to build the telephone wires everywhere.She said that he went to New Orleans about a month after the hurricane to fix some telephone wires.She said he only came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.He was there from sometime in Sept. to Feb. of the next year.And once when he was helping to fix the wires,he saw an alligator walk by his truck!