Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans
On the 29th of August, New Orleans was put on shock as a category four hurricane hit the city - Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans introduction. Its wind was over 130 mph and it was tailed by a major ocean storm surge. Hurricane Katrina literally swept everything off its feet. Its intense strength almost laid the whole city into ruins. This brought great trauma and scarred the lives of the people in New Orleans in many ways, proving how much nature can build and destroy the lives of men. Like an innocent infant, it started small and grew to an enormous dilemma faced by the whole of United States.
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Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans
On the 29th of August, New Orleans was put in shock when a category four hurricane hit the city. Its wind was over 130 mph and it was tailed by a major ocean storm surge. New Orleans, which was said to be over 10 feet below sea level, was immediately immersed in flood of about 20 inches deep. Katrina, a massive hurricane orphaned many families of love ones, leveled homes, and destroyed everything in its path (“Mapping the Destruction: Hurricane Katrina In-Depth”). This great disaster has left a scar not only in the hearts of the city, but also in the hearts of the people of New Orleans.
New Orleans is a low-lying city in the South with only the huge levees separating it from its neighbor, the great Mississippi River. Because of numerous other rivers and swamps surrounding it, the city easily floods up and is only drained through engineered water control devices. It is also prone to landslide because of the soft soil quality. Although New Orleans has some commercial advantages, its environmental characteristics hindered its ability cope with the necessary precautions for incoming natural disasters (Colten 1-2).
Hurricane Katrina was one of these natural disasters. It was the strongest hurricane that hit New Orleans, even stronger than Hurricane Camille of 1969 (“Weather Message… Devastating Damage Expected”). It started as a tropical depression lurking on the areas of the Bahamas. Then on the 24th of August, it has strengthened and became a tropical storm that eventually grew stronger and was already a full-blown hurricane when it made a landfall on Louisiana (Hoffman 8).
Before the hurricane has hit the city, there was a forewarning from the National Weather Service of New Orleans that it was going to be a very intense hurricane that may leave the city uninhabited for weeks and may break down walls and roofs of many houses. Even high-rise buildings may collapse and low rise building may be completely destroyed. There may be a power outage that may last for weeks and people were advised to stay indoors at the onset of the storm (“Weather Message… Devastating Damage Expected”).
With this, the events that were ensued by the onset of the hurricane were something that may be considered as expected. Many residents of the city were seen on rooftops waiting for rescue while most of their properties were being carried away by the wind and the flood. There had been no other means to save the city and the aftermath was indeed devastating as it almost amounted to 300 million USD worth of damages on structures, utility, highway, and many others (Burton 1), and the major devastation was that it killed over 1,600 people (Hoffman 19).
Damage to Property
The official warning issued by the National Weather Service already spoke of the damages that the landfall of Katrina will entail but it seemed only a rough estimate as the whole city was almost completely destroyed. For many years, New Orleans has been trying to prevent or lessen the possibility of this kind of devastation but for the last three decades, they have been unsuccessful. The levees that were built for these purposes only continually increased its height but not its effectiveness as a flood and hurricane protection for the city. Even the improved drainage systems and dried out mucky areas were not sufficient to allow the city to withstand enormous natural calamities as that of Hurricane Katrina. The continuous building of levees surrounding the city only turned New Orleans into a bowl halfway below ocean level. When Katrina finally set in, a side of the bowl collapsed and water started to fill the entire area (Kates et al 2).
It destroyed communication infrastructures, that made information exchange difficult and responses for help almost impossible. There had been little coordination and thus rescue operations and evacuations have been less if not none at all. In addition, it has caused over 57 million USD worth of destruction on commercial structures and equipment, and has also damaged and destroyed some 310,000 homes and apartments units leaving 141,000 people sheltered by the Red Cross for three months. There had been more than a million USD worth of sewer damages and more than three million worth of highway damages. The electric utility damages were estimated to have reached about 230,000 worth. These damages still do not include the probable ports and railways damages the city has procured from the catastrophe yet they are already in great losses among themselves (Burton 6).
Damages to Morale
The almost complete devastation of the city has left many of its original residents homeless and unemployed. It resulted to a great decline of about 230,000 on job opportunities. Even those who are working long-term had shaky futures in their jobs, because of the impacts of the hurricane and the slow-paced rebuilding of the city continued to be a factor on the employment rate in the city of New Orleans (Holzer and Lerman 3).
Although funds were given out by the government and support from different corporations were promised to start the re-commercialization of the city, months have passed and yet not more than a third of the pre-Katrina population has returned to the city. Some of the agencies who promised to help found reasons such as instability of levees to withdraw their support. They also claimed that the city sank deeper than expected and thus adjustments on the initial rehabilitation plan should be made. These grounds left the city’s rebuilding on the hands of the original residents and businessmen, making the process slower than what was promised (Daniels et al 16-17).
Damage to Families
As the city was left with most infrastructures down, the families, especially the property-owning families were left with more than a damaged home but a damaged lifestyle. Laurie Vignaud was born in New Orleans and was a worker in Liberty Bank. In this job, she initiated the development of Delery Square in Lower 9th ward and built affordable homes for the poor and segregated communities. Through these projects, she was able to buy two cars one of them a Lexus and a beautiful house at Granada Drive. When Hurricane Katrina arrived everything was washed away (Daniels 17-19).
The same thing happened with Laurie’s father Leroy Vignaud. He used to be a simple restorer who earned enough to be able to get to higher status. He was able to move his family to a big house and give his daughter a debutante party on her 18th birthday. He owned five income-generating properties for retirement. As what happened to the assets and projects of her daughter, three of his five properties were damaged beyond reparable (Daniels 17-19).
Out of property and assets after the great storm, the Vignaud’s now reside in a three-room apartment in a Houston senior centre. Leroy stays at home watching TV while Laurie contemplates on their losses. Her Granado home is still flooded and filled with molds. Her father’s supposed earnings are irretrievable, and only a third of the previous number of clients in the bank she’s working in has returned (Daniels 17-19).
From their previous good life, this family was back from where they started. From restoring the old homes and dilapidated structures, they are now to restore and improve homes and communities that were hit by the biggest catastrophe in the history of their city. Katrina has taken from them a large part of their lives and completely twisted the way they live.
But the damage to families not only sits on the loss of properties, assets, and changes in lifestyle but more especially on the loss of lives of the members of the family. There were more than 1600 dead people after the hit and about a thousand more missing. Corpses were exposed to the survivors and with this exposure and loss is trauma and possible development of psychological disorders. In two studies presented at Population Association of America, it has been found that alcohol drinking or alcohol abuse increased due to the trauma and stress that the people of New Orleans developed from the experience of the huge hurricane. They have also discovered that many of the survivors have developed PTSD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder because of the exposure to the dead and dying, personal threats to life, and massive destruction (Bailey).
As may be seen on the given damages brought by Hurricane Katrina to the City of New Orleans it may be told that it has punched a deep hole in the whole of Louisiana. As it destroyed thousands of lives, millions of dollars worth of public and private assets, and almost sank an entire city it may be considered as one of the biggest catastrophe the United States has met. As compared to other tragedies that hit the said country like the Chicago fire of 1871 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Katrina had a more long lasting effect as it traumatized the entire city causing reluctance and doubt for return and re-inhabitation. Since it is a vague prospect for investors to come and do business in a city that lays in ruins, the planned rehabilitation of the city may also be postponed (Daniels et al 19-20). The destruction of numerous infrastructures is also grounds for the slow down of the reconstruction plan as priority building becomes a problem. The authorities are torn between constructing first the most necessary buildings. Although simultaneous rebuilding of infrastructures may be done, it may be too costly and dangerous for the soil foundation in the New Orleans (Weiss 6).
For these reasons, the rebuilding or reconstruction of the city is postponed and as long as this lasts so may the rise of New Orleans as great city again. It may be suffice to say that the place may not repopulate if opportunities for employment and income would be available again soon. Thus, the “rebirth” of New Orleans from what seemed to be a killing experience done by Hurricane Katrina may be said to rely on personal decisions of previous inhabitants to return to the city (Daniels et al 20).
It may therefore be said that the catastrophe, Hurricane Katrina left a huge scar not only on the heart of the city of New Orleans but in the hearts of all its inhabitants. It had been an underestimated natural calamity that has caused millions of dollars worth of property and asset destruction. With its strong winds and ocean storm surge, it has drowned and killed thousands of people, children, women, and the aged. It has brought great trauma on those who survived and pain to those who lost. It also caused great changes in the lives of the inhabitants of New Orleans. From living in a largely commercial city, they have awakened in what seemed to be a sunken city in the middle of rivers and swamps.
Although New Orleans is naturally situated near bays, normally flooded and has been faced with many other hurricanes, the events on the onset of Katrina may be considered as expected yet underestimated and under-prepared for. The people seemed to have been taken by surprise despite the warnings they have received from the Weather Bureau. To some, it was a failure on the part of the government as they have known of the intensity yet did not exert enough efforts to evacuate even half of the residents of the city. The aftermath of this failure is death to many and death without dying in the sense that others have lost all of their life’s investments, savings and even their reasons to live.
This and the many other devastations that tailed the entry of Katrina in the city of New Orleans only proves how much nature can be very cruel to humans. Although it may be predicted, it can play a trick on people and strike in reckless abandon, all forewarnings and precautions disregarded. It also points that natural calamities may not only lay a great city into ruins but also the lives of men, whether they live in the city where it struck or they bear witness to the traumatic scenery left behind.
Bailey, Laura. 2008. “Alcohol Abuse Increases After Hurricane Katrina; Large Burden Of Post-Traumatic Stress In Population.” University of Michigan News Service. 27 November, 2008 <http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=6491>.
Burton, Mark L. Hurricane Katrina: Preliminary Estimates of Commercial and Public Sector Damages. Huntington, West Virginia: Center for Business and Economic Research Marshal University, 2005.
Colten, Craig E. An Unnatural Metropolis. Louisiana: LSU Press, 2006.
Daniels, Ronald Joel, Donald, Kettle F., Kunreuther, Howard, Gutman, Amy, On Risk and Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. USA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.
Hoffman, Mary Ann. Hurricane Katrina. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2006.
Kates, R.W., Colten, C.E., Laska S., and Leatherman, S.P., Reconstruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: A research perspective (2006). PNAS 103(40).
“Mapping the Destruction: Hurricane Katrina In-Depth.” 2008. BBC News. 26 November 2008 from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/americas/05/katrina/html/default.stm>.
“Weather Message… Devastating Damage Expected.” 2005. National Weather Service Southern Region. 26 November 2008 <http://www.srh.noaa.gov/data/warn_archive/LIX/NPW/0828_155101.txt >.
Weiss, Eric N. 2006. Rebuilding Housing after Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned and Unresolved Issues. Congressional Research Service. 26 November 2008 < opencrs.com/rpts/RL33761_20061219.pdf>.