Effects of Hurricane Katrina on people and property

An area the size of the UK was impacted by the hurricane’s destruction. Within this was the city of New Orleans in Louisiana that suffered most. Much of the city flooded rapidly as three protective along the lake and river gave way. Over 1000 of the cities 460,000 died, whilst the homes of many were destroyed or severely damaged. Over half a million US citizens became refugees, it was the poor, working class population, often without insurance, who suffered the most.

The state population fell by over 8% and within Louisiana, areas outside New Orleans grew in numbers as the city’s people fled. In the coastal state of Mississippi 109,000 were made homeless and over 230 died. Housing damage and destruction was widespread and stretched up to 100km from the hurricane centre. At least 100,00 temporary homes were set up across the region.. Services in New Orleans were severely damaged. Even after 6 months after the hurricane there was no functioning sewage system and gas and electricity supplies were unavailable.

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Agriculture suffered great losses including the death of nine million poultry in Mississippi, while in the same state the dairy industry lost $12 million.. The forestry industry in the region also suffered heavily; over a million acres of forest was destroyed. Due to Katrina, the total financial loss to the timber industry is estimated at $5 billion. The US Corps of Engineers, the group responsible for river management, estimated that in Louisiana there were over 70 million cubic metres of hurricane debris to be removed. Evaluation of Protective Measures.

In August 2005 Katrina was tracked from the initiation to the conclusion of its short but violent life. Katrina’s scale, strength and landfall locations, first in Florida and later in the delta region, were accurately predicted. Despite the years of investment and warnings of the threat that a major hurricane posed to New Orleans, evacuation plans proved inadequate. Following the events a Congressional Report described the governments response to Katrina’s impact as a national failure, stating that ” clumsiness and ineptitude characterised behaviour before and after this storm”.

Part of the problem was that over 25% of households in New Orleans didn’t own cars and had no easy way of evacuating the city. Residents also refused to leave their homes fearing looting in their absence; some paid for this inaction with their lives. Knowledge about and an accurate perception of the threat of hurricanes are keys to helping people save themselves and their possessions. Local government use schooling, internet sites and hurricane-preparedness events to raise the public’s perception of how they can prepare for and reduce risk before, during and after the storm.

It appears that despite official awareness of the risk to New Orleans, most residents had little fear that the city would be badly impacted. One approach to the threat of hurricanes along low-lying coasts is Zoning. This is when specific ‘at risk’ areas are set aside to be left undeveloped, while in other areas any development that is permitted is constructed and designed to cope with the hazards. In the USA such building codes are well developed for both the public and private sectors.

In New Orleans the situation meant that flooding was so severe that even the strict building codes did little to reduce the impact. In the Aftermath some people have suggested that the city should not be rebuilt on such ad dangerous site. Others have suggested that the worst affected areas should not be redeveloped bu that a smaller population should be catered for and flood-prone regions given low risk land uses such a parkland or sports pitches. The levees and defences along the Mississippi and canals in New Orleans were built to withstand a hurricane up to a category 3, anything beyond that would cause flooding.

The cost and practicality of protecting the city and the rest of the region from the worst possible event is prohibitive. Currently the US Corps Of Engineers, who have the task of rebuilding New Orleans defences, is restoring them to their previous height while the city’s mayor wants them raised and improved to deal with category 5 hurricanes. Most households in New Orleans could not afford the insurance premiums required to cover hurricane damage and this explains why in the hardest-hit, working class regions of the city many of the residents have chosen not to return.

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