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Understanding Katrina

The following overview was provided by Dr. William W. Locke at Montana State University. Click here to see the original Understanding Katrina (PowerPoint 2.4MB Dec19 05) PowerPoint presentation. This overview describes Hurricane Katrina and the science behind the disaster. Topics include hurricane history in the Gulf Coast , the geologic setting of the area affected by H23urricane Katrina , the science of the storm , the storm surge and flooding in New Orleans and the damage incurred by Hurricane Katrina .

Hurricane History in the Gulf Coast

The geologic setting.

The eye of Hurricane Katrina made Louisiana landfall near Buras-Triumph on August 29, 2005, at 6:10 AM. By 10:00 AM Central Standard Time, several sections of the levee system in New Orleans had collapsed. The storm surge breached the levee system protecting New Orleans from Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River. Hurricane Katrina also caused heavy damage along the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama.

Construction of natural levees.

Hurricane Katrina: The Storm

Hurricane Katrina sea surface temperatures.

Structure of Hurricane Katrina

Cross section of a hurricane.

The Storm Surge and Flooding of New Orleans

Diagram of a storm surge.

Damage in New Orleans

New Orleans 17th Street Canal before Katrina.

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Hurricane Katrina Case Study

Hurricane Katrina is tied with Hurricane Harvey (2017) as the costliest hurricane on record. Although not the strongest in recorded history, the hurricane caused an estimated $125 billion worth of damage. The category five hurricane is the joint eight strongest ever recorded, with sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h).

The hurricane began as a very low-pressure system over the Atlantic Ocean. The system strengthened, forming a hurricane that moved west, approaching the Florida coast on the evening of the 25th August 2005.

A satellite image of Hurricane Katrina.

A satellite image of Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane. It made landfall on Florida and Louisiana, particularly the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas, in August 2005, causing catastrophic damage from central Florida to eastern Texas. Fatal flaws in flood engineering protection led to a significant loss of life in New Orleans. The levees, designed to cope with category three storm surges, failed to lead to catastrophic flooding and loss of life.

What were the impacts of Hurricane Katrina?

Hurricane Katrina was a category five tropical storm. The hurricane caused storm surges over six metres in height. The city of New Orleans was one of the worst affected areas. This is because it lies below sea level and is protected by levees. The levees protect the city from the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain. However, these were unable to cope with the storm surge, and water flooded the city.

$105 billion was sought by The Bush Administration for repairs and reconstruction in the region. This funding did not include potential interruption of the oil supply, destruction of the Gulf Coast’s highway infrastructure, and exports of commodities such as grain.

Although the state made an evacuation order, many of the poorest people remained in New Orleans because they either wanted to protect their property or could not afford to leave.

The Superdome stadium was set up as a centre for people who could not escape the storm. There was a shortage of food, and the conditions were unhygienic.

Looting occurred throughout the city, and tensions were high as people felt unsafe. 1,200 people drowned in the floods, and 1 million people were made homeless. Oil facilities were damaged, and as a result, the price of petrol rose in the UK and USA.

80% of the city of New Orleans and large neighbouring parishes became flooded, and the floodwaters remained for weeks. Most of the transportation and communication networks servicing New Orleans were damaged or disabled by the flooding, and tens of thousands of people who had not evacuated the city before landfall became stranded with little access to food, shelter or basic necessities.

The storm surge caused substantial beach erosion , in some cases completely devastating coastal areas.

Katrina also produced massive tree loss along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana’s Pearl River Basin and among bottomland hardwood forests.

The storm caused oil spills from 44 facilities throughout southeastern Louisiana. This resulted in over 7 million US gallons (26,000 m 3 ) of oil being leaked. Some spills were only a few hundred gallons, and most were contained on-site, though some oil entered the ecosystem and residential areas.

Some New Orleans residents are no longer able to get home insurance to cover them from the impact of hurricanes.

What was the response to Hurricane Katrina?

The US Government was heavily criticised for its handling of the disaster. Despite many people being evacuated, it was a very slow process. The poorest and most vulnerable were left behind.

The government provided $50 billion in aid.

During the early stages of the recovery process, the UK government sent food aid.

The National Guard was mobilised to restore law and order in New Orleans.

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Chapter Five: Lessons Learned

This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We are going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people.

-- President George W. Bush, September 15, 2005 1

The preceding chapters described the dynamics of the response to Hurricane Katrina. While there were numerous stories of great professionalism, courage, and compassion by Americans from all walks of life, our task here is to identify the critical challenges that undermined and prevented a more efficient and effective Federal response. In short, what were the key failures during the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina?

Hurricane Katrina Critical Challenges

  • National Preparedness
  • Integrated Use of Military Capabilities
  • Communications
  • Logistics and Evacuations
  • Search and Rescue
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Public Health and Medical Support
  • Human Services
  • Mass Care and Housing
  • Public Communications
  • Critical Infrastructure and Impact Assessment
  • Environmental Hazards and Debris Removal
  • Foreign Assistance
  • Non-Governmental Aid
  • Training, Exercises, and Lessons Learned
  • Homeland Security Professional Development and Education
  • Citizen and Community Preparedness

We ask this question not to affix blame. Rather, we endeavor to find the answers in order to identify systemic gaps and improve our preparedness for the next disaster – natural or man-made. We must move promptly to understand precisely what went wrong and determine how we are going to fix it.

After reviewing and analyzing the response to Hurricane Katrina, we identified seventeen specific lessons the Federal government has learned. These lessons, which flow from the critical challenges we encountered, are depicted in the accompanying text box. Fourteen of these critical challenges were highlighted in the preceding Week of Crisis section and range from high-level policy and planning issues (e.g., the Integrated Use of Military Capabilities) to operational matters (e.g., Search and Rescue). 2 Three other challenges – Training, Exercises, and Lessons Learned; Homeland Security Professional Development and Education; and Citizen and Community Preparedness – are interconnected to the others but reflect measures and institutions that improve our preparedness more broadly. These three will be discussed in the Report’s last chapter, Transforming National Preparedness.

Some of these seventeen critical challenges affected all aspects of the Federal response. Others had an impact on a specific, discrete operational capability. Yet each, particularly when taken in aggregate, directly affected the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our efforts. This chapter summarizes the challenges that ultimately led to the lessons we have learned. Over one hundred recommendations for corrective action flow from these lessons and are outlined in detail in Appendix A of the Report.

Critical Challenge: National Preparedness

Our current system for homeland security does not provide the necessary framework to manage the challenges posed by 21st Century catastrophic threats. But to be clear, it is unrealistic to think that even the strongest framework can perfectly anticipate and overcome all challenges in a crisis. While we have built a response system that ably handles the demands of a typical hurricane season, wildfires, and other limited natural and man-made disasters, the system clearly has structural flaws for addressing catastrophic events. During the Federal response to Katrina 3 , four critical flaws in our national preparedness became evident: Our processes for unified management of the national response; command and control structures within the Federal government; knowledge of our preparedness plans; and regional planning and coordination. A discussion of each follows below.

Unified Management of the National Response

Effective incident management of catastrophic events requires coordination of a wide range of organizations and activities, public and private. Under the current response framework, the Federal government merely “coordinates” resources to meet the needs of local and State governments based upon their requests for assistance. Pursuant to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Plan (NRP), Federal and State agencies build their command and coordination structures to support the local command and coordination structures during an emergency. Yet this framework does not address the conditions of a catastrophic event with large scale competing needs, insufficient resources, and the absence of functioning local governments. These limitations proved to be major inhibitors to the effective marshalling of Federal, State, and local resources to respond to Katrina.

Soon after Katrina made landfall, State and local authorities understood the devastation was serious but, due to the destruction of infrastructure and response capabilities, lacked the ability to communicate with each other and coordinate a response. Federal officials struggled to perform responsibilities generally conducted by State and local authorities, such as the rescue of citizens stranded by the rising floodwaters, provision of law enforcement, and evacuation of the remaining population of New Orleans, all without the benefit of prior planning or a functioning State/local incident command structure to guide their efforts.

The Federal government cannot and should not be the Nation’s first responder. State and local governments are best positioned to address incidents in their jurisdictions and will always play a large role in disaster response. But Americans have the right to expect that the Federal government will effectively respond to a catastrophic incident. When local and State governments are overwhelmed or incapacitated by an event that has reached catastrophic proportions, only the Federal government has the resources and capabilities to respond. The Federal government must therefore plan, train, and equip to meet the requirements for responding to a catastrophic event.

Command and Control Within the Federal Government

In terms of the management of the Federal response, our architecture of command and control mechanisms as well as our existing structure of plans did not serve us well. Command centers in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and elsewhere in the Federal government had unclear, and often overlapping, roles and responsibilities that were exposed as flawed during this disaster. The Secretary of Homeland Security, is the President’s principal Federal official for domestic incident management, but he had difficulty coordinating the disparate activities of Federal departments and agencies. The Secretary lacked real-time, accurate situational awareness of both the facts from the disaster area as well as the on-going response activities of the Federal, State, and local players.

The National Response Plan’s Mission Assignment process proved to be far too bureaucratic to support the response to a catastrophe. Melvin Holden, Mayor-President of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, noted that, “requirements for paper work and form completions hindered immediate action and deployment of people and materials to assist in rescue and recovery efforts.” 4 Far too often, the process required numerous time consuming approval signatures and data processing steps prior to any action, delaying the response. As a result, many agencies took action under their own independent authorities while also responding to mission assignments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), creating further process confusion and potential duplication of efforts.

This lack of coordination at the Federal headquarters-level reflected confusing organizational structures in the field. As noted in the Week of Crisis chapter, because the Principal Federal Official (PFO) has coordination authority but lacks statutory authority over the Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO), inefficiencies resulted when the second PFO was appointed. The first PFO appointed for Katrina did not have this problem because, as the Director of FEMA, he was able to directly oversee the FCOs because they fell under his supervisory authority. 5 Future plans should ensure that the PFO has the authority required to execute these responsibilities.

Moreover, DHS did not establish its NRP-specified disaster site multi-agency coordination center—the Joint Field Office (JFO)—until after the height of the crisis. 6 Further, without subordinate JFO structures to coordinate Federal response actions near the major incident sites, Federal response efforts in New Orleans were not initially well-coordinated. 7

Lastly, the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) did not function as envisioned in the NRP. First, since the ESFs do not easily integrate into the NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) structure, competing systems were implemented in the field – one based on the ESF structure and a second based on the ICS. Compounding the coordination problem, the agencies assigned ESF responsibilities did not respect the role of the PFO. As VADM Thad Allen stated, “The ESF structure currently prevents us from coordinating effectively because if agencies responsible for their respective ESFs do not like the instructions they are receiving from the PFO at the field level, they go to their headquarters in Washington to get decisions reversed. This is convoluted, inefficient, and inappropriate during emergency conditions. Time equals lives saved.”

Knowledge and Practice in the Plans

At the most fundamental level, part of the explanation for why the response to Katrina did not go as planned is that key decision-makers at all levels simply were not familiar with the plans. The NRP was relatively new to many at the Federal, State, and local levels before the events of Hurricane Katrina. 8 This lack of understanding of the “National” plan not surprisingly resulted in ineffective coordination of the Federal, State, and local response. Additionally, the NRP itself provides only the ‘base plan’ outlining the overall elements of a response: Federal departments and agencies were required to develop supporting operational plans and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to integrate their activities into the national response. 9 In almost all cases, the integrating SOPs were either non-existent or still under development when Hurricane Katrina hit. Consequently, some of the specific procedures and processes of the NRP were not properly implemented, and Federal partners had to operate without any prescribed guidelines or chains of command.

Furthermore, the JFO staff and other deployed Federal personnel often lacked a working knowledge of NIMS or even a basic understanding of ICS principles. As a result, valuable time and resources were diverted to provide on-the-job ICS training to Federal personnel assigned to the JFO. This inability to place trained personnel in the JFO had a detrimental effect on operations, as there were not enough qualified persons to staff all of the required positions. We must require all incident management personnel to have a working knowledge of NIMS and ICS principles.

Insufficient Regional Planning and Coordination

The final structural flaw in our current system for national preparedness is the weakness of our regional planning and coordination structures. Guidance to governments at all levels is essential to ensure adequate preparedness for major disasters across the Nation. To this end, the Interim National Preparedness Goal (NPG) and Target Capabilities List (TCL) can assist Federal, State, and local governments to: identify and define required capabilities and what levels of those capabilities are needed; establish priorities within a resource-constrained environment; clarify and understand roles and responsibilities in the national network of homeland security capabilities; and develop mutual aid agreements.

Since incorporating FEMA in March 2003, DHS has spread FEMA’s planning and coordination capabilities and responsibilities among DHS’s other offices and bureaus. DHS also did not maintain the personnel and resources of FEMA’s regional offices. 10 FEMA’s ten regional offices are responsible for assisting multiple States and planning for disasters, developing mitigation programs, and meeting their needs when major disasters occur. During Katrina, eight out of the ten FEMA Regional Directors were serving in an acting capacity and four of the six FEMA headquarters operational division directors were serving in an acting capacity. While qualified acting directors filled in, it placed extra burdens on a staff that was already stretched to meet the needs left by the vacancies.

Additionally, many FEMA programs that were operated out of the FEMA regions, such as the State and local liaison program and all grant programs, have moved to DHS headquarters in Washington. When programs operate out of regional offices, closer relationships are developed among all levels of government, providing for stronger relationships at all levels. By the same token, regional personnel must remember that they represent the interests of the Federal government and must be cautioned against losing objectivity or becoming mere advocates of State and local interests. However, these relationships are critical when a crisis situation develops, because individuals who have worked and trained together daily will work together more effectively during a crisis.

Lessons Learned:

The Federal government should work with its homeland security partners in revising existing plans, ensuring a functional operational structure - including within regions - and establishing a clear, accountable process for all National preparedness efforts.  In doing so, the Federal government must:

  • Ensure that Executive Branch agencies are organized, trained, and equipped to perform their response roles.
  • Finalize and implement the National Preparedness Goal.

Critical Challenge: Integrated Use of Military Capabilities

The Federal response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that the Department of Defense (DOD) has the capability to play a critical role in the Nation’s response to catastrophic events. During the Katrina response, DOD – both National Guard and active duty forces – demonstrated that along with the Coast Guard it was one of the only Federal departments that possessed real operational capabilities to translate Presidential decisions into prompt, effective action on the ground. In addition to possessing operational personnel in large numbers that have been trained and equipped for their missions, DOD brought robust communications infrastructure, logistics, and planning capabilities. Since DOD, first and foremost, has its critical overseas mission, the solution to improving the Federal response to future catastrophes cannot simply be “let the Department of Defense do it.” Yet DOD capabilities must be better identified and integrated into the Nation’s response plans.

The Federal response to Hurricane Katrina highlighted various challenges in the use of military capabilities during domestic incidents. For instance, limitations under Federal law and DOD policy caused the active duty military to be dependent on requests for assistance. These limitations resulted in a slowed application of DOD resources during the initial response. Further, active duty military and National Guard operations were not coordinated and served two different bosses, one the President and the other the Governor.

Limitations to Department of Defense Response Authority

For Federal domestic disaster relief operations, DOD currently uses a “pull” system that provides support to civil authorities based upon specific requests from local, State, or Federal authorities. 11 This process can be slow and bureaucratic. Assigning active duty military forces or capabilities to support disaster relief efforts usually requires a request from FEMA 12 , an assessment by DOD on whether the request can be supported, approval by the Secretary of Defense or his designated representative, and a mission assignment for the military forces or capabilities to provide the requested support. From the time a request is initiated until the military force or capability is delivered to the disaster site requires a 21-step process. 13 While this overly bureaucratic approach has been adequate for most disasters, in a catastrophic event like Hurricane Katrina the delays inherent in this “pull” system of responding to requests resulted in critical needs not being met. 14 One could imagine a situation in which a catastrophic event is of such a magnitude that it would require an even greater role for the Department of Defense. For these reasons, we should both expedite the mission assignment request and the approval process, but also define the circumstances under which we will push resources to State and local governments absent a request.

Unity of Effort among Active Duty Forces and the National Guard

In the overall response to Hurricane Katrina, separate command structures for active duty military and the National Guard hindered their unity of effort. U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) commanded active duty forces, while each State government commanded its National Guard forces. For the first two days of Katrina response operations, USNORTHCOM did not have situational awareness of what forces the National Guard had on the ground. Joint Task Force Katrina (JTF-Katrina) simply could not operate at full efficiency when it lacked visibility of over half the military forces in the disaster area. 15 Neither the Louisiana National Guard nor JTF-Katrina had a good sense for where each other’s forces were located or what they were doing. For example, the JTF-Katrina Engineering Directorate had not been able to coordinate with National Guard forces in the New Orleans area. As a result, some units were not immediately assigned missions matched to on-the-ground requirements. Further, FEMA requested assistance from DOD without knowing what State National Guard forces had already deployed to fill the same needs. 16

Also, the Commanding General of JTF-Katrina and the Adjutant Generals (TAGs) of Louisiana and Mississippi had only a coordinating relationship, with no formal command relationship established. This resulted in confusion over roles and responsibilities between National Guard and Federal forces and highlights the need for a more unified command structure. 17

Structure and Resources of the National Guard

As demonstrated during the Hurricane Katrina response, the National Guard Bureau (NGB) is a significant joint force provider for homeland security missions. Throughout the response, the NGB provided continuous and integrated reporting of all National Guard assets deployed in both a Federal and non-Federal status to USNORTHCOM, Joint Forces Command, Pacific Command, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense. This is an important step toward achieving unity of effort. However, NGB’s role in homeland security is not yet clearly defined. The Chief of the NGB has made a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense that NGB be chartered as a joint activity of the DOD. 18 Achieving these efforts will serve as the foundation for National Guard transformation and provide a total joint force capability for homeland security missions. 19

The Departments of Homeland Security and Defense should jointly plan for the Department of Defense’s support of Federal response activities as well as those extraordinary circumstances when it is appropriate for the Department of Defense to lead the Federal response. In addition, the Department of Defense should ensure the transformation of the National Guard is focused on increased integration with active duty forces for homeland security plans and activities.

Critical Challenge: Communications

Hurricane Katrina destroyed an unprecedented portion of the core communications infrastructure throughout the Gulf Coast region. As described earlier in the Report, the storm debilitated 911 emergency call centers, disrupting local emergency services. 20 Nearly three million customers lost telephone service. Broadcast communications, including 50 percent of area radio stations and 44 percent of area television stations, similarly were affected. 21 More than 50,000 utility poles were toppled in Mississippi alone, meaning that even if telephone call centers and electricity generation capabilities were functioning, the connections to the customers were broken. 22 Accordingly, the communications challenges across the Gulf Coast region in Hurricane Katrina’s wake were more a problem of basic operability 23 , than one of equipment or system interoperability . 24 The complete devastation of the communications infrastructure left emergency responders and citizens without a reliable network across which they could coordinate. 25

Although Federal, State, and local agencies had communications plans and assets in place, these plans and assets were neither sufficient nor adequately integrated to respond effectively to the disaster. 26 Many available communications assets were not utilized fully because there was no national, State-wide, or regional communications plan to incorporate them. For example, despite their contributions to the response effort, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service’s radio cache—the largest civilian cache of radios in the United States—had additional radios available that were not utilized. 27

Federal, State, and local governments have not yet completed a comprehensive strategy to improve operability and interoperability to meet the needs of emergency responders. 28 This inability to connect multiple communications plans and architectures clearly impeded coordination and communication at the Federal, State, and local levels. A comprehensive, national emergency communications strategy is needed to confront the challenges of incorporating existing equipment and practices into a constantly changing technological and cultural environment. 29

The Department of Homeland Security should review our current laws, policies, plans, and strategies relevant to communications. Upon the conclusion of this review, the Homeland Security Council, with support from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, should develop a National Emergency Communications Strategy that supports communications operability and interoperability.

Critical Challenge: Logistics and Evacuation

The scope of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, the effects on critical infrastructure in the region, and the debilitation of State and local response capabilities combined to produce a massive requirement for Federal resources. The existing planning and operational structure for delivering critical resources and humanitarian aid clearly proved to be inadequate to the task. The highly bureaucratic supply processes of the Federal government were not sufficiently flexible and efficient, and failed to leverage the private sector and 21st Century advances in supply chain management.

Throughout the response, Federal resource managers had great difficulty determining what resources were needed, what resources were available, and where those resources were at any given point in time. Even when Federal resource managers had a clear understanding of what was needed, they often could not readily determine whether the Federal government had that asset, or what alternative sources might be able to provide it. As discussed in the Week of Crisis chapter, even when an agency came directly to FEMA with a list of available resources that would be useful during the response, there was no effective mechanism for efficiently integrating and deploying these resources. Nor was there an easy way to find out whether an alternative source, such as the private sector or a charity, might be able to better fill the need. Finally, FEMA’s lack of a real-time asset-tracking system – a necessity for successful 21st Century businesses – left Federal managers in the dark regarding the status of resources once they were shipped. 30

Our logistics system for the 21st Century should be a fully transparent, four-tiered system. First, we must encourage and ultimately require State and local governments to pre-contract for resources and commodities that will be critical for responding to all hazards. Second, if these arrangements fail, affected State governments should ask for additional resources from other States through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) process. Third, if such interstate mutual aid proves insufficient, the Federal government, having the benefit of full transparency, must be able to assist State and local governments to move commodities regionally. But in the end, FEMA must be able to supplement and, in catastrophic incidents, supplant State and local systems with a fully modern approach to commodity management.

The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with State and local governments and the private sector, should develop a modern, flexible, and transparent logistics system.  This system should be based on established contracts for stockpiling commodities at the local level for emergencies and the provision of goods and services during emergencies.  The Federal government must develop the capacity to conduct large-scale logistical operations that supplement and, if necessary, replace State and local logistical systems by leveraging resources within both the public sector and the private sector.

With respect to evacuation—fundamentally a State and local responsibility—the Hurricane Katrina experience demonstrates that the Federal government must be prepared to fulfill the mission if State and local efforts fail. Unfortunately, a lack of prior planning combined with poor operational coordination generated a weak Federal performance in supporting the evacuation of those most vulnerable in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast following Katrina’s landfall. The Federal effort lacked critical elements of prior planning, such as evacuation routes, communications, transportation assets, evacuee processing, and coordination with State, local, and non-governmental officials receiving and sheltering the evacuees. Because of poor situational awareness and communications throughout the evacuation operation, FEMA had difficulty providing buses through ESF-1, Transportation, (with the Department of Transportation as the coordinating agency). 31 FEMA also had difficulty delivering food, water, and other critical commodities to people waiting to be evacuated, most significantly at the Superdome. 32

The Department of Transportation, in coordination with other appropriate departments of the Executive Branch, must also be prepared to conduct mass evacuation operations when disasters overwhelm or incapacitate State and local governments.

Critical Challenge: Search and Rescue

After Hurricane Katrina made landfall, rising floodwaters stranded thousands in New Orleans on rooftops, requiring a massive civil search and rescue operation. The Coast Guard, FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces 33 , and DOD forces 34 , in concert with State and local emergency responders from across the country, courageously combined to rescue tens of thousands of people. With extraordinary ingenuity and tenacity, Federal, State, and local emergency responders plucked people from rooftops while avoiding urban hazards not normally encountered during waterborne rescue. 35

Yet many of these courageous lifesavers were put at unnecessary risk by a structure that failed to support them effectively. The overall search and rescue effort demonstrated the need for greater coordination between US&R, the Coast Guard, and military responders who, because of their very different missions, train and operate in very different ways. For example, Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams had a particularly challenging situation since they are neither trained nor equipped to perform water rescue. Thus they could not immediately rescue people trapped by the flood waters. 36

Furthermore, lacking an integrated search and rescue incident command, the various agencies were unable to effectively coordinate their operations. 37 This meant that multiple rescue teams were sent to the same areas, while leaving others uncovered. 38 When successful rescues were made, there was no formal direction on where to take those rescued. 39 Too often rescuers had to leave victims at drop-off points and landing zones that had insufficient logistics, medical, and communications resources, such as atop the I-10 cloverleaf near the Superdome. 40

The Department of Homeland Security should lead an interagency review of current policies and procedures to ensure effective integration of all Federal search and rescue assets during disaster response.

Critical Challenge: Public Safety and Security

State and local governments have a fundamental responsibility to provide for the public safety and security of their residents. During disasters, the Federal government provides law enforcement assistance only when those resources are overwhelmed or depleted. 41 Almost immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, law and order began to deteriorate in New Orleans. The city’s overwhelmed police force–70 percent of which were themselves victims of the disaster—did not have the capacity to arrest every person witnessed committing a crime, and many more crimes were undoubtedly neither observed by police nor reported. The resulting lawlessness in New Orleans significantly impeded—and in some cases temporarily halted—relief efforts and delayed restoration of essential private sector services such as power, water, and telecommunications. 42

The Federal law enforcement response to Hurricane Katrina was a crucial enabler to the reconstitution of the New Orleans Police Department’s command structure as well as the larger criminal justice system. Joint leadership from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security integrated the available Federal assets into the remaining local police structure and divided the Federal law enforcement agencies into corresponding New Orleans Police Department districts.

While the deployment of Federal law enforcement capability to New Orleans in a dangerous and chaotic environment significantly contributed to the restoration of law and order, pre-event collaborative planning between Federal, State, and local officials would have improved the response. Indeed, Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials performed admirably in spite of a system that should have better supported them. Local, State, and Federal law enforcement were ill-prepared and ill-positioned to respond efficiently and effectively to the crisis.

In the end, it was clear that Federal law enforcement support to State and local officials required greater coordination, unity of command, collaborative planning and training with State and local law enforcement, as well as detailed implementation guidance. For example, the Federal law enforcement response effort did not take advantage of all law enforcement assets embedded across Federal departments and agencies. Several departments promptly offered their assistance, but their law enforcement assets were incorporated only after weeks had passed, or not at all. 43

Coordination challenges arose even after Federal law enforcement personnel arrived in New Orleans. For example, several departments and agencies reported that the procedures for becoming deputized to enforce State law were cumbersome and inefficient. In Louisiana, a State Police attorney had to physically be present to swear in Federal agents. Many Federal law enforcement agencies also had to complete a cumbersome Federal deputization process. 44 New Orleans was then confronted with a rapid influx of law enforcement officers from a multitude of States and jurisdictions—each with their own policies and procedures, uniforms, and rules on the use of force—which created the need for a command structure to coordinate their efforts. 45

Hurricane Katrina also crippled the region’s criminal justice system. Problems such as a significant loss of accountability of many persons under law enforcement supervision 46 , closure of the court systems in the disaster 47 , and hasty evacuation of prisoners 48 were largely attributable to the absence of contingency plans at all levels of government.

The Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, should examine Federal responsibilities for support to State and local law enforcement and criminal justice systems during emergencies and then build operational plans, procedures, and policies to ensure an effective Federal law enforcement response.

Critical Challenge: Public Health and Medical Support

Hurricane Katrina created enormous public health and medical challenges, especially in Louisiana and Mississippi—States with public health infrastructures that ranked 49th and 50th in the Nation, respectively. 49 But it was the subsequent flooding of New Orleans that imposed catastrophic public health conditions on the people of southern Louisiana and forced an unprecedented mobilization of Federal public health and medical assets. Tens of thousands of people required medical care. Over 200,000 people with chronic medical conditions, displaced by the storm and isolated by the flooding, found themselves without access to their usual medications and sources of medical care. Several large hospitals were totally destroyed and many others were rendered inoperable. Nearly all smaller health care facilities were shut down. Although public health and medical support efforts restored the capabilities of many of these facilities, the region’s health care infrastructure sustained extraordinary damage. 50

Most local and State public health and medical assets were overwhelmed by these conditions, placing even greater responsibility on federally deployed personnel. Immediate challenges included the identification, triage and treatment of acutely sick and injured patients; the management of chronic medical conditions in large numbers of evacuees with special health care needs; the assessment, communication and mitigation of public health risk; and the provision of assistance to State and local health officials to quickly reestablish health care delivery systems and public health infrastructures. 51

Despite the success of Federal, State, and local personnel in meeting this enormous challenge, obstacles at all levels reduced the reach and efficiency of public health and medical support efforts. In addition, the coordination of Federal assets within and across agencies was poor. The cumbersome process for the authorization of reimbursement for medical and public health services provided by Federal agencies created substantial delays and frustration among health care providers, patients and the general public. 52 In some cases, significant delays slowed the arrival of Federal assets to critical locations. 53 In other cases, large numbers of Federal assets were deployed, only to be grossly underutilized. 54 Thousands of medical volunteers were sought by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and though they were informed that they would likely not be needed unless notified otherwise, many volunteers reported that they received no message to that effect. 55 These inefficiencies were the products of a fragmented command structure for medical response; inadequate evacuation of patients; weak State and local public health infrastructures 56 ; insufficient pre-storm risk communication to the public 57 ; and the absence of a uniform electronic health record system.

In coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other homeland security partners, the Department of Health and Human Services should strengthen the Federal government’s capability to provide public health and medical support during a crisis.  This will require the improvement of command and control of public health resources, the development of deliberate plans, an additional investment in deployable operational resources, and an acceleration of the initiative to foster the widespread use of interoperable electronic health records systems.

Critical Challenge: Human Services

Disasters—especially those of catastrophic proportions—produce many victims whose needs exceed the capacity of State and local resources. These victims who depend on the Federal government for assistance fit into one of two categories: (1) those who need Federal disaster-related assistance, and (2) those who need continuation of government assistance they were receiving before the disaster, plus additional disaster-related assistance. Hurricane Katrina produced many thousands of both categories of victims. 58

The Federal government maintains a wide array of human service programs to provide assistance to special-needs populations, including disaster victims. 59 Collectively, these programs provide a safety net to particularly vulnerable populations.

The Emergency Support Function 6 (ESF-6) Annex to the NRP assigns responsibility for the emergency delivery of human services to FEMA. While FEMA is the coordinator of ESF-6, it shares primary agency responsibility with the American Red Cross. 60 The Red Cross focuses on mass care (e.g. care for people in shelters), and FEMA continues the human services components for ESF-6 as the mass care effort transitions from the response to the recovery phase. 61 The human services provided under ESF-6 include: counseling; special-needs population support; immediate and short-term assistance for individuals, households, and groups dealing with the aftermath of a disaster; and expedited processing of applications for Federal benefits. 62 The NRP calls for “reducing duplication of effort and benefits, to the extent possible,” to include “streamlining assistance as appropriate.” 63

Prior to Katrina’s landfall along the Gulf Coast and during the subsequent several weeks, Federal preparation for distributing individual assistance proved frustrating and inadequate. Because the NRP did not mandate a single Federal point of contact for all assistance and required FEMA to merely coordinate assistance delivery, disaster victims confronted an enormously bureaucratic, inefficient, and frustrating process that failed to effectively meet their needs. The Federal government’s system for distribution of human services was not sufficiently responsive to the circumstances of a large number of victims—many of whom were particularly vulnerable—who were forced to navigate a series of complex processes to obtain critical services in a time of extreme duress. As mentioned in the preceding chapter, the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) did not provide victims single-point access to apply for the wide array of Federal assistance programs.

The Department of Health and Human Services should coordinate with other departments of the Executive Branch, as well as State governments and non-governmental organizations, to develop a robust, comprehensive, and integrated system to deliver human services during disasters so that victims are able to receive Federal and State assistance in a simple and seamless manner.  In particular, this system should be designed to provide victims a consumer oriented, simple, effective, and single encounter from which they can receive assistance.

Critical Challenge: Mass Care and Housing

Hurricane Katrina resulted in the largest national housing crisis since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The impact of this massive displacement was felt throughout the country, with Gulf residents relocating to all fifty States and the District of Columbia. 64 Prior to the storm’s landfall, an exodus of people fled its projected path, creating an urgent need for suitable shelters. Those with the willingness and ability to evacuate generally found temporary shelter or housing. However, the thousands of people in New Orleans who were either unable to move due to health reasons or lack of transportation, or who simply did not choose to comply with the mandatory evacuation order, had significant difficulty finding suitable shelter after the hurricane had devastated the city. 65

Overall, Federal, State, and local plans were inadequate for a catastrophe that had been anticipated for years. Despite the vast shortcomings of the Superdome and other shelters, State and local officials had no choice but to direct thousands of individuals to such sites immediately after the hurricane struck. Furthermore, the Federal government’s capability to provide housing solutions to the displaced Gulf Coast population has proved to be far too slow, bureaucratic, and inefficient.

The Federal shortfall resulted from a lack of interagency coordination to relocate and house people. FEMA’s actions often were inconsistent with evacuees’ needs and preferences. Despite offers from the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA) as well as the private sector to provide thousands of housing units nationwide, FEMA focused its housing efforts on cruise ships and trailers, which were expensive and perceived by some to be a means to force evacuees to return to New Orleans. 66 HUD, with extensive expertise and perspective on large-scale housing challenges and its nation-wide relationships with State public housing authorities, was not substantially engaged by FEMA in the housing process until late in the effort. 67 FEMA’s temporary and long-term housing efforts also suffered from the failure to pre-identify workable sites and available land and the inability to take advantage of housing units available with other Federal agencies.

Using established Federal core competencies and all available resources, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in coordination with other departments of the Executive Branch with housing stock, should develop integrated plans and bolstered capabilities for the temporary and long-term housing of evacuees. The American Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security should retain responsibility and improve the process of mass care and sheltering during disasters.

Critical Challenge: Public Communications

The Federal government’s dissemination of essential public information prior to Hurricane Katrina’s Gulf landfall is one of the positive lessons learned. The many professionals at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Hurricane Center worked with diligence and determination in disseminating weather reports and hurricane track predictions as described in the Pre-landfall chapter. This includes disseminating warnings and forecasts via NOAA Radio and the internet, which operates in conjunction with the Emergency Alert System (EAS). 68 We can be certain that their efforts saved lives.

However, more could have been done by officials at all levels of government. For example, the EAS—a mechanism for Federal, State and local officials to communicate disaster information and instructions—was not utilized by State and local officials in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama prior to Katrina’s landfall. 69

Further, without timely, accurate information or the ability to communicate, public affairs officers at all levels could not provide updates to the media and to the public. It took several weeks before public affairs structures, such as the Joint Information Centers, were adequately resourced and operating at full capacity. In the meantime, Federal, State, and local officials gave contradictory messages to the public, creating confusion and feeding the perception that government sources lacked credibility. On September 1, conflicting views of New Orleans emerged with positive statements by some Federal officials that contradicted a more desperate picture painted by reporters in the streets. 70 The media, operating 24/7, gathered and aired uncorroborated information which interfered with ongoing emergency response efforts. 71 The Federal public communications and public affairs response proved inadequate and ineffective.

The Department of Homeland Security should develop an integrated public communications plan to better inform, guide, and reassure the American public before, during, and after a catastrophe. The Department of Homeland Security should enable this plan with operational capabilities to deploy coordinated public affairs teams during a crisis.

Critical Challenge: Critical Infrastructure and Impact Assessment

Hurricane Katrina had a significant impact on many sectors of the region’s “critical infrastructure,” especially the energy sector. 72 The Hurricane temporarily caused the shutdown of most crude oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico as well as much of the refining capacity in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. “[M]ore than ten percent of the Nation’s imported crude oil enters through the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port” 73 adding to the impact on the energy sector. Additionally, eleven petroleum refineries, or one-sixth of the Nation’s refining capacity, were shut down. 74 Across the region more than 2.5 million customers suffered power outages across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. 75

While there were successes, the Federal government’s ability to protect and restore the operation of priority national critical infrastructure was hindered by four interconnected problems. First, the NRP-guided response did not account for the need to coordinate critical infrastructure protection and restoration efforts across the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). The NRP designates the protection and restoration of critical infrastructure as essential objectives of five ESFs: Transportation; Communications; Public Works and Engineering; Agriculture; and Energy. 76 Although these critical infrastructures are necessary to assist in all other response and restoration efforts, there are seventeen critical infrastructure and key resource sectors whose needs must be coordinated across virtually every ESF during response and recovery. 77 Second, the Federal government did not adequately coordinate its actions with State and local protection and restoration efforts. In fact, the Federal government created confusion by responding to individualized requests in an inconsistent manner. 78 Third, Federal, State, and local officials responded to Hurricane Katrina without a comprehensive understanding of the interdependencies of the critical infrastructure sectors in each geographic area and the potential national impact of their decisions. For example, an energy company arranged to have generators shipped to facilities where they were needed to restore the flow of oil to the entire mid-Atlantic United States. However, FEMA regional representatives diverted these generators to hospitals. While lifesaving efforts are always the first priority, there was no overall awareness of the competing important needs of the two requests. Fourth, the Federal government lacked the timely, accurate, and relevant ground-truth information necessary to evaluate which critical infrastructures were damaged, inoperative, or both. The FEMA teams that were deployed to assess damage to the regions did not focus on critical infrastructure and did not have the expertise necessary to evaluate protection and restoration needs. 79

The Interim National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) provides strategic-level guidance for all Federal, State, and local entities to use in prioritizing infrastructure for protection. 80 However, there is no supporting implementation plan to execute these actions during a natural disaster. Federal, State, and local officials need an implementation plan for critical infrastructure protection and restoration that can be shared across the Federal government, State and local governments, and with the private sector, to provide them with the necessary background to make informed preparedness decisions with limited resources.

The Department of Homeland Security, working collaboratively with the private sector, should revise the National Response Plan and finalize the Interim National Infrastructure Protection Plan to be able to rapidly assess the impact of a disaster on critical infrastructure. We must use this knowledge to inform Federal response and prioritization decisions and to support infrastructure restoration in order to save lives and mitigate the impact of the disaster on the Nation.

Critical Challenge: Environmental Hazards and Debris Removal

The Federal clean-up effort for Hurricane Katrina was an immense undertaking. The storm impact caused the spill of over seven million gallons of oil into Gulf Coast waterways. Additionally, it flooded three Superfund 81 sites in the New Orleans area, and destroyed or compromised numerous drinking water facilities and wastewater treatment plants along the Gulf Coast. 82 The storm’s collective environmental damage, while not creating the “toxic soup” portrayed in the media, nonetheless did create a potentially hazardous environment for emergency responders and the general public. 83 In response, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coast Guard jointly led an interagency environmental assessment and recovery effort, cleaning up the seven million gallons of oil and resolving over 2,300 reported cases of pollution. 84

While this response effort was commendable, Federal officials could have improved the identification of environmental hazards and communication of appropriate warnings to emergency responders and the public. For example, the relatively small number of personnel available during the critical week after landfall were unable to conduct a rapid and comprehensive environmental assessment of the approximately 80 square miles flooded in New Orleans, let alone the nearly 93,000 square miles affected by the hurricane. 85

Competing priorities hampered efforts to assess the environment. Moreover, although the process used to identify environmental hazards provides accurate results, these results are not prompt enough to provide meaningful information to responders. Furthermore, there must be a comprehensive plan to accurately and quickly communicate this critical information to the emergency responders and area residents who need it. 86 Had such a plan existed, the mixed messages from Federal, State, and local officials on the reentry into New Orleans could have been avoided.

Debris Removal

State and local governments are normally responsible for debris removal. However, in the event of a disaster in which State and local governments are overwhelmed and request assistance, the Federal government can provide two forms of assistance: debris removal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or other Federal agencies, or reimbursement for locally contracted debris removal. 87

Hurricane Katrina created an estimated 118 million cubic yards of debris. In just five months, 71 million cubic yards of debris have been removed from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. In comparison, it took six months to remove the estimated 20 million cubic yards of debris created by Hurricane Andrew. 88

However, the unnecessarily complicated rules for removing debris from private property hampered the response. 89 In addition, greater collaboration among Federal, State, and local officials as well as an enhanced public communication program could have improved the effectiveness of the Federal response.

The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, should oversee efforts to improve the Federal government’s capability to quickly gather environmental data and to provide the public and emergency responders the most accurate information available, to determine whether it is safe to operate in a disaster environment or to return after evacuation. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security should work with its State and local homeland security partners to plan and to coordinate an integrated approach to debris removal during and after a disaster.

Critical Challenge: Managing Offers of Foreign Assistance and Inquiries Regarding Affected Foreign Nationals

Our experience with the tragedies of September 11th and Hurricane Katrina underscored that our domestic crises have international implications. Soon after the extent of Hurricane Katrina’s damage became known, the United States became the beneficiary of an incredible international outpouring of assistance. One hundred fifty-one (151) nations and international organizations offered financial or material assistance to support relief efforts. 90 Also, we found that among the victims were foreign nationals who were in the country on business, vacation, or as residents. Not surprisingly, foreign governments sought information regarding the safety of their citizens.

We were not prepared to make the best use of foreign support. Some foreign governments sought to contribute aid that the United States could not accept or did not require. In other cases, needed resources were tied up by bureaucratic red tape. 91 But more broadly, we lacked the capability to prioritize and integrate such a large quantity of foreign assistance into the ongoing response. Absent an implementation plan for the prioritization and integration of foreign material assistance, valuable resources went unused, and many donor countries became frustrated. 92 While we ultimately overcame these obstacles amidst the crisis, our experience underscores the need for pre-crisis planning.

Nor did we have the mechanisms in place to provide foreign governments with whatever knowledge we had regarding the status of their nationals. Despite the fact that many victims of the September 11, 2001, tragedy were foreign nationals, the NRP does not take into account foreign populations (e.g. long-term residents, students, businessmen, tourists, and foreign government officials) affected by a domestic catastrophe. In addition, Federal, State, and local emergency response officials have not included assistance to foreign nationals in their response planning.

Many foreign governments, as well as the family and friends of foreign nationals, looked to the Department of State for information regarding the safety and location of their citizens after Hurricane Katrina. The absence of a central system to manage and promptly respond to inquires about affected foreign nationals led to confusion. 93

The Department of State, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, should review and revise policies, plans, and procedures for the management of foreign disaster assistance. In addition, this review should clarify responsibilities and procedures for handling inquiries regarding affected foreign nationals.

Critical Challenge: Non-governmental Aid

Over the course of the Hurricane Katrina response, a significant capability for response resided in organizations outside of the government. Non-governmental and faith-based organizations, as well as the private sector all made substantial contributions. Unfortunately, the Nation did not always make effective use of these contributions because we had not effectively planned for integrating them into the overall response effort.

Even in the best of circumstances, government alone cannot deliver all disaster relief. Often, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the quickest means of providing local relief, but perhaps most importantly, they provide a compassionate, human face to relief efforts. We must recognize that NGOs play a fundamental role in response and recovery efforts and will contribute in ways that are, in many cases, more efficient and effective than the Federal government’s response. We must plan for their participation and treat them as valued and necessary partners.

The number of volunteer, non-profit, faith-based, and private sector entities that aided in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort was truly extraordinary. Nearly every national, regional, and local charitable organization in the United States, and many from abroad, contributed aid to the victims of the storm. Trained volunteers from member organizations of the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), the American Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), as well as untrained volunteers from across the United States, deployed to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Government sponsored volunteer organizations also played a critical role in providing relief and assistance. For example, the USA Freedom Corps persuaded numerous non-profit organizations and the Governor’s State Service Commissions to list their hurricane relief volunteer opportunities in the USA Freedom Corps volunteer search engine. The USA Freedom Corps also worked with the Corporation for National and Community Service, which helped to create a new, people-driven “Katrina Resource Center” to help volunteers connect their resources with needs on the ground. 94 In addition, 14,000 Citizen Corps volunteers supported response and recovery efforts around the country. 95 This achievement demonstrates that seamless coordination among government agencies and volunteer organizations is possible when they build cooperative relationships and conduct joint planning and exercises before an incident occurs. 96

Faith-based organizations also provided extraordinary services. For example, more than 9,000 Southern Baptist Convention of the North American Mission Board volunteers from forty-one states served in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. These volunteers ran mobile kitchens and recovery sites. 97 Many smaller, faith-based organizations, such as the Set Free Indeed Ministry in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, brought comfort and offered shelter to the survivors. They used their facilities and volunteers to distribute donated supplies to displaced persons and to meet their immediate needs. 98 Local churches independently established hundreds of “pop-up” shelters to house storm victims. 99

More often than not, NGOs successfully contributed to the relief effort in spite of government obstacles and with almost no government support or direction. Time and again, government agencies did not effectively coordinate relief operations with NGOs. Often, government agencies failed to match relief needs with NGO and private sector capabilities. Even when agencies matched non-governmental aid with an identified need, there were problems moving goods, equipment, and people into the disaster area. For example, the government relief effort was unprepared to meet the fundamental food, housing, and operational needs of the surge volunteer force.

The Federal response should better integrate the contributions of volunteers and non-governmental organizations into the broader national effort.  This integration would be best achieved at the State and local levels, prior to future incidents. In particular, State and local governments must engage NGOs in the planning process, credential their personnel, and provide them the necessary resource support for their involvement in a joint response.

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Hurricanes: Science and Society

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  • Volume 48, Issue 2
  • Narrative trajectories of disaster response: ethical preparedness from Katrina to COVID-19
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  • http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9759-384X Yoshiko Iwai 1 , 2 ,
  • http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5246-4961 Sarah Holdren 1 , 2 ,
  • http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2173-6717 Leah Teresa Rosen 1 , 3 ,
  • Nina Y Hu 1 , 4
  • 1 Narrative Medicine , Columbia University , New York , New York , USA
  • 2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine , Chapel Hill , North Carolina , USA
  • 3 Weill Cornell Medical College , New York , New York , USA
  • 4 Department of Emergency Medicine , New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center , New York , New York , USA
  • Correspondence to Yoshiko Iwai, Narrative Medicine, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA; yoshiko.i{at}columbia.edu

While COVID-19 brings unprecedented challenges to the US healthcare system, understanding narratives of historical disasters illuminates ethical complexities shared with COVID-19. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina revealed a lack of disaster preparation and protocol, not dissimilar to the challenges faced by COVID-19 healthcare workers. A case study of Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina reported by journalist-MD Sheri Fink reveals unique ethical challenges at the forefront of health crises. These challenges include disproportionate suffering in structurally vulnerable populations, as seen in COVID-19 where marginalised groups across the USA experience higher rates of disease and COVID-19-related death. Journalistic accounts of Katrina and COVID-19 offer unique perspectives on the ethical challenges present within medicine and society, and analysis of such stories reveals narrative trajectories anticipated in the aftermath of COVID-19. Through lenses of social suffering and structural violence, these narratives reinforce the need for systemic change, including legal action, ethical preparedness and physician protection to ensure high-quality care during times of crises. Narrative Medicine—as a practice of interrogating stories in medicine and re-centering the patient—offers a means to contextualise individual accounts of suffering during health crises in larger social matrices.

  • medical humanities
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • narrative medicine
  • philosophy of medicine/health care

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No data are available. This is a narrative analysis of journalistic accounts using narrative medicine. There are no data associated with this manuscript.

This article is made freely available for personal use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.


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During the COVID-19 pandemic, ethical decision-making practices were questioned as health personnel worked under extreme circumstances, shouldering a heavy burden of patients amidst shortages that ranged from treatment to equipment to reliable information on SARS-CoV-2 ( Reid and Reid 2020, 1–5 ; Wynne et al 2020, 1–12 ; Shechter et al 2020, 1–8 ). While the Health Humanities field of Narrative Medicine traditionally focuses on stories between patients and clinicians, the practice also contextualises individual stories in larger social constructs ( Charon et al. 2017 ; Iwai, Khan, and DasGupta 2020 ). Analysis of ongoing crisis narratives cannot provide the clarity that time and distance offer; however, revisiting historical disasters illuminates challenges that are constructive for navigating COVID-19.

We have examined Hurricane Katrina as a case study to show unique ethical challenges at the forefront of clinical care during disasters. Specifically, we look to Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, where 23 corpses were found with elevated levels of morphine and a benzodiazepine—20 of whom were determined victims of homicide, leading to second-degree murder charges of one physician and two nurses ( State of Louisiana 2006 ). The brunt of Katrina, like COVID-19, was shouldered by Black communities and people of colour who neither received the immediate care nor adequate support in the aftermath ( Doherty 2015 ). The incident revealed a lack of guidance for providers during disasters, inadequate patient and family involvement in critical decision-making, racialised downstream effects of strained health systems, and the need to equip providers with stronger tools for navigating blurred ethical boundaries. By revisiting narratives from Hurricane Katrina, we reveal similarities with COVID-19 and call for more rigorous ethical guidelines and physician training to better manage and prepare for crises in the future. Analysing past narratives may also help anticipate the stories told in the aftermath of COVID-19, or what we have defined as ‘narrative trajectories’.

Katrina and COVID-19: narrative parallels

Although hurricanes and pandemics pose different challenges, they reveal institutional weaknesses that similarly amplify structural violence and social suffering. ‘Structural violence’ is a way of framing structural forces—including poverty, racism, gender discrimination, political climate and health policy—that precipitate or exacerbate harm on communities who are typically not responsible for the causes of inequity ( Farmer et al 2006 ). Healthcare decisions during these crises reflect such themes and have drawn media and scholarly attention in the aftermath. Perhaps most notable is journalist—Medical Doctor (MD) Sheri Fink’s coverage of the lethal decisions made by physician Anna Pou and colleagues during the onslaught of Katrina at Memorial Hospital ( Fink 2009 ). We draw on Fink’s documentation of physician decision-making in crisis, in parallel with COVID-19 first-person caregiver accounts, to discuss narrative trajectories we can expect in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Fink’s coverage sheds light on the need for adequate preparedness and policy guidance for physicians in ethically dubious times. Hurricane Katrina was a single, isolated event brought on by extreme weather, in contrast to COVID-19, which has been a less predictable, ever-evolving long-term global crisis. Instruction for resource allocation, such as the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law and New York State Department of Health 2015 ventilator allocation guidelines, and protocols for palliative and end-of-life care were in use at many US hospitals prior to COVID-19 ( Capron 2019 ; Inbadas et al 2017 ; Mishra and Mishra 2017 ; New York State Task Force on Life and the Law and New York State Department of Health 2015 ). While these standards were built on ethical, legal and clinical consensus, in practice these decisions constitute a dynamic process that still must be made on an individual, that is, patient, basis. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many physicians across the country had to confront the full burden of making these decisions in ways that were reminiscent of the questions raised by Fink after Katrina:

Which patients should get a share of limited resources, and who decides? What does it mean to do the greatest good for the greatest number, and does that end justify all means? Where is the line between appropriate comfort care and mercy killing? How, if at all, should doctors and nurses be held accountable for their actions in the most desperate of circumstances, especially when their government fails them? ( Fink 2009 )

Fink’s questions echo bioethics literature grappling with physician duty and ethics over the past decades ( Emanuel 1994 ; Galarneau 2016 ; Persad et al 2009 ). Clinician accounts from spring and summer of 2020 documented the emotional and physical toll of front-line care compounded by these ethical tensions specifically during a time that was underscored by a systemic lack of capacity and preparedness ( Ouyang 2020 ; Fink 2020 ). Several important themes emerge from first-person narratives like that of Helen Ouyang, an emergency medicine physician and writer in New York, which detail the next-to-impossible situations providers experience due to shortages ranging from space to equipment to personnel.

Not only do we have to think about patients not getting ventilators, but now we have to worry about sending infected people home, where they will likely worsen and may become critically sick, unable to make it back to the hospital in time ( Ouyang 2020 ).

Ouyang also asks ‘how to best distribute risk among health workers. I want to do everything for my patients, as much as they and their families want, just as we have always done. But what do I owe future patients? What do I owe my colleagues?’ ( Ouyang 2020 ). The obligations of physicians are challenged, especially as hospitals are depicted as ‘frontlines’ and clinicians become intensely aware of their own mortality and risk to colleagues and families. How do definitions of ‘first, do no harm’ change as crises bring havoc to hospitals? The questions posed by physician-writers like Fink and Ouyang are valuable for reflecting on the ethical pillars of caregiving which are complicated during crises.

Race and inequality in crises

Narratives surrounding Katrina and COVID-19 are complex, in part, due to inequalities of race and class. Sociologist Jean Ait Belkhir writes about the social factors of those most impacted by Katrina:

Disasters, whether natural or human-made, and Katrina is both, are revelatory mirrors that expose a society’s subterranean fissures, the existing socioeconomic inequalities and political pathologies. Katrina has provided a giant and agonizing mirror for America, in the full view of the world it normally despises, forcing it to look squarely in the face, to its profound shock and shame, all those marginalized people it silences with its strange but seductive myths of equal opportunity and the American dream…The contours of disaster and the difference between who lives and who dies is to a greater or lesser extent a social calculus. ( Belkhir and Charlemaine 2007, 120–152 )

During Katrina, the ‘working-class poor, mostly African Americans’ were most profoundly impacted ( Belkhir and Charlemaine 2007, 120–152 ). With Katrina falling at the end of the month, people living paycheck to paycheck could not afford hotels, were less likely to own or have access to cars, and therefore unable to make swift travel accommodations in preparation for the hurricane. These factors not only made evacuation more logistically challenging but made evacuation more costly and dangerous. In addition to individual economic leverage, residential segregation and concentration of federally subsidised housing led to large groups of impoverished communities lacking sufficient shelter in places like the Morial Convention Center which had lasting effects on health and recovery in the aftermath of Katrina ( Belkhir and Charlemaine 2007, 120–152 ).

Like Katrina, COVID-19 quickly became a mirror reflecting pre-existing inequalities, revealing the social calculus of who lives and dies through structurally embedded barriers to care. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, media discourse was like that of post-Katrina, with some claiming the virus as an equaliser and others highlighting profound disparities across populations ( Yong 2020 ; Fink 2021a ; Jean-Jacques, Bauchner, and Bauchner 2021 ). For COVID-19, the initial delay in releasing racial data resulted in outcries from scholars who highlighted that, without this information, social and structural underpinnings would remain opaque ( Kendi 2020 ). When data were released, they continued to show that COVID-19-associated mortality was higher among Black and Latino populations ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 ), and in a study from New York City’s comptroller, it was found that 75% of front-line workers—from grocery clerks and transportation workers to nurses, janitors and childcare staff—were people of colour ( Stringer 2020 ).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has attributed disproportionate COVID-19 deaths among communities of colour to five core elements: (1) Neighbourhood and physical environment, including crowded living spaces, limited transportation, and lack of affordable or quality housing options; (2) Healthcare access and quality, including lack of health insurance, limited access to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and ventilators in public hospitals, fear of immigrants in seeking care, and an increase in untreated chronic conditions that contribute to poorer prognosis; (3) Occupation and work environment, including higher proportions of racial minority essential workers, frequent close contact with other employees like in meatpacking plants, and lack of paid sick leave or other benefits; (4) Income, including debt accumulation during COVID-19, living in food deserts, and difficulty paying medical bills; and (5) Education inequities, which may result in lower literacy, access to community resources and information, and limited job stability due to educational background ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 ; Duncan and Horton 2020 ; Jordan 2020 ). While deaths have decreased with vaccine roll-outs across the country, Black, indigenous and Latinx populations continue to have higher mortality rates ( COVID Tracking Project ). These core attributes can also be understood with the framework of racial capitalism, which co-constructs the medical, social, and economic conditions that have produced COVID-19 inequities ( Laster Pirtle 2020 ). The reasons for disparities as defined by the CDC are not dissimilar to those during Katrina.

We want to highlight that these racial disparities are made more urgent and, at times, exacerbated by media narratives. During Katrina, terms like ‘looters’ were used exclusively for people of colour while white counterparts were ‘finding food’ ( Belkhir and Charlemaine 2007, 120–152 ). Photograph, video and TV footage of Katrina were largely of Black people which raised concern that evacuation and federal aid was delayed because of these stark visuals ( Belkhir and Charlemaine 2007, 120–152 ). Fink’s Katrina reporting exemplifies this in her coverage of a physician who refers to people outside the hospital as ‘animals’ who come to the hospital to rape or steal drugs ( Fink 2009 ). Racist language and media framings, while difficult to quantify, may perpetuate structural inequalities and heighten mistrust, especially among marginalised communities, in the aftermath.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, similar themes in media narratives emerged. Hesitancy to release data on race and ethnicity, both in research and in lay media, led to criticisms against the CDC and widening of existing inequities ( Krieger et al 2020 ; Campos-Castillo and Laestadius 2020 ). During the 2020 resurgence of movements for Black lives, some minority physicians brought their issues to fore. For instance, Dr Sutton-Ramsey, a Black New York City physician, described his rituals to protect himself from police brutality at the expense of protecting himself and his loved ones from COVID-19: ‘I do everything I can to look ‘essential.’ I do not change out of my scrubs after work—even though it means potentially contaminating my car with the coronavirus, or bringing it into my home, where my partner sleeps. I keep my white coat on, because I know it signals authority and respectability’ ( Sutton-Ramsey 2020 ). While Dr Sutton-Ramsey’s first-person narrative directly addressed racism in the USA, we also see how placing Black voices at the fore of media, such as in vaccine hesitancy campaigns, is taxing for physicians and eliding the root problem of medical mistrust among some Black communities ( Newman and Newman 2021 ).

Ethical decision-making

While Memorial Hospital had developed a general emergency plan long before Katrina, Fink notes that it did not include instructions for a complete power failure nor a city-wide flood ( Fink 2009 ). Further, triage protocols outlined in this plan were ill-defined, leading to confusion on which categories of patients should be evacuated first. Pou and colleagues, who had little to no triage training at the time, decided that the sickest patients should be evacuated last. Included in this group were those with ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) orders, determined to be indicative of a terminal diagnosis, rather than an end-of-life choice for patients in any number of health states ( Fink 2009 ). Fink reminds us that there are no fully standardised protocols for triage, and this makes these protocols inherently vulnerable to bias.

While healthcare workers are constantly making critical decisions, crisis scenarios highlight the difficulty for upholding high ethical standards. In Fink’s Katrina evacuation coverage, she reports on one Honduran male patient in his 60s receiving long-term care and awaiting surgery when Katrina made landfall. The patient’s family recounted that he had a ‘good sense of humour and a rich family life’, and nurses remembered him being ‘very aware’ and cheerful on the day of evacuations ( Fink 2009 ). However, the patient was classified low on the evacuation triage protocol due to his perceived low quality of life as a paraplegic, and to comorbidities such as his weight. He eventually received a lethal injection of morphine, along with others left at Memorial. The stark difference between interpretations of ‘quality of life’, as Fink documents, by the patient’s family and his physicians is evidence of the ways subjectivity complicates executing triage protocols in crises.

Early in COVID-19, Ouyang reports on a colleague’s experience in Italy where a group of bioethicists and intensivists drafted a list of criteria for the allocation of limited resources such as ventilators and intensive care unit (ICU) beds—a question that ultimately determines who lives and who doesn’t:

The first version includes strict criteria. If you are over 80 or one of your organs isn’t functioning well or your dementia has advanced past a certain point, you are unlikely to get a breathing tube or a spot in the I.C.U. Soon after, the group decides to delete the specific cutoffs, so that hospitals can adapt their responses to circumstances, which are changing hourly. They want doctors to have flexibility but use these principles to guide and justify their decision-making. The document’s fundamental thrust, though, is that those with the highest chances of survival—the young and the healthy—get priority ( Ouyang 2020 ).

Ethical decisions faced by both Pou and COVID-19 physicians highlight the difficulty of conversations surrounding life-altering medical care during times of limited resources, particularly the question of what defines ‘quality of life’, and who bears the brunt of defining it.

Physician and medical anthropologist Paul Farmer writes about the human nature of suffering, suggesting it is both variable and inherently social. He writes: ‘…suffering is not effectively conveyed by statistics or graphs. The ‘texture’ of dire affliction is perhaps best felt in the gritty details of biography’ ( Farmer 1997 ). Fink and Ouyang bring these gritty details to life in their reporting while also revealing the need for more inclusive, equitable and ethical triage protocols that would benefit from community input. These might include focusing on structural factors that lead to disproportionate amounts of suffering, as well as emphasising that silence often accompanies those who suffer most. If physicians are to alleviate suffering, they must be given the time and resources to prepare for disasters, understand patients’ and their families’ perspectives when possible, and execute inclusive ethical guidelines. This requires society at large to claim responsibility for the social suffering that is exacerbated during crises and acknowledge that suffering is a direct consequence of human agency ( Farmer 1997 ).

While issues of structural violence and systemic racism are pertinent in writing about crises, we cannot overlook the toll these outcomes have on caregivers. The events at Memorial were not only tragic for the lives lost, but also for the healthcare workers who were put in a dire situation and prosecuted for their decisions. After Katrina, Pou and two nurses were charged with second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, although none were ever indicted. There is still debate about whether Pou and her colleagues’ actions were meant to kill or comfort. Many attribute their acquittal to community support during the trial, a factor that has also been cited as critical in preventing criminal or civil suits for physicians during COVID-19, and one that emphasises the important role of story-telling ( Cohen et al 2020, 1901–1902 ).

Since the court proceedings, Pou has advocated for better preparedness and legal protection for physicians during disasters, such as the option to evacuate the sickest last, including those with DNRs, and waive the requirement for informed consent ( Fink 2009 ). While Fink successfully brings attention to Pou’s arguments about disaster preparedness and physician immunity, she does little to highlight the limitations of Pou’s work, which does not appear to take a structural violence or social suffering lens. Fink concludes her article by stating that without transparent ethical guidelines seeking interdisciplinary community input, we not only end up losing lives, but losing trust in those we need to trust the most—our caregivers and medical institutions.

In March 2020, New York governor Andrew Cuomo released an executive order regarding Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency, which most notably stated that:

…all physicians […] shall be immune from civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been sustained directly as a result of an act or omission by such medical professional in the course of providing medical services in support of the State’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, unless it is established that such injury or death was caused by the gross negligence of such medical professional ( Cuomo 2020 ).

In addition to authorising the deployment of just-graduated medical students, Cuomo’s orders allowed foreign medical school graduates with at least 1 year of graduate medical education to practise without a license. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners were permitted to provide care without oversight from a supervising physician. The order also removed working hour restrictions and relieved medical record-keeping requirements ‘to the extent necessary for healthcare providers to perform tasks as may be necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak’ ( Cuomo 2020 ). While these changes help address Pou’s call for physician protection during crises, the long-term implications of these liability reforms that were made without proposed ethical guidance have yet to be determined and may unfold in ways reminiscent of Katrina’s far-reaching aftermath.

A narrative medicine approach

In a canonical narrative medicine paper, physician and founder, Dr Rita Charon, writes: ‘The effective practice of medicine requires narrative competence, that is, the ability to acknowledge, absorb, interpret, and act on the stories and plights of others’ ( Charon 2001, 1897–1902 ). At face value, a narrative medicine approach to these crisis narratives means honouring the individual accounts of suffering. However, narrative medicine also reminds us to ask ourselves, ‘Who speaks? Who is being spoken for?’. Fink’s Katrina coverage reveals vulnerabilities that traditionally powerful bodies have experienced because of the hurricane. But if we take a step back, we see that Fink’s coverage elides critical discussions of race and the profound impact on Black communities. To not acknowledge Fink’s own positionality—as a highly educated, white writer-MD who does not practise medicine herself—is to fail to acknowledge the reality that even these stories are told and shaped by particular members of society. Despite Fink’s detailed coverage of the tragedy at Memorial, we still cannot fully understand the lives of those who experienced Katrina and whose stories were never told. While COVID-19 stories continue to be shared across media platforms, there remains an underrepresentation of narratives centred on, or told by, the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19; we must ask ourselves again and again, ‘Who speaks? Who is being spoken for?’.

Narrative medicine also operates with the vision of structural competency. Introduced by Drs Metzl and Hansen, ‘structural competency’ describes the need for medical education to use a structural focus to enable students to recognise socioeconomic forces that cause illness and health inequities ( Metzl et al 2014, 126–133 ). In the context of narrative medicine, structural competency means recognising upstream forces that shape narratives of illness, suffering and health more generally. The stories that have emerged in health crises portray useful perspectives and emotionality, but also point to institutional shortcomings. Fink’s Memorial coverage shows discrepancies in definitions of ‘quality of life’ which not only reveal individual providers’ perceptions, and the choice to act on that perception, but also a broader lack of uniformity for defining something as central to medicine as ‘quality of life’. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, ventilator rationing raised similar questions around terms like ‘actions’ that determine criminal or civil liability. According to Cohen et al , ‘action that shortens a life, even if just by hours, can be prosecuted as a homicide’ ( Cohen et al 2020 ). While many existing guidelines suggest that the re-allocation of scarce resources during a pandemic is not considered an act of homicide, there are no clear recommendations regarding which patients’ physicians should ‘act’ on, either by withholding or withdrawing life-saving measures.

Quality of life remains a question in COVID-19 too. Emanuel et al propose that maximising the benefit of critical resources should factor in the number of lives and number of ‘quality-adjusted life-years’ that can be saved ( Emanuel et al 2020, 2049–2055 ). The ‘quality’ deemed acceptable to a patient should be determined whenever possible, and patients’ ‘instrumental value’ should be taken into account, such as prioritising healthcare workers and clinical trial participants ( Emanuel et al 2020, 2049–2055 ). This suggestion again shows the inherent complexity in establishing a standardised criteria for ‘quality of life’ and whether that criterion can or should shift during states of emergency. The elements that constitute ‘quality of life’ are structural in and of themselves, signifying US culture’s dissonant opinions on what is moral or worthwhile. Scholars, health professionals, community members and society at large must work together to critically think about and make it a priority to define, or redefine, ‘quality of life’ and by doing so alleviate some decisional burden from front-line caregivers.

Re-centring the patient

As the patients and families of Memorial have made clear, definitions as fundamental as ‘quality of life’ remain opaque to outsiders, including physicians. In times of disaster, when a clinician’s focus is necessarily centred on saving the most lives, this opacity must be considered in all life-saving, and life-sacrificing, decisions. One approach to prepare for such situations is considering who standardised practices are benefiting, and who they may be ignoring. In the words of medical educator Dr Sayantani DasGupta:

Clinicians cannot, of course, ever exactly know how any illness story begins or ends…Narrative humility allows clinicians to recognise that each story we hear holds elements that are unfamiliar—be they cultural, socioeconomic, sexual, religious, or idiosyncratically personal. Assuming that our reading of any patient’s story is the definitive interpretation of that story is to risk closing ourselves off to its most valuable nuances and particularities ( DasGupta 2008, 980–981 ).

Regular engagement with this kind of thinking can cultivate moral principles which de-privilege the provider and re-empower the patient. So, even under high stress scenarios, clinicians may adopt broader, self-critical perspectives. Such perspectives may provide necessary pause for clinicians to consider their own bias in quality-of-life determinations and in the development of emergency protocols.

Narrative medicine workshops help clinicians recognise this opacity of the patient in accordance with narrative humility ( Tsevat et al 2015, 1462–1465 ). These workshops encourage participants to self-reflect as a way of disengaging with totalising notions of the Other through close reading, discussion, writing and sharing ( Irvine 2005, 8–18 ). While most medical professionals have received health humanities training at one point, irregular or limited encounters with disciplines that incorporate structural competency reinforce the idea that these issues are not central to practice, or tangential at best. We propose that narrative medicine workshops may be one tool for fostering empathy, reflection, affiliation and justice in future training of providers who could be placed in ethically challenging scenarios during crises.

In her book, Medical Apartheid , on the history of medical experimentation on African Americans, Harriet A Washington documents deep-rooted racism in the US medical institution ( Washington 2006 ). Washington reminds us of the significant injustice prior to, and after, the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, calling to action the need to understand and more regularly engage with the history of medicine. In analysing stories from Katrina, we place accounts of COVID-19 in a longer lineage of crisis narratives. These narrative inquiries allow us to learn from history and better prepare for scenarios where clinicians may be challenged to uphold high-quality care under extreme circumstances. Further, we show how narrative medicine helps us understand individual stories of suffering in larger contexts. Revisiting narratives of Katrina and COVID-19 illuminate the unique needs of front-line workers, while revealing upstream points of intervention for inciting sustainable change. We believe narrative tools can help us strengthen our muscles for navigating ethically fraught terrain, and enable us to move towards more just, patient-centred, and sustainable healthcare during COVID-19 and in future crises.

Ethics statements

Patient consent for publication.

Not applicable.


The authors thank Dr Sayantani DasGupta and Zahra Khan, as well as Columbia University’s Program in Narrative Medicine for their contribution and support of this project.


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Contributors All authors are fully responsible for the conception of this manuscript, narrative analysis, and writing of this text. NYH is the guranator of this paper.

Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient and public involvement While patients and families were central to the stories we investigated, the nature of our narrative analysis did not involve direct patient or public involvement.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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hurricane katrina case study ppt

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  • Publications
  • The Aftermath of Katrina

Toxic and Contaminant Concerns Generated by Hurricane Katrina

hurricane katrina case study ppt

Author: Danny D. Reible, Charles N. Haas, John H. Pardue, and William J. Walsh

by daniel ward

Hurricane Katrina

Jul 18, 2014

560 likes | 2.09k Views

By Daniel Ward. Hurricane Katrina. Contents. What is a hurricane? How do hurricanes form? What was the most terrible hurricane in the world? The Atlantic Basin What was the duration of hurricane Katrina? How big was hurricane Katrina? When was hurricane Katrina and what was it’s route?

  • real levees
  • national weather service
  • eye witness report


Presentation Transcript

By Daniel Ward Hurricane Katrina

Contents • What is a hurricane? • How do hurricanes form? • What was the most terrible hurricane in the world? • The Atlantic Basin • What was the duration of hurricane Katrina? • How big was hurricane Katrina? • When was hurricane Katrina and what was it’s route? • What happened? • How many people evacuated from hurricane Katrina? • How many people were killed? • Why did the levees break in New Orleans? • What was the cause of hurricane Katrina? • What happened after hurricane Katrina? • Before and After • How much money did hurricane Katrina’s damage cost? • How many people would have died in New Orleans if they had not bought the cheep replacement walls? • Hurricane Katrina smashes Gulf coast. • How deep was hurricane Katrina’s flooding? • Thank you for reading my hurricane Katrina facts.

What is a Hurricane? A hurricane is a storm system characterized by a large center thunderstorm that produces strong winds and heavy rain.

How do hurricanes form? • The formation of a hurricane must begin with a regional water temperature of eighty degrees Fahrenheit or more (26.5 degrees Centigrade). The depth of this warm water must reach to at least 150 feet or 50 meters. This combination of warm water and relatively shallow depth causes the atmosphere in the area to become unstable enough to create and sustain thunderstorm and convection activity, the two major portions of a hurricane.

What was the the most terrible hurricane in the world? The most terrible hurricane in the world was hurricane Ivan. This is the eye of hurricane Ivan!

The Atlantic Basin • The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1, 2005 and officially ended on November 30, 2005. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin, although effectively the season persisted into January 2006 due to continued storm activity. • The 2005 season was the most active season on record, shattering records on repeated occasions. A record twenty-eight tropical and subtropical storms formed, of which a record fifteen became hurricanes. Of these, seven strengthened into major hurricanes, a record-tying five became category 4 hurricane and a record four reached Category 5 strength, the highest categorization for Atlantic hurricanes. Among these Category 5 storms was hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. • The most notable storms of the season were the five Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes :Denis, Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma along with the Category 1 Hurricane Stan. These storms made a combined twelve landfalls as major hurricanes (Category 3 strength or higher) throughout Cuba, Mexico, and the Gulf coast of the united States, causing over $100 billion (2005 USD) in damages and at least 2,048 deaths!

What was the duration of Hurricane Katrina? • The duration of hurricane Katrina was August 23 – August 30 which is a total of seven days!

How big was Hurricane Katrina? Hurricane Katrina’s diameter was 415miles which is 668km!

When was Hurricane Katrina and what was it’s route? • Hurricane Katrina formed August 23, 2005 over the Bahamas crossed Florida before strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico finally hitting southeast Louisiana.

What happened? • EYE WITNESS REPORT: “MOST of the damage from Hurricane Katrina was felt in Mississippi. I mean the ENTIRE state. The problem with Katrina was that she didn't just bring her fast moving winds and hard rains. She sat in the same place for a day! An ENTIRE day! With Katrina sitting still, more water was pushed into the coast line. The wind blown water did SEVERE damage. My mom stayed in a shelter at St. Paul's Catholic church (the gymnasium) during Hurricane Camille. Katrina wiped that building out... Before I go on, I must say that the damage to New Orleans was caused by failing levees. Their floods consisted of stand still water from the surrounding bodies of water.In Mississippi, water came from the gulf, across the roads, pummeled buildings and just kept moving. Homes were levelled; jobs were destroyed, and lives were lost. It was such a scary experience.” BY LITTLERA

Hurricane Katrina Smashes Gulf Coast • Katrina is the hurricane that emergency-management and government officials have long feared would strike New Orleans. Many of the Louisiana city's 500,000 residents live below sea level and are surrounded by the waters of the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and several bays. • "This is a biggie," said Steve Rinard, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "We've been dreading a storm like this." • Hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents evacuated on Saturday and Sunday as the forecasts for Hurricane Katrina became more ominous. "All kinds of evacuations are going on, and shelters are filling up," Rinard said Sunday night. "There are shelters as far away as southeast Texas and all over central Louisiana." A.J. Holloway, mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi, said Sunday night that most residents in the lowest-lying sections of his city of 55,000 had evacuated."We don't know what to expect," Holloway said.

How many people evacuated from Hurricane Katrina? • 25,000 people evacuated from Hurricane Katrina while many more thousand remained at the Super Dome in New Orleans.

How many people were killed? • Two were killed in Alabama, Fourteen were killed in Florida, Two were killed in Georgia, One was killed in Kentucky, one thousand five hundred and seventy seven were killed in Louisiana, Two hundred and thirty eight were killed in Mississippi, Two in Ohio which equals in total one thousand eight hundred and thirty six. Plus seven hundred and five were missing.

Why did the levees break in New Orleans? • On the other side of what you might have heard, the levees did not break in New Orleans. The levees were actually able to withstand the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina.  What happened was that the levees were replaced in some areas of the city with a wall approximately 2 feet thick that fell during Hurricane Katrina.  These walls were built in order to widen the canal, but they could not withstand Katrina’s storm surge. So it was the replacement walls that broke, not the levees!

What was the cause of Hurricane Katrina? • Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming.

Before and After!

What happened after hurricane Katrina? Two years after the floods of hurricane Katrina! Who was blamed for the damage of hurricane Katrina? • Two years after the devastating floods that followed hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans took place. • The damage done to New Orleans was blamed on the government.

How much money did hurricane Katrina’s damage cost? • Hurricane Katrina was the largest natural disaster in U.S. history, claiming the lives of more than 1,800 victims and causing well over $100 billion in damage along the Gulf Coast.

How many people would have died in New Orleans if they had not bought the cheep replacement walls? • I think that many less people only have died if they had kept the real levees. They forgot that the people are more important than the cost of building cheaper walls.

Could it happen again…?... • After two years of levee repairs, the Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that there is a 1 in 100 annual chance that about one-third of the city will be flooded with as much as six feet of water!

Thank you for reading my hurricane Katrina facts. Text and pictures by Daniel ward.

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Hurricane Katrina. Silence All Phones and Pagers. Please move conversations into ESF rooms and busy out all phones. Thanks for your cooperation. Fire Medical Stress Severe Weather. Safety Briefing. SEOC LEVEL 1 24 Hour Operations. EOC Staffing. STATE COORDINATING OFFICER – Craig Fugate

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Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina. Silence All Phones and Pagers. Please move conversations into ESF rooms and busy out all phones. Thanks for your cooperation. Fire Medical Stress Severe Weather Parking. Safety Briefing. SEOC LEVEL 1 0800 – 1800. EOC Staffing.

692 views • 61 slides

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina. Silence All Phones and Pagers. Please move conversations into ESF rooms and busy out all phones. Thanks for your cooperation. Fire Medical Stress Severe Weather Parking. Safety Briefing. SEOC LEVEL 1 0700 to 1900. EOC Staffing.

580 views • 45 slides

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina. Silence All Phones and Pagers. Please move conversations into ESF rooms and busy out all phones. Thanks for your cooperation. Fire Medical Stress Severe Weather Parking. Safety Briefing. SEOC LEVEL 1 0700 – 1900. EOC Staffing.

826 views • 68 slides

The Environmental Impacts of Hurricane Katrina

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  • Storms & Other Phenomena
  • Understanding Your Forecast
  • B.A., Journalism and Creative Writing, University of Washington

Perhaps the longest-lasting impact of Hurricane Katrina was its environmental damage that impacted public health. Significant amounts of industrial waste and raw sewage spilled directly into New Orleans neighborhoods, and oil spills from offshore rigs, coastal refineries, and even corner gas stations also made their way into residential areas and business districts throughout the region.

Contaminated Floodwater

Analysts estimate that 7 million gallons of oil spilled throughout the region. The U.S. Coast Guard says much of the spilled oil has been cleaned up or “naturally dispersed,” but environmentalists fear the initial contamination could devastate the region’s biodiversity and ecological health for many years to come, further devastating the region’s already ailing fisheries, contributing to an economic disaster.

Superfund Sites Flooded

Meanwhile, flooding at five “Superfund” sites (heavily polluted industrial sites slated for federal cleanup), and the wholesale destruction along the already infamous “Cancer Alley” industrial corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, have only served to complicate matters for clean-up officials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers Hurricane Katrina the biggest disaster it has ever had to handle.

Contaminated Groundwater

Household hazardous wastes, pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals also created a witch’s brew of floodwater that quickly seeped into and contaminated groundwater across hundreds of miles. “The range of toxic chemicals that may have been released is extensive,” Johns Hopkins University environmental health sciences professor Lynn Goldman told USA Today in 2005. “We’re talking about metals, persistent chemicals, solvents, materials that have numerous potential health impacts over the long term.”

Hurricane Katrina: Environmental Regulations Not Enforced

According to Hugh Kaufman, an EPA senior policy analyst, environmental regulations in place to prevent the types of discharges that occurred during Hurricane Katrina were not enforced, making what would have been a bad situation much worse. Unchecked development throughout ecologically sensitive parts of the region put further stress on the environment’s ability to absorb and disperse noxious chemicals. “Folks down there were living on borrowed time and, unfortunately, time ran out with Katrina,” Kaufman concludes.

As Hurricane Katrina Cleanup Continues, Region Braces for Next Wave

Recovery efforts first focused on plugging leaks in levies, clearing debris and repairing water and sewer systems. Officials cannot say when they will be able to concentrate on longer-term issues such as treating contaminated soil and groundwater, though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been deploying Herculean efforts to physically remove tons of contaminated sediment left behind by receding floodwaters. 

Ten years later, massive restoration efforts are underway to reinforce the coast's natural defenses against large storms. Yet every spring, residents living near the Gulf Coast keep a wary eye on the forecast, knowing that a new, freshly brewed storm might bear down. With hurricane seasons potentially influenced by increasing ocean temperatures due to global warming, it should not be long before the new coastal restoration projects are tested.

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Hurricane Katrina Case Study

The hurricane had caused over 81 billion dollars worth of damage for the USA. The Hurricane had hit southern Florida as a category 1 hurricane but still caused many deaths and a lot of damage. The place worst affected was east New Orleans.

African Americans were the most affected. Most of the African Americans lived in the lower ninth ward which was the worst affected area in New Orleans. The total fatalities of the hurricane were 1,833 confirmed. The storm surge was over 6 meters and it caused a lot of beach erosion and in some cases, totally destroying the coastal areas.

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In Dauphin Island, approximately 90 miles to the east of the point where the hurricane made landfall, the sand that comprised the barrier island was transported across the island into the Mississippi Sound, pushing the Island towards land.

The storm surge and waves from Strain also obliterated the Chandelier Islands, which had been affected by Hurricane Ivan the previous year. The lands that were lost were breeding grounds for marine mammals, brown pelicans, turtles, and fish, as well as migratory species such as redhead ducks. Overall, about 20% of the local marshes were permanently overrun by water as a result of the storm.

The damage of the storm also force closed 16 natural wildlife refuges. The storm caused oil spills from 44 facilities throughout south eastern Louisiana, which resulted In over 7 million U. S.

Gallons of OLL being leaked. Some spills were as small as a few hundred gallons; the largest are tabulated to the right. While most of the spills were contained on-site, some OLL entered the ecosystem, and the town of Maraud was flooded with a blend of water and 011. There was also some OLL spotted on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Strain started off as a tropical storm off the coast of he Bahamas In the warm Caribbean Sea.

With low pressure the hot alarm started rolling and started turning due to the Corollas Effect.

The Cirrhosis Effect Is the earth’s spin. The Cirrhosis Effect turns hot alarm according to the earth’s spin high. This way the storm transformed Into a category one hurricane and flew over Florida. As It got to the Gulf of Mexico, the water got warmer and the hurricane got stronger. This way It became a category 5 hurricane but before halting New Orleans It got weaker to a category 4. The worst thing about the hurricane was the storm surge because It rose to 6 meters high.

The storm surge forms because the low pressure causes a lump In the sea and It moves along with the hurricane. Hurricane Strain Case Study By Scintillating transported across the island into the Mississippi Sound, pushing the island towards in over 7 million U. S. Gallons of oil being leaked. Some spills were as small as a few contained on-site, some oil entered the ecosystem, and the town of Maraud was flooded with a blend of water and oil. There was also some oil spotted on the surface the Bahamas in the warm Caribbean Sea.

With low pressure the hot air started rising and started turning due to the Cirrhosis Effect.

The Cirrhosis Effect is the earth’s spin. The Cirrhosis Effect turns hot air according to the earth’s spin high. This way the storm transformed into a category one hurricane and flew over Florida. As it got to the Gulf of Mexico, the water got warmer and the hurricane got stronger.

This way it became a category 5 hurricane but before hitting New Orleans it got weaker to a category 4. The worst thing about the hurricane was the storm surge because it rose to 6 meters high. The storm surge forms because the low pressure causes a lump in the sea and it moves along with the hurricane.

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