Hurricanes: Deadly and Powerful, But Predictable

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These catastrophic events can be predicted and prepared for. Hurricane Katrina, however, dealt immense damage. In New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005, citizens were being warned of a disaster so horrible that it would change their lives forever. This event was Hurricane Katrina which lasted from August 23-31. This hurricane was the twelfth one of the season and it was the most devastating. This hurricane affected parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida. It was the most destructive hurricane to hit the United States and did more damage than any other natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Hurricane Katrina was first a tropical depression that formed on August 23. The depression became a tropical storm and was given the name Katrina while over the Bahamas on August 24. Katrina began moving north west toward Florida and made landfall on the 25th. The storm then moved to the Gulf of Mexico which held warm, deep waters that gave Katrina power, turning the tropical storm into a category 3 hurricane by the 27th. On the 28th Katrina kept intensifying, and was now moving as a category 5 hurricane towards Louisiana where it made landfall on August 29th. The strong winds and low-lying land made for devastating storm surge. Katrina kept moving towards the Louisiana-Mississippi border where it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm late that night. Katrina then became a tropical depression and moved north east towards the east coast.

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There were many factors which played into how expensive this disaster was. One of the biggest was the sheer amount of people (including the elderly and poor) who had no money for transportation or housing outside of the area; simply put, they were stuck. A large portion of New Orleans was low-income households at the time and had very little money. These people often did not have the finances to take care of themselves let alone pay for transportation out of New Orleans. Many of those people also did not have family outside of the state who they could stay with. That meant that they would have to find a hotel, which they did not have the money for either. A very poor section of New Orleans was the Lower 9th Ward. This area was lower than the sea level and was in between the Industrial Canal, the Mississippi River, and Lake Pontchartrain. This area was the perfect storm for a hurricane as strong as Katrina to hit. When Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, New Orleans was hit with major storm surge that got to a height of around 30 feet in some areas, which caused the levees (and the Industrial Canal Floodwall) to fail, resulting in immense damage and loss of life. This was especially true for those in the Lower 9th Ward who could not evacuate, due to the issues stated previously. There were some areas the received almost 30 feet of water in the 9th Ward. St. Bernard Parish, which held St. Rita’s nursing home saw over 20 feet of water, resulting in many deaths. There were some people who did not evacuate for reasons like not wanting to leave a pet or a family member who refused to evacuate.

The impact Hurricane Katrina had on the affected area were extensive, expensive, and in some cases, immeasurable. The total number of casualties after Hurricane Katrina was 1,836 people from Louisiana and Mississippi. There were more casualties in Louisiana (1,577) than Mississippi (238). The two states suffered tremendous devastation and loss of life.

Citizens were left with only pieces of their lives; the rest was destroyed, lost, or underwater. The economy suffered greatly and was put on a hold in these places. Businesses and factories, including 75 percent of all oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, all were left non-functional because of the storm. This meant that there was no oil production. No production meant no money, as well as a big rise in fuel costs across the rest of the country. These issues all came into play when calculating the total damage and economic cost of this event which was estimated to have been anywhere from $150-250 billion dollars. When the gas pipes and oil platforms were damaged, gas prices went up all over the country, costing not only those in the four states affected, but average citizens from other places in the U.S.. The storm also impaired the New Orleans Port, Louisiana’s Oil Industry, the levees protecting New Orleans, schools, hospitals, retirement homes, average households, and many other structures. The economy was able to recover by the start of 2006 but for the residents of Louisiana, restoration took much longer.

Mitigation; a necessary part of every society. People must mitigate if they want to be functional after a future disaster. For Hurricane Katrina, precautions were taken, but they weren’t the best they could have been. The levees should have been foolproof, especially in the areas most vulnerable to storm surge, but they weren’t. There should have been more shelters other than the Superdome to account for those who could not evacuate. There should have been better communication between the local, state, and nationwide governments as well as in the media. False news of safety and limited to no harm done on the were spread, rendering first responders and government agencies like FEMA ignorant to the actual catastrophe taking place. Along with shelters and communication, there should have been more resources available to those in need after the disaster, but there wasn’t enough. A lot of things could have been done to prepare New Orleans for such a devastating event, but little effort was given and the results of that were clear to see.

The appropriate response to a future event, similar to Katrina, would involve better communication, shelter, resources, and evacuation plans. There would have to be a reliable way of communicating between several different authorities, FEMA included, so that information, first responders, and resources like food, water, and hygiene products can all be sent to the proper places, having one main source sending out information to all of the agencies involved. Shelters to keep people safe during and after the disaster are a must. Since rebuilding after a storm as bad as Katrina will take a lot of time, shelters must be able to stay open for as long as possible. Better levees/floodwalls in case of storm surge and building new construction on higher ground would also be good safety measures to implement.

Hurricane Katrina was a devastating disaster that everyone will remember for a long time. It didn’t have to be that way, but it was, because authorities were not anticipating and planning for a storm like that, leaving them unprepared. Many lives, houses, and belongings were lost. This storm was powerful and its effects were long lasting. Mitigation is in process and for storms in the future, hopefully they will be ready.

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