Hurricane Katrina’s Effect on the Socioeconomic Status of Victims
Each year, countries around the world experience natural calamities such as flooding, fires, typhoons, earthquakes and many others. For a country like the United States of America, it seems that it can recover immediately from any destructive events. But when Hurricane Katrina hit the American territory, the whole country was taken by surprise. Damages amounted to millions and many people died in this event. Despite the preventive measures and preparations done in anticipation to this calamity, the Hurricane Katrina still had negative impacts on people and environment. This paper will discuss the negative effect of Hurricane Katrina on the socioeconomic status of the victims.
Hurricane Katrina released its wrath from August 23 until the end of the month. The highest winds were measured to be 175mph (280 km/h). Among the other hurricanes that were recorded, Hurricane Katrina ranked 6th as the strongest Atlantic hurricane and ranked 3rd as the strongest landfalling hurricane. It was considered as the most deadly and costly hurricane of all, with an estimated damage amounting to $81.2 billion. On September 4, 2005, the insured damage reached $10-25 billion. CNN reported two days before that more than $100 billion was recorded as damages in New Orleans alone (NOLA, 2008).
The hurricane started on August 23, 2005 over the Bahamas and traveled towards the United States. It was a Category 1 hurricane when it hit southern Florida, leaving dead people and flooding in its wake. As it reached the Gulf of Mexico, it got stronger, and was recorded as the strongest hurricane while at sea. It weakened before its second and third landfalls as a Category 3 storm in southeast Louisiana and at the border of Louisiana and Mississippi (NOLA, 2008).
Katrina wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast, affecting areas such as Waveland and Biloxi/Gulfport in Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; other towns in Louisiana, and; New Orleans. It destroyed the levees that separated Lake Pontchartrain and other canals from New Orleans. This caused flooding in 80% of the city and the neighboring areas for weeks. On midday on September 1, 2005, the floodwater equalized with the lake level. In addition, the wind was also damaging in inland areas (NOLA, 2008). Among the states that Hurricane Katrina struck, New Orleans, Mississippi and Louisiana were the most affected. Hurricane Katrina was enormous, destroying the Gulf Coast and the surrounding areas 100 miles from the storm’s center. The number of people who died reached 1,836. Victims have reported that they have seen corpses lying around or carried by flood during the hurricane.
Effects of Hurricane Katrina
Along with properties and livelihood that Katrina destroyed, a number of lives were also lost. Undeniably, the Hurricane Katrina left the state in such a pity and sorry situation. Countless evacuees suffered from hunger, irritation, and most of them have been scared for their lives. Some of the victims were stranded on the rooftop of their broken houses. Rescuers later found areas where corpses had been stranded wherein tons of debris must be removed in order to retrieve the remains of the victims. Houses were either blown away during the storm or submerged in water. Indeed, no one was spared from the destruction. After Hurricane Katrina, victims were left with no houses, no money, no food, no job, and no education. Only the unknown future was left for them.
The situation is perhaps worsened by the fact that the socioeconomic status of the victims was further aggravated by Hurricane Katrina. For instance, New Orleans is segregated by race, ethnicity and class. Majority of the victims, particularly the African Americans, who were unable to evacuate before the hurricane arrived, were unable to evacuate because of their low economic status. African Americans were “depicted by their racial and ethnic minority status” (Schinke and Hanrahan, 2009, p. 106).
Victims have felt vulnerable because they lost everything. They were stressed, and the confusion around them made them even more susceptible. Moreover, the past storms have planted fears in their hearts, and Katrina havoc further caused their fears to resurface.
Many black people from New Orleans thought that their low socioeconomic status slowed the government in rescuing them just because they were poor and black (Saad, 2005). Most of the people have thought that during the time of devastation, they received incompetent response from the local, state and federal governments. Televised footages of the flooded and affected areas showed poor people trapped in flooded cities and refused to escape to other towns (Kincheloe and Steinberg, 2007).
The poor people were even more vulnerable because they lived in areas that were at risk of flooding and they did not have the means to evacuate. These factors will have negative impacts on their recovery. Moreover, when people are helpless, hopeless and do not have the basic resources, they will feel that they do not have control over their lives. These things might cause them to have permanent trauma.
Shortly after the disaster, the negative effects of Katrina took its toll on the victims. There were reports of victims who were traumatized and hospitalized because of different diagnosis ranging from simple illnesses to serious mental health problems. For instance, the year 2006 saw a lot of cases pertaining to mental health problems of Katrina’s victims. These cases range from suicide, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other health-related problems. Half a million residents were estimated to be in need of mental health care (Sun Herald, 2006). Though some victims kept themselves busy as a way to treat and distract themselves from the tragedy, they sometimes found it hard to talk during counseling. The worst cases came from those people who committed suicide as effect of post-Hurricane Katrina trauma.
Hurricane Katrina was one of the strongest hurricanes recorded in the history of the United States. It was also the most fatal and costly hurricane ever encountered, creating havoc in the cities and killing a large number of people. Moreover, Katrina affected the socioeconomic status of the victims, especially those who were already impoverished even before the disaster. These people were unable to evacuate because they did not have the means to transfer, or could not afford leaving their few possessions in the city. With all negativities left imparted by the disaster on the city and on the people, Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath will forever be engraved in the minds of the survivors.
Kincheloe, J.L. and S.R. Steinberg. (2007). Cutting class: Socioeconomic status and education. North America: Rowman & Littlefield.
NOLA. (2008). Hurricane Katrina struck. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.nola.com/katrina/archive.ssf
Saad, Lydia. (2005). Blacks blast Bush for Katrina response. In The Gallup Poll, Public Opinion 2005 (pp.341-344). North America: Rowman & Littlefield.
Schinke, R. J., & Hanrahan, S. (Eds.) Cultural sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Sun Herald. (2006, August 20). Mental health problems abound a year after Katrina. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.sunherald.com/212/story/22551.html