August 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans
The United States has experienced several disastrous hurricanes, including 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and 2017’s record-breaking season with Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria. But on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana and it quickly became the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
Starting out as a Category 1 hurricane
Hurricane Katrina proved you shouldn’t ignore Category 1 hurricanes. While the hurricane was headed right towards New Orleans, an estimated 150,000 residents ignored evacuation orders by mayor Ray Nagin. In the beginning, Katrina was predicted to be a small hurricane with little impact or damage. However, after briefly coming ashore in southern Florida on August 25, the storm gained strength and slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29 as a Category 4 hurricane. For many individuals, it was too late to evacuate before the hurricane made landfall.
Once it made landfall
Unlike some hurricanes, Katrina was a fast hurricane—progressing at a speed meteorologists didn’t expect. The hurricane brought sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, ultimately cutting power lines and destroying 800,000 homes. But once it made landfall, there was nowhere for the water to go but into the cities.
In New Orleans, the combination of surge and waves lead to failure and overtopping of the city’s levee system, protecting the city from the nearby Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Soon, 80-percent of the city was flooded, with water reaching 15 feet-high in some areas. People were trapped in their homes and on top of roofs, waiting for help. Overall, more than 1,500 deaths occurred in Louisiana from the hurricane.
Planning to rebuild
After the storm was finally over, New Orleans had to assess the situation. Thousands of residents had left their homes and were seeking shelter in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome. Food and water supplies were low. But finally, on September 1, affected individuals were moved from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. In New Orleans, military convoys arrived, along with the American Red Cross and the National Guard, to begin rebuilding the city.
However, following the hurricane, it didn’t seem like the city could ever rebuild itself. How could they ever be “okay”? But today, the city is stronger than ever, although residents will never forget the horror of that August day.