Part #1: A Look Back At Katrina
This pass Wednesday, August 29, 2007, marked the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Two years have passed since this major hurricane made land fall on the Gulf Coast. Two years later…, how do we remember that tragic day? This is the first of a 3 part series that will look back at the events leading up to Hurricane Katrina, how local and federal officials handled this disaster, what has been done in the rebuilding effort, and can we out build mother nature…
PART #1: “This Scenario Has Been Predicted For Many Years…”
The scenario has been studied for many years, the topic of a major hurricane striking on or near the city of New Orleans has always been a worry for many experts. This is something weather forecasters and emergency management services have worried about.
The United States has seen its share of major hurricanes and destruction, but the scenario of New Orleans was always in the back of everyone’s mind who are related to weather. Studies of the New Orleans scenario have always resulted in the same answer. New Orleans is a city well below sea level and major hurricane would indeed flood it.
What makes New Orleans’ scenario unique is the fact that the Big Easy is surrounded by three massive bodies of water, Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Because of this and due to the city sitting in a “bowl” like setting, it was easy to predict that people would drown and thousands of people would be trapped with no sufficient supplies. It was even predicted that residence would be on their roof tops trying to escape the flood…
As early as Friday afternoon, 4 days before landfall, most forecasting systems were showing this outcome. As one National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster would state, “To say that this storm was well forecast would be an understatement.”
When Sunday came, 1 day before landfall, Katrina one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic. The thought of most experts was that it didn’t matter where the hurricane made landfall, there would be catastrophic damage all around. That same day (Sunday), the NWS in New Orleans issued a weather statement which outlined close to the same scenario that was previously predicted.
On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s initial landfall was between 6-7 a.m. over Grand Isle, LA, in the vicinity of Venice, LA as a category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. Katrina continued north and made a second landfall on the Mississippi coastline.
The storm surge caused by Katrina was the most damaging effect about the storm. Reports say the the surge of water was approximately 25-30 feet tall, the highest in United States history. Towns that suffered the highest of Katrina’s surge were in Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport and Waveland. The water pushed 6 miles inland and wiped out everything in its path. The entire coastline was changed.
But New Orleans was different. The initial storm surge did not effect the city, it wasn’t until the next day when the levies gave way and water began to slowly flood the area. The gradual rise of the water level created the tragedy as we know it today…
Knowing all of this, knowing that for many years parts of New Orleans would face complete disaster if a major hurricane were to strike, how did local and federal officials respond?
What is the truth? Who is really to blame? Is it fair to blame anyone on a major disaster? We’ll take an in depth look in Part #2 of the series; “Responding To Katrina.”