Hurricane Katrina and its Effects
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005 (History Channel, 2017), and the storm’s path, while known in advance, changed course as it gained proximity to land. The storm system hit landfall in the heart of New Orleans and individuals who did not evacuate were in the path of major devastation. It was noted that much of New Orleans sits below sea-level and a series of levees had been put into place since New Orleans is completely surrounded by water. When Katrina hit land, it was rated as a Category Three storm with winds that spanned between 100 and 140 miles per hour. Levees failed, and between the storm and the levee damage, millions were displaced and the storm caused over one-hundred billion dollars in damage. There were few plans at a local and at a federal level to care for those displaced; individuals became desperate and began looting (Associated Press, 2015). Those who were the most impoverished had no means out of the city.
Overall, two-thousand individuals were killed by Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath (History Channel, 2017). Other reports indicate that the population of New Orleans, namely Orleans Parish, was cut in half after the storm (The Leadership Conference, 2016). Furthermore, it was reported that the Black population reduced by 29% and the White population decreased by 16.6% (The Leadership Conference, 2016). Overall, Hurricane Katrina was an unexpected and catastrophic natural disaster which brought to light issues with poverty, emergency responses, and structural integrity of port cities. The damage caused by the storm led to racial and political divides, and considerable controversy surrounding the response of the President of the United States at the time. For many, they were directly affected by the storm and the storm’s path. For me, I was only connected to the storm via the personal accounts that I read regarding the damage and destruction.
Jim Gabour’s (2015) personal reflection and account of Hurricane Katrina has been published online, and in his recount of the trauma, he reflects on the emotional aftermath, which suggests that the trauma is very much still fresh, and the city and its citizens are still clearly in the healing process. In this account, Gabour (2015) recounts his own discussion with a furniture deliveryman who also experienced the terror of Hurricane Katrina. The man who was interviewed by Gabour described deciding to stay in his home despite warnings. He believed that his home was sturdy, and it had never flooded before. He indicated that he was fine until the levees broke during the night and he and his family found themselves wandering upstairs, trying to escape the waist-deep water. He related how other families could be heard banging on their roofs, stuck in their attacks attempting to avoid the flood water.
He related how individuals in uniforms arrived in boats and delivered him his family to the Broad Street overpass; however, he and 200 others were left without food or water. He recounted how he was on the overpass with his family and others were getting desperate after three days without food or water, and a child fell fifty feet off an overpass into the water and did not resurface. He commented how no one seemed to rush to help. He described how he asked to borrow an air mattress and he navigated his family through the waters, only to encounter a floating deceased man. He eventually made it to his sister’s home with his family, in an area that still had electricity and working water. Overall, this moving personal account of the devastation opened my eyes to the lived experience of those who were in New Orleans at the time, and this projected sparked my interest in the subject. I found myself watching documentaries and videos to gain a better understanding of a tragedy that I felt removed from at the time.
- Associated Press. (2015). Looters take advantage of New Orleans mess. Retrieved from: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9131493/ns/us_news-katrina_the_long_road_back/t/looters-take-advantage-new-orleans-mess/#.WKDDOLGZOgQ
- Gabour, J. (2015). A Katrina survivor’s tale: ‘They forgot us and that’s when things started to get bad.” Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/27/katrina-survivors-tale-they-up-and-forgot-us
- History Channel. (2017). Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from: http://www.history.com/topics/hurricane-katrina#
- The Leadership Conference. (2016). The long-term demographic impact of Katrina. Retrieved from: http://www.civilrights.org/publications/gulf-coast-census/long-term.html