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08/09 - Historical Katrina Facts

1998 onward:

“…the lack of effective transportation for up to 100,000 residents of the [New Orleans] area, raised its head in every exercise, presentation and meeting where evacuation was discussed.” (Dr. Walter Maestri, Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Director)


FEMA identifies a super-strength hurricane hitting NO as the second most likely disaster facing the country [behind a terrorist attack]

2001 :

Scientific America article describes effects of major storm hitting NO


Times-Picayune runs series on how vulnerable NO would be to major hurricane


National Geo predicted 80% flooding and 200,000 left behind in event of major storm


Hurricane Pam exercise simulated effects of Category 3 storm; over-topped levees and thousands left behind


In the largest urban evacuation up to that time, more than 1 million people leave the New Orleans area prior to Katrina landfall


The hurricane protection system for New Orleans includes levees and floodwalls to hold back the high water from a storm surge; it failed catastrophically at more than 50 different locations during Hurricane Katrina


After New Orleans flooded, the US Dept. of Transportation (DOT) coordinated the emergency evacuation of more than 66,000 citizens from the city


FEMA declared 90K sq mi of Gulf Coast to be directly impacted by Katrina [area almost as big as UK]


Katrina, a Category 3 storm at landfall, resulted in 1.2 million homeowner claims and 500,000 commercial claims


Katrina represented the insurance industry’s single largest insured loss ever. Companies paid $41 billion in property losses, and the government’s flood insurance program paid an additional $18 billion


7,500 troops from four states were on the ground within 24 hours of when Katrina made landfall (Robbins 2005). As of August 27, the Louisiana National Guard had called up almost 3,500 of its members to active duty. By September 9, more than 50,000 Guardsmen had been deployed

2005 onward:

Congress has appropriated about $26.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds to help the Gulf Coast recover from four major storms - Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav


White House publishes “The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned”


Congress passes the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act to re-organize the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA


Nearly 2 million citizens evacuated from at-risk parishes prior to Gustav


Fraud: Among the hundreds of thousands of people who have received financial assistance or insurance payouts in the three years since Katrina, 907 individuals in 43 federal jurisdictions in 25 states have been indicted for fraud


the metro NO area reached 88.1 percent of its pre-storm population

2009 [Jan.]:

121,083 applicants had received Road Home grants averaging $62,748. Of the nearly $9.4 billion allocated for the Road Home program, $7.6 billion has been disbursed


Metro New Orleans rents are 52 percent higher than pre-Katrina. HUD estimates a one-bedroom apartment in the region will rent for $881, up from $578 in 2005


The Army Corps flood risk maps suggest that many parts of the city remain at risk of six to eight feet of flooding from a major storm

FEMA Facts, as of July, 2009:

$9.5 billion

Total FEMA has already spent in Mississippi. This is up approximately $500 million since 2008.

$3 billion

FEMA obligated funds for infrastructure repair and replacement, debris removal, and emergency protective measures.

$2.6 billion

Amount paid by FEMA to 19,999 policyholders for flood claims through its National Flood Insurance Program.

$1.3 billion

Given to 274,761 Mississippi households to pay for rent, repair or Other Needs Assistance through the Individuals and Households Programs.

$893 million

Obligated for public utilities.

$293 million

Slated for Mississippi through FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to take actions to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property form natural hazards and their effects. Administered by MEMA.

$252 million

Obligated funds to public schools (K-12) in the lower six counties.

$199 million

Approved funding for 279 HMGP projects throughout Mississippi.

$175 million

Obligated for the repair of ball fields, community centers, cemeteries, beaches and other recreational facilities.

$100 million

Obligated for the repair and rebuilding of historical significant buildings.

$97 million

Obligated for roads and bridges.

$19 million

Obligated to replace patrol cars and police equipment.


Mississippians registered for assistance through the FEMA toll-free number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for speech- or hearing-impaired applicants or online at www.fema.gov.


Volunteers who have come from 1000 organizations to help Mississippians in need.


The number of cubic yards of marine debris cleared in Hancock and Harrison counties to complete the debris removal mission in Mississippi, bringing the total debris removed to 46 million cubic yards.


Mississippians who now have flood insurance. This is approximately double the policies in effect since just before Hurricane Katrina.


The number of Public Assistance project worksheets. A project worksheet is a dynamic record of each project and is used to collect information and provide justification for the project.


Completed saferoom-storm shelters.


The number of temporary housing units currently occupied. This represents a 99 percent decrease from the all-time high of approximately 43,000 occupied units.

[source: FEMA, Aug 25, 2009]

Why did the levees break?

The following is from the Executive Summary of “The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why : a Report by the American Society of Civil Engineers Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel”

“There were two direct causes of the levee breaches: collapse of several levees with concrete floodwalls (called I-walls) because of the way they were designed, and overtopping, where water poured over the tops of the levees and floodwalls and eroded the structures away. Furthermore, the many existing pump stations that could have helped remove floodwaters were inoperable during and after the storm.

The I-walls failed because the margin of safety used in the design process was too low — especially considering that the hurricane protection system was a critical life-safety structure. The engineering design did not account for the variability in the strength of soft soils beneath and adjacent to the levees. The designers failed to take into account a water-filled gap that developed behind the I-walls as they bowed outward from the forces exerted by the floodwaters.

Some overtopping of levees is to be expected in a major storm. However, the levees were not armored or protected against erosion — an engineering choice of catastrophic consequences because this allowed the levees, some constructed of highly erodible soil, to be scoured away, allowing water to pour into New Orleans.


In addition to these direct causes of the levee breaches, a number of other factors also contributed to the catastrophe:

Over 1,800 deaths have been attributed to Katrina. There may never be a final, accurate count.

More Katrina Facts

Louisiana hosted 42% of all evacuees

Mississippi hosted 20%

38% were dispersed to other states

Nearly 80% of those displaced out of Louisiana were from Orleans/Jefferson Parishes

About half of those displaced still want to return to Louisiana

Biggest obstacles to return: lack of money; affordable housing

In the wake of Katrina, major insurance companies reduced their exposure to hurricanes by sharply raising premiums, adjusting the insured value of homes, and declining to insure some coastal properties.

Louisiana’s wetlands, an essential line of defense against hurricane storm surge, were reduced by 1,875 square miles in the last century and are projected to lose an additional 673 square miles by 2050. [CWPPRA: A Response to Louisiana’s Land Loss at www.lacoast.gov]

More Web Links

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals created the Louisiana Family Assistance Center to reunite missing people with their families. The Center officially closed August 14, 2006, and transferred all the missing persons cases to local law enforcement agencies in their respective jurisdictions.

The Earth Institute is attempting to document all those who died as a result of the Hurricane and its extended aftermath and we need your help. http://www.katrinalist.columbia.edu/stats.php

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