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Circling back to Hurricane Katrina

This week, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, bringing with it destruction and chaos. It also happened to make landfall in the same week as the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which caused over 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage in late August 2005.

What happened? 

Prior to Hurricane Katrina making landfall, a mandatory evacuation was issued for the city of New Orleans. While some managed to leave, there were many individuals, typically vulnerable residents, who were unable to leave their homes. 

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisana as a Category three storm. By September 2, 80% of New Orleans was underwater. As a direct result of the hurricane, it is estimated 1,800 people died and 400,000 were permanently displaced. Many of the victims of Katrina were vulnerable people, facing years of hardship after the hurricane. 

Hurricane Katrina was part of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the most active hurricane season on record.  

Levee failures and controversies

Levee (walls designed to prevent waterways from overflowing and flooding) failures are cited as the cause for the worst impacts and most deaths from Hurricane Katrina. More than 50 levees failed before the storm subsided, as a result of insufficient funding, information, and poor construction. 

During and after the hurricane, there were a series of controversies relating to federal and local government responses, difficulties in search-and-rescue efforts, and a lack of preparedness for the storm (including the levees). The aftermath of Katrina also left residents stranded, with some dying from thirst and exhaustion. The combination of these issues drew widespread criticism, especially around mismanagement and lack of leadership in the relief efforts.  

Why is it in the news? 

Hurricane Ida’s arrival this week came 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina. Experts have pointed out similarities as Ida is striking the same general part of Louisiana with about the same wind speed, as Katrina did. Although, there are certainly differences between the two hurricanes. Meteorologist Jeff Masters said, “the main story with Katrina was storm surge damage, and over a vast area. The main story with Ida will be a combination of wind, storm surge, and freshwater flooding damage”.

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