Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Overview/ Environmental Factors/ Disaster Preparation and Response/ Katrina ‘Refugees’/ Flood Levees/ Relief Aid and Organizations/ New Orleans’ Reconstruction/ Campaigns


Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history due in large part to the damage inflicted on New Orleans. It formed Aug. 23 2005 as a tropical depression, intensified into a category 5 hurricane over the gulf of Mexico, and was a category 3 hurricane when it made landfall again on Aug. 29 near Buras, Louisiana. In 2001 FEMA identified a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the 3 most likely disasters facing the U.S. and in the 2004 simulation of ‘Hurricane Pam’, a category 3 hitting New Orleans, a projected 61,290 people died. Weather reports initially stated that New Orleans would suffer a catastrophic direct hit by Hurricane Katrina, however, the storm’s path veered to the east and a direct hit was avoided. Despite this, New Orleans’ protective flood levees were breeched during the storm causing 80% of the metropolitan area to flood as had been predicted. Reports on the time and cause of the levees’ breech are inconsistent.

Disaster mitigation, response, and recovery fell under the jurisdiction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA was formed July 20 1979 by Jimmy Carter’s Executive Order 12148 to consolidate the more than 100 federal agencies managing disaster response and recovery. John Macy, the 1st director of FEMA, emphasized the role FEMA would play in the civil defense of the country. In the wake of 9/11, counter-terror programs became the primary focus of FEMA. The Bush administration dramatically cut funding for FEMA’s natural disaster mitigation and preparation activities, instituted policies that outsourced disaster management services, and in 2003 incorporated FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security. The residents of New Orleans received little advance warning about the scope of Hurricane Katrina. Mandatory evacuation orders and a state of emergency were declared in New Orleans on April 28th without the implementation of a coordinated state and federal procedure to address the needs of the estimated 100,000 residents that did not have access to transportation. The U.S. government has responded to its failures in New Orleans by expanding the scope and power of the federal agencies charged with national security.

The number dead in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina is a highly political figure. On Aug. 2, 2006 the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals reported 1,464 dead from Hurricane Katrina and 135 missing with the majority of victims in New Orleans. These figures are based on the official body count conducted by Kenyon Intl. Emergency Services, a subsidiary of the Texas based Service Corporation Intl., who were awarded a no-bid contract by FEMA and are known for their mismanagement and desecration of bodies.

The total economic costs from Hurricane Katrina are not known, however, damages are estimated to exceed $100 billion. Several charity and relief organizations formed as a result of the destruction in New Orleans and billions of dollars have been donated, however, little of this aid has reached Katrina survivors. The reconstruction of New Orleans has accelerated the implementation of highly controversial development programs that aim to replace black communities with commercial areas and ‘model neighborhoods’. This research topic is devoted to compiling information on hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

Environmental Factors:

Bibliography/ Gov. Documents/ Official Reports/ Articles/ Links

Hurricane Katrina rapidly intensified from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Category 5 in the Gulf of Mexico with a diameter extending over 500 miles and winds reaching 175 mph. Hurricane Katrina was one of 3 hurricanes to reach category 5 status in the 2005 hurricane season; the 1st season in history 3 consecutive category 5 hurricanes have formed. The rise in intensity of hurricanes has been connected to global warming and the rising temperatures of the ocean. The vulnerability of New Orleans and the gulf coast to major hurricanes has been amplified by the erosion of the coastal wetlands. This subtopic is devoted to compiling information on the environmental factors that contributed to the destruction of New Orleans.

A statement written by Sidney Wilder, director of exhibitions for the Grand Isle Juried Exhibition, on the erosion of the coastal wetlands. The erosion of the coastal wetlands has been identified as a primary cause for the intensity of the impact hurricanes have on the Gulf Coast.

“The Politics Behind Loss: washed away” is an article from the 4th annual Grand Isle Juried Exhibition and includes numerous informative websites on coastal erosion. The Grand Isle Juried Exhibition is an annual art exhibit devoted to raising awarness on coastal wetland erosion.

Restore America’s Wetlands is a grassroots campaign initiated by New Orleans’ residents to motivate New Mexico voters to dedicate a portion of New Mexico’s federal royalties from off-shore drilling to the restoration of the wetlands.

Highlights from the 2005 Louisiana State Senate’s Natural Resources Committe on Coastal Restoration. Includes resolutions requesting congress to take action on the Coastal Restoration Tax Credit Act of 2005, approve funding for the deepening of the Houma Navigation Canal, provide state and local government authority over the application of new offshore liquefied natural gas facilities, and support the payment to coastal oil and gas states by sharing outer continental shelf production revenue. Approved legislation for the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Plan for fiscal year 2005-2006 and the Coastal Passes Stabilization and Restoration Program and Fund as well as failed resolutions are included.

The Louisiana Governer’s Office of Coastal Activities was created in 1989 by legislation to provide direction to the policies, plans, and programs in the coastal zone to create a balance between conservation and development. The Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Authority, which develops the annual Conservation and Restoration Plan, and the task force for coastal wetlands planning, protection, and restoration fall under the authority of the Governer’s office.

The Office of Coastal Restoration and Management in the Louisiana State Department of Natural Resources consists of the Coastal Restoration Division, the Coastal Engineering Division, and the Coastal Management Division. The Coastal Restoration and Engineering Divisions were created out of a series of legislation that began in 1978 to offset the loss of the coastal wetlands by overseeing projects to create, restore, and protect the state’s coastal wetlands. The Coastal Management Division was created out of legislation designed to protect and restore the wetlands but the division focuses on encouraging multiple uses of and economic growith from the wetlands without imposing undue restrictions on users.

Disaster Preparation and Response:

Bibliography/ Gov. Documents/ Official Reports/ Articles/ Links

The high death toll from Hurricane Katrina was not a product of the storm but a result of the lack of disaster preparation and response from the local, state, and federal government. Since it’s incorporation, FEMA has taken an all-hazards approach to emergency management that has included natural, chemical, biological, and nuclear disasters that occur organically or result from war and terrorism. During the Reagan administration, FEMA oversaw the implementation of the recommendations of the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (EMPB), an inter-agency committee designed to coordinate federal response to major peacetime or wartime emergencies. The EMPB was abolished in 1985 over controversial programs such as the civil disturbance plan Readiness Exercise 1984 (REX 84), which called for the imprisonment of civilians in detention centers, and other martial law programs. Since its incorporation into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FEMA has served as the cornerstone for coordinated federal preparation and response to the threat of domestic terrorism, and utilizes many of the programs and procedures recommended by the EMPD. The federal government has responded to its failures during Hurricane Katrina by implementing a centralized command structure that subordinates federal, state, and local government and private sector and community organizations to the policies and procedures of the DHS. This subtopic is devoted to compiling information on federal disaster preparation and response policies and procedures pre- and post- Hurricane Katrina.

Cooperative Research’s complete timeline of Hurricane Katrina. It offers information on FEMA’s early disaster mitigation efforts, lack of funding for the efforts, and an hour by hour account of the evacuation of New Orleans.

The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned. Chapters 1-5 detail the national preparedness for natural disaster, the pre- and post- Katrina evacuation efforts, and provides an analysis for the failure of federal response. HTML

The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned. Ch. 6 details the Federal government’s National Preparedness System, a plan for immediate federal response to natural disasters that is to be implemented in every area of the country. HTML

“Military Reorganization Continues After Hurricane Katrina” by Samantha L. Quigley. American Forces Press Service. Feb 2 2006.

Hurricane Katrina: Police State Occupation of New Orleans. A wiki on the law enforcement’s response to New Orleans published by SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media & Democracy.

An overview of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina published by the Department of Homeland Security. The webpage details the federal government’s immediate response and relief efforts and long term plans for the reconstruction of housing, industry, and the educational and justice systems.

Papers prepared by the Social Science Research Council on the privatization of risk management.

“Nagin declares Martial Law to Crack Down on Looters”. Aug. 31 2005. The reports that stated Martial Law had been implemented in New Orleans were technically innaccurate because Louisiana state law does not recognize the term.

“Martial law and dangerous floodwaters in New Orleans; aid payments readied” by Sharon Cohen. Canadian Press. Sept. 8 2005.

Katrina ‘Refugees’:

Bibliography/ Gov. Documents/ Official Reports/ Articles/ Links

On Aug. 31st, FEMA, the Dept. of Defense (DOD), and the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), coordinated an evacuation of the Katrina victims that had sought refuge from the storm and floodwaters at the superdome, the convention center, and the individuals who had been dropped by search and rescue teams at the cloverleaf at Interstate 10. Initial evacuations focused on transporting individuals from the Superdome to Houston’s Astrodome and not until Sept. 3rd did evacuation efforts address the thousands of individuals that had gathered at the convention center. The treatment of those evacuated have led many to equate their experience to the Jews transported to ghettos and concentration camps during the holocaust. Katrina evacuees have been labeled refugees, a classification that denies them their constitutional rights, and 1 year after the storm, with federal aid being cut, many are still unable to return home. This subtopic is devoted to compiling information on the Katrina diaspora.

A map that details the number and location of Katrina evacuees prepared by the New York Times. The map is based on FEMA applications for disaster assistance from Katrina survivors as of Sept. 23 2005.

A series of maps published by the Community Information Resource Center that document population change on the gulf coast and Hurricane Katrina and Rita’s impact on minorities and impoverished areas.

The official Louisiana death toll from Hurricane Katrina published by the Department of Health and Hospitals.

An article by CNN on Barbara Bush’s famous quote, “so many of the people…were underpriviliged anyway so this—this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.”

“Are Katrina’s Victims ‘Refugees’ or ‘Evacuees?’ by Mike Pesca. NPR. April 14 2006.

The International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) work with Katrina survivors. The IRC is an organization established to help the resettlement of refugees.

“Hurricane Katrina and Internally Displaced Persons” by Frederic L. Kirgis. American Society of International Law. Sept. 21 2005.

Flood Levees:

Bibliography/ Gov. Documents/ Official Reports/ Articles/ Links

The majority of flooding in New Orleans was caused by breaches in the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity project levee and floodwall system built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. New Orleans’ Levee system was constructed to withhold a strong Category 3 hurricane, however, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 when it made landfall near New Orleans and resulted in a 450 foot breach at the 17th St. Canal floodwall-levee combination, a 100 foot and 500 foot breach in the Industrial Canal floodwall, and a 300 foot breach in the London St. floodwall. The verified account of government approval for the 1927 bombing of levees during the Mississippi flood and wide-spread talk of government bombing the levees protecting the 9th ward to prevent damage to New Orleans’ tourist and business district during Hurricane Betsy of 1965 has led many to claim that the levee system was deliberately sabotaged during Hurricane Katrina. This subtopic is devoted to compiling reliable information on New Orleans’ levee system.

“John M. Berry. Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America. Simon & Schuster. 1997.”

“GIS Assessment of the Vulnerabilty of a Core Tourist Area in New Orleans to Impacts of Flood Inundation During a Hurricane Event” by Nedra Korevec. A paper submitted to Louisiana State University GEOG 7911. The paper discusses the Community Haven concept, which proposes walling off a section of New Orleans with greater flood wall protection to enclose and protect the critical infrastructure of the French Quarter and the Central Business District.

Entries that pertain to the Levees from Cooperative Research’s Hurricane Katrina timeline.

The Librarians’ Internet Index database of websites devoted to flood control and levee management in New Orleans.

“Big, Easy Iraqi-style Contracts Flood New Orleans” by Patrap Chatterjee. Corpwatch. Sept. 20 2005.

An interactive graphic created by the Times-Picaynue providing a timeline of the flooding of New Orleans.

Aerial photographs of the flooded areas in New Orleans published by NASA. is a non-partisan grassroots group working to hold the Army Corps of Engineers accountable for the failures of New Orleans protective flood levees.

Relief Aid:

Bibliography/ Gov. Documents/ Official Reports/ Articles/ Links

Property and infrastructure damage from the flood waters in New Orleans, estimated by Risk Management Solutions to exceed $100 billion, made Hurricane Katrina one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history and was met with one of the most generous outpourings of public and private support for relief aid and recovery. Congress approved 4 emergency spending bills with monetary assistance exceeding $110 billion, over 70 countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance to Katrina survivors, and individual donations exceeded $4.25 billion. However, 1 year after the storm, only $44 billion of the federal aid allocated has been spent, mismanagement and fraud has squandered the majority of aid that has been made available, and Katrina survivors have been provided with very few resources to enable them to recover. This subtopic is devoted to compiling information on the distribution of relief aid available for Katrina survivors.

“Weathering the Storm: the Role of Local Non-Profits in the Hurricane Relief Effort” by Tony Pipa. The Aspen Institute. 2006.

The official website of the Bush Clinton Katrina fund. The Bush Clinton Katrina fund has raised over $100 million in donations but are only making the funds available, 8 months after Hurricane Katrina, through grants to higher education establishments and religious institutions.

The official webpage of Louisiana on the available relief and assistance resources for Katrina survivors.

“The Economic and Budgetary Effects of the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005” by Tracy Foersch and Ralph Rector. The Heritage Foundation. Sept. 21 2005.

A comprehensive list of radical relief and reconstruction organizations in New Orleans, published by Left Turn Magazine.

Reconstruction of New Orleans:

Bibliography/ Gov. Documents/ Official Reports/ Articles/ Links

The floodwaters in New Orleans initiated the total reconstruction of New Orleans’ infrastructure and accelerated the implementation of controversial development plans. In Oct. 2005, Mayor Ray Nagin appointed the Bring New Orleans Back Commission to lead the reconstruction plans for the city, and the Philidelphia firm Wallace, Roberts, & Todd LLC was contracted to help the BNOB develop its action plan. The BNOB action plan was heavily criticized for it’s effort to replace existing neighborhoods with ‘model neighborhoods’ that the original residents would not be able to afford. On July 5 2006 Mayor Nagin, the New Orleans’ City Council, and the Louisiana Recovery Authority, announced their agreement to adopt a new plan for the reconstruction of New Orleans, the Unified New Orleans Plan, to be overseen by the New Orleans Community Support Foundation (NOCSF), a subsect of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), which intends to adopt many of the elements of the BNOB action plan. Reconstruction of public housing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has allowed the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), under the direction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to implement the controversial HOPE VI federal public housing program, which replaces public housing with mixed-income housing, and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits. As Rep. Richard Baker from Baton Rogue said, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans.” Many of the federal contracts for the reconstruction of New Orleans were awarded through a no-bid process to companies with ties to the Bush administration. This subtopic is devoted to compiling information on the reconstruction of New Orleans.

The Bring New Orleans Back Commission was the official commission of the city of New Orleans devoted to the reconstruction of the city. The website includes the final report of the commission on urban planning and an action plan to carry out its recommendations.

“A Strategy for Rebuilding New Orleans.” A report submitted to the Louisiana Recovery Authority by the Urban Land Institute.

The Taxpayers for Common Sense overview of federal spending to rebuild the Gulf Coast and list of contractors.

“Rebuilding New Orleans”. BBC News. Jan. 19 2006.

“Who is Killing New Orleans” by Mike Davis. The Nation. April 4th 2005.

“20 Point Plan to Destroy Black New Orleans” by Robert D. Bullard. Bayview. Feb 1 2006.

“Fight Continues over New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward” by Kari Lydersen. New Standard. Feb. 21 2006.

“Purging the Poor” by Naomi Klein. The Nation. Sept. 22 2005.

“The Battle for New Orleans” by Glen Ford and Peter Gamble. The Black Commentator. Oct. 17 2005.

“In New Orleans’ Mud, a Ward Determined Not to Slip Away” by Roberta Brandes Gratz. Elm Street Writer’s Group. Nov. 1 2005.