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10 Years Later: Has New Orleans Finally Recovered from Hurricane Katrina?

Updated on July 20, 2015

August 29th, 2005- On this day, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina, will be in the mists of her 10 year anniversary. She put New Orleans in her cross-hairs, and brought the city to it's knees with all her might, along with fury. The scars of the fatal August day have mostly faded away, but New Orleans will never forget the mass destruction Katrina brought us.

Those who endured the horrible aftermath of Katrina get chills up their spines even reminiscing back to that fateful day. As a local resident of the New Orleans area my entire life, I can tell you, everyone who experienced the storm has their own story, not one story is the same, but all the stories are similar. New Orleans has been around for almost 3 centuries, but in a matter of just a few hours, Katrina destroyed it.

Background

Hurricane Katrina had no sympathy when she made landfall 10 years ago. She was born as Tropical Depression 12 on August 23rd over the Bahamas, but wasted no time becoming a Tropical Storm the next day.

She had her sights set on the Florida Coast, upgrading to hurricane status hours before she made her first landfall on August 25th. Katrina briefly passed over Florida, then found her way back into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, once again gaining strength to a Category 3 hurricane on the 27th of August.

In just 9 short hours, Hurricane Katrina went from a Category 3 storm, to a truly scary Category 5 hurricane on August 28th. Now producing winds of or over 175MPH, she was the strongest recorded Hurricane the Gulf of Mexico had ever seen. Katrina weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with sustained 125MPH hurricane-force winds extending over a distance of 120 miles.

She made her second landfall on August 29th near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. Katrina moved over southeastern Louisiana and made her third landfall near the Louisiana–Mississippi border with 120 mph sustained winds, but still at Category 3 intensity. Katrina kept her strength well into Mississippi, but finally lost her hurricane statues 150 miles inland.

Devastation

Katrina came ready to deliver her knockout punch to Mississippi and Louisiana, producing the highest ever recorded storm surge off an U.S. coast in history, an astonishing 27.8 ft. This surge was the cause of 53 levee breaches protecting the New Orleans Metropolitan area, with the most devastating breaches occurring at the 17th Street Canal, Industrial Canal, and the London Avenue Canal.

The levee breaches are credited with being the worst engineering disasters in the history of the United States. On August 31, 2005 80% of New Orleans was under water, with some parts being under 15 feet of water.

All the pumping stations in New Orleans were either completely submerged under water, or unable to start pumping the flood waters out of the city due to lack of electricity, no fuel to run the pumps, and some stations were abandoned by their employees.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Clean water was unavailable throughout the city and electricity was gone. Delayed evacuation efforts caused many hospitals, and refugee centers, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, to run out of clean water, fuel, and food. This turned a bad situation into a unimaginable disaster on a scale never witnessed before.

The health effects caused by the flooding were tremendous. Polluted water, dead bodies, dehydration, food-poising, hepatitis A, cholera, tuberculous, and typhoid fever were potential major health risks a person faced in the aftermath.

Communication failures began occurring in New Orleans as soon as the flood waters poured in. Power stations, cell phone towers, and internet access were destroyed, along with line breaks, delaying rescue efforts from inaccurate information reaching public officials.

Aftermath

Five days after Katrina left her mark, mass chaos erupted in New Orleans. An estimated 50,000 to upwards of 100,000 people were awaiting rescue all over the city. Reports started to flow into media outlets of widespread looting, murder, rape, and shootings occurring all over the city, describing New Orleans as,

"Hell on Earth"

On August 31, 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared martial law in the city, and reassigned 1500 New Orleans police officers from search and rescue missions to halt widespread reports of crime taking place.News outlets fueled the chaos, and anxiety by faulty reporting.

Rumors flowed in stating upwards to 10,000 residents had perished during the storm, along with the false reports outlining gangs of armored thugs roaming New Orleans raping, and murdering at every opportunity. The New Orleans Prison was open for business days after the storm, an article appearing in The Times Picayune reported this:

State officials have set up a temporary booking and detention center in New Orleans to deal with those accused of killing, raping, looting and otherwise terrorizing the tens of thousands of people who were trapped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and awaiting evacuation…It has capacity of 750 people, and is the start of rebuilding and relocating the criminal justice system of New Orleans, officials said. "We are in business," said Louisiana Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder. (Filosa 2005)

Many New Orleans city officials confirmed countless false reports, leaving the impression that they were in fact, the truth. New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, was quoted saying,

"They have people standing out there, have been in that frickin' superdome for five days, watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

Fact checking breaking news reports was difficult during the aftermath, with bad communication systems set in place or destroyed, the United States was bombarded with lie after lie.

American University communications professor, W. Joseph Campbell faults the circumstances of the situation to the crappy reporting going on. "I think that blaming the circumstances strikes me as passing the buck a bit," he said. "Reporters are out there often in very trying circumstances to cover the story as best as they can, but to seize upon wild estimates or guesstimates and then go with those and then present a picture, as was presented of New Orleans of mayhem in the streets, or in the Superdome, does a major disservice to the public and the profession. Journalism deserves better."

The New York Times reported that the real or rumored accounts of criminal violence and mayhem changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, grounded helicopters and led police officers to quit their jobs.

Professor Campbell says this is the danger from what he called, "sloppy reporting, journalists have lived for decades with breaking news, and deadline reporting and it's just a question of whether you can treat it cautiously or you want to go winging it . And I think there was a lot of winging it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans"


On August 31st, 2005 Governor Kathleen Blanco announced that everyone in New Orleans must be evacuated due to water still rising, and the worsting condition of the city. Mayor Ray Nagin estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people still remained trapped in the city. Rescue efforts were still being delayed, caused by rescuers not being able to communicate with one another.

FEMA organized 478 buses to bring all 23,000 evacuees from the Louisiana Superdome, to the Houston Astrodome on August 31st, 2005. Thousands of people were still without food, or water at the New Orleans Convention Center. Governor, Kathleen Blanco had her doubts, and took matters into her own hands.

"All I know is on Wednesday night I was convinced that there were no FEMA buses. I began to believe that no buses had been ordered. We were moving school buses in. But they're designed for short hauls."

The dire situation in New Orleans didn't start to see any improvements with the rescue effort until September 3rd, the 6th day. NOLA saw the arrival of General Russel L. Honoré, and the 4,600 active duty troops he brought along for the ride, including the Army's 82nd Airborne division and the 1st Cavalry Division.

"Our number one task is to deal with the concentration of people in New Orleans as well as those that are isolated, and we're gonna get after it, and um, I know it is frustrating. We all feel it, we are right here, and these are Americans. These are our people.This is the purpose for which we were formed as an army to protect our nation and our people. This is what we are committed to. We all raised our right hands to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies."

— General Russel Honoré

An estimated 25,000 angry and exhausted people are were still at the Convention Center; buses begin arriving to evacuate them. New Orleans residents were also still trapped by the flood waters, and dispatchers were receiving about 1,000 emergency phone calls from people needing to be rescued every day.

On Sunday, September 4th, The Times-Picayune reported that the Convention Center evacuees are still being loaded onto buses and evacuated and search-and-rescue operations continue. The Convention Center becomes a destination for walk-in refugees seeking evacuation.

About 2,000 medical evacuees remain at Louis Armstrong Airport, which has become a staging area for responders and injured refugees. There are still gangs of armed criminals roaming the city; police and National Guard, now numbered at 16,000, have a better handle on the situation than earlier in the week.

FEMA Update Monday, September 5th: "A week after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans ... state officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say once the canal level is drawn down two feet, Pumping Station 6 can begin pumping water out of the bowl-shaped city. Some parts of the city already showed slipping floodwaters as the repair neared completion, with the low-lying Ninth Ward dropping more than a foot. In downtown New Orleans, some streets were merely wet rather than swamped. … Since many New Orleans streets are still filled with stagnant, fetid waters smelling of garbage and raw sewage, the military was considering using planes to spray for mosquitoes."

The Times-Picayune reports that Jefferson Parish residents are allowed to return to the area to inspect the damage to their homes.The breach in the 17th Street Canal is finally repaired, and engineers continue to work on other levee breaks.

Some electrical substations serving downtown New Orleans are repaired, but Entergy, the local energy utitlity, must first ensure that buildings can receive the electricity safely before the power is restored.

Over 1 million people of the Gulf Coast were affected by Hurricane Katrina. Most displaced families returned to their homes within weeks after the storm, but upwards of 600,000 families were still displaced a month after the disaster. FEMA trailers housed around 114,000 households, along with evacuation shelters housing 273,000 people in the first weeks after Katrina made landfall.

In total, 134,000 housing units, 70% of all occupied units, suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina and her flooding. Along with the total estimate damage for Katrina is $108 billion. This makes it the "costliest hurricane in U.S. history."

Death Toll

Katrina claimed over 1,833 lives. Residents who ignored mandatory evacuation orders drowned in their own homes, or died from being trapped in their attics from the extreme August heat. Many people escaped the floods, but later died from not being evacuated, and stuck in a city under Marshall Law.

Some of the most tragic statics showed over half of the fatalities from the storm were from the elderly. The majority of the deaths occurred in Louisiana. According to FEMA, Katrina is, "the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history."

All fatalities indirect or direct:

  • Louisiana- 1,577
  • Mississippi- 238
  • Alabama- 2
  • Florida- 14
  • Georgia- 2
  • Deaths from drowning (40%)
  • Death caused by injury and trauma (25%)
  • Death resulting from heart conditions (11%)
  • Half of all victims were over the age of 74.

10 Years Later

From the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, and her destruction back in 2005, it was hard for any local to imagine what the fate of New Orleans had in store, rebuilding an entire historic city from ground up, seemed next to impossible to many.

But those of you who have never been to New Orleans, need to know one thing about the people of Louisiana, we cherish our home, and families above all else. Katrina may have been able to take many of us away from New Orleans, but nothing can take the New Orleans out of us, the people who call this area home.

Residents trickled back into New Orleans weeks, months, and years after Katrina made her debut in 2005. Some locals never returned, and for good reasons. The city's population plummeted from more than 437,000 in July 2005 to 158,000 in June 2006, according to census estimates. Ten years since, and New Orleans is sill missing thousands of people who decided not to rebuild.

The extent of the devastation and lack of resources for rebuilding made the return home painfully slow for many residents.The first few years after the storm weren't easy by any means. Homes that were flooded, if you had 3 feet of water or 15, all had to be gutted out to the bone.

By the time the water finally receded, the walls of your home were covered in toxic mildew, along with everything you held close to you. Clothes, furniture, books, cars, anything in Katrina's path had to be tossed out. But residents didn't let that stop them from rebuilding, we stuck by one another through it all.

Hurricane Katrina gave New Orleans an unique opportunity, the chance to make our city a better one, post storm. New Orleans has more soul, and diversity since Hurricane Katrina.

Our sports teams have thrived since the storm, with the upgrading of The Louisiana Superdome, to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The New Orleans Saints have, without a doubt, played probably the biggest role in helping New Orleans reach it's full potential again.

After the hurricane, the Saints were without a permanent home stadium, playing the majority of their 05-06 season on road in Houston, along with LSU Tiger Stadium. Rumors of Saints owner, Tom Benson, wanting to permanently move the team to Houston, upset the entire city.

But fate was on our side, and the team returned to New Orleans for the 06-07 season, and defeated the Atalanta Falcons on September 25, 2006 for the first home opener since the storm. This was by far, the biggest moral boost, anybody or anything, could have given New Orleans at that time.

A few years later the New Orleans Saints brought home their first ever, Superbowl Champion victory, during the 09-10 season home to the people of New Orleans.

Nearly 10 years after, more than $336 million in property renovations for the Superdome, funded mostly by FEMA and the state, the Dome is higher-tech, fan-friendlier, and most important, significantly more revenue-generating for its tenant, and for the city. New Orleans has always been a major host for big sporting events but even more since post Katrina. A few big ones include the following:

  • 2008 and 2014 NBA All-Star Games
  • 2012 NCAA Men's Final Four
  • 2013 Super Bowl
  • 2013 NCAA Women's Final Four
  • Sugar Bowl
  • The PGA's Zurich Classic
  • BCS National Championship Game in 2008 and 2012
  • The Bayou Classic

While sports have played a significant role in helping New Orleans rebuild, other events, including a little thing called Mardi Gras, has showed the tourism industry that New Orleans is still the same ole party city it always was.

In Katrina's wake, many were skeptical about the city putting on Carnival for the World to enjoy. The city of New Orleans was basically bankrupt for the 2006 season, but Fat Tuesday in NOLA is like Christmas all over the world, it's something you don't miss, nor cancel.

Mardi Gras is essential to bringing in revenue for the city, and much to important to scrap, even for one year for the cities economic growth. Mardi Gras has rolled every year since that bitch Katrina came through.

Some of New Orleans's most impressive post storm statics show us that even though The Big Easy has always been a smaller city, it has continued to grow in size. Data provided by the Data Center Research showed us the following:

  • As of July 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau has estimated New Orleans’ population at 384,320, or 79 percent of its 2000 population of 484,674. The metro area, with 1,251,849 residents, has 94 percent of its 2000 population of 1,337,726.
  • As of June 2014, Valassis, Inc. data on households receiving mail indicates that more than half (38) of New Orleans’ 72 neighborhoods have recovered 90 percent of their June 2005 population, and 17 neighborhoods have more population than they did in June 2005.
  • New Orleans’ sales tax revenue for Jan-May 2014 was 22 percent higher than for the same months in 2005 pre-Katrina (despite the city’s smaller population today), and 41 percent higher than in 2009 at the depth of the Great Recession
  • The New Orleans metro has rebounded from the Great Recession impressively. As of 2014, the New Orleans metro had reached 4.8 percent above its 2008 recession-era employment level while the nation had reached just 1.4 percent above its 2008 job level.
  • Entrepreneurship in the New Orleans metro continues to expand, reaching 501 business startups per 100,000 adults in the three-year period ending in 2012 — a rate that exceeds the nation by 56 percent.
  • Bikeways and trails (including shared lanes) are growing exponentially in New Orleans. As of 2013, the city had 81.1 miles of bikeways as compared to the 10.7 miles that existed in 2004.
  • Single-family home sales in the New Orleans metro increased from 3,688 in the last six months of 2008 (at the depth of the Great Recession) to 5,605 during the same months of 2014, a sign of a strengthening housing market.

In recent years, New Orleans, has become, what some call, the "Hollywood of the South." The Non-Profit Film L.A. released a report in 2013 that showed Louisiana film overtook New York, along with Los Angeles as the film production capital of the World. The report stated the following:

"Louisiana's emergence as a film production center happened quickly, after just 10 years of investment in the film industry, the Pelican State surged ahead of California, the nation's one-time film production capital. Louisiana, which some have taken to calling 'Hollywood South,' is now outpacing the real Hollywood by a key measure of film production volume."

Louisiana adopted unique film tax credits back in 2002, and these have been in the works for more than a decade. Louisiana offers a 30% tax break to producers, this keeps them coming back.

Also, especially New Orleans, can be portrayed as different places all around the World during the filming of a motion picture or television series. The film industry offers more wages for Louisiana residents, and more businesses are being impacted by the spending, more spending here in Louisiana.

Notable films, and television productions filmed in NOLA over the past three years:

  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Treme
  • True Blood
  • Djanago Unchained
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • 22 Jump Street
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Hot tub Time Machine 2
  • American Horror Story: Coven;Freak Show
  • When The Game Stands Tall
  • True Detective Season 1
  • Jurassic World

You can see the entire list here:http://www.filmneworleans.org/for-the-local-community/filmed-in-new-orleans/filmography/

Final Thoughts

Everything that has happened to New Orleans, everything that the people who call New Orleans home have been through, and everything that the future holds in store for New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, has been nothing short of a miracle.

New Orleans didn't get to where she is today on her own, nor without accepting the millions of people who helped, and supported her through the cities roughest moment in history, to finally get back on her feet.

We held those accountable for their mistakes made during the commotion of Hurricane Katrina, like the Army Corps of Engineers for fucking up our levees, FEMA, along with Michael D. Brown for delayed rescue operations that cost innocent people their lives, our Federal Government, even some local state officials that have since been imprisoned, along with law enforcement officers who acted in misconduct during the mass chaos following the floods.

It's been 10 years, but in those 10 years, the scars of Hurricane Katrina are still present, maybe not as visible as they once were, but if you look in the rite places you will find them. We embrace what happened here, not in a literal sense of things, but more as a community of survivors, a community of Who Dats banded together by something so horrible, nobody should have to ever experience something like Katrina ever again.

Katrina 10 years later, 10 years since New Orleans has had a massive hurricane threaten us, another big one will come, it's inevitable but next time we will be ready. Until that time, Fuck You Katrina.

Do you love New Orleans?

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© 2015 nolamaddog

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    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub, Nolamaddog. It is great to see how strongly New Orleans has come back from the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. Hopefully the city, state, and country will maintain the infrastructures to protect New Orleans from future potential natural threats.

    • profile image

      marykalil@bellsouth 

      3 years ago

      Awsome article. Well written. Looking forward to the next article

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