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Hurricane Katrina Case Study .pdf


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Michael Coats

Hurricane Katrina
An extreme weather event

On the morning of 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the coast of Louisiana as a Category 3
hurricane, causing widespread devastation in the city of New Orleans days after causing damage in
Florida.
Impacts
Infrastructure/Environmental:






Communications failed, many telephones and mobiles didn’t work, Internet access and local TV
stations were disrupted.
Most major roads into and out of New Orleans damaged.
Levees and floodwalls defending New Orleans breached.
80% of the city was under water at one stage.
1.7 million people lost power

Economic:






Nearly every resident in New Orleans was left unemployed; government couldn’t collect taxes
Cost of repair and reconstruction in Mississippi and Louisiana was $10.5billion in 2006
Total economic impact could be over $150billion
Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico disrupted, was still only 42% of normal 10 days after the
hurricane
10% of jobs in Mississippi are in forestry - Katrina caused significant damage to forests

Social:





1464 people died in Louisiana alone
Many poor black people were unable to evacuate due to having no transport or no money to
enable them to leave
1 million people were made homeless
In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, looting and civil disturbance were major problems

Causes
Physical:





Rain: totals along the Gulf Coast > 200-250mm
Wind: 160 km/h (100mph) in New Orleans
Storm surge: 8.5m surge hit New Orleans

Human:









Location: New Orleans sits below sea level, has the Mississippi River running through it, lies just
to the south of Lake Ponchartrain (which is twice its size), and has the Gulf of Mexico to the
south and east. This means New Orleans is at constant risk of flooding from coastal storms and
heavy rain.
Levees and floodwalls: Those to the south were not built to withstand the surge from Katrina
when it was approaching as a Category 5. The storm surge on Lake Ponchartrain wasn’t high
enough to cause it to overflow, but the levees holding back the lake failed and the lake emptied
into New Orleans. It was concluded that poor design, faulty construction and poor maintenance
were possible causes of these failures.
Wetlands: These provide a barrier that absorbs the energy of storm surges at the rate of 0.3m
(of surge) per 2.7 miles. However, due to widespread building of levees along the Mississippi, oil
and gas extraction and other human activities, Louisiana’s wetlands are disappearing at a rate of
25 sq. miles a year.
Global warming: It is possible that global warming is responsible for the intensity of Katrina. This
is unclear due to natural variability of hurricane intensity however.


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