Six Months After Katrina

March 27, 2006


Provided by: Thomas McGuire
Summary author: Thomas McGuire

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast of the United States. Although the most devastating storm surge and winds were unleashed in coastal Mississippi, the greatest total damage and loss of life was in New Orleans. This city was a "disaster waiting to happen." New Orleans is mostly below sea level. After Katrina, 80% of the city was under water.

Several developments came together to set the stage for this disaster. As the city expanded, largely to service one of the largest ports in the nation, it soon grew into areas that needed to be drained and protected by man-made levees. To enhance the port facilities, the river has not been allowed to change its course, preventing deposits of silt and sand being spread into the bayous of the delta. Protective levees were constructed to withstand a Category 3 hurricane. Although Katrina it had peaked at Category 5 and the worst of the storm passed to the east, Katrina was a high Category 3 at New Orleans. Rumors about poor construction and maintenance of the levees have persisted, but what may be more significant is that even Category 3 protection may not be sufficient.

Many parts of the Crescent City still have 4-way stop signs replacing stoplights. The flooding occurred in both middle class and poor neighborhoods, but it hit the poor, including both white and African American areas, the hardest. Many of these people had no insurance, no savings and didn't even own their homes. Six months later, there's still debris everywhere.

The first image above shows the middle class Lakeview neighborhood. The other two are in the nearly completely devastated Lower 9th Ward, southeast of the city center.

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