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Hurricane Katrina MEDC
Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana on the 25th of August 2005. Although by the
time Katrina made landfall it had weakened slightly from a category 5 to a category 4 hurricane, its effects
were devastating. The storm killed 1422 people, of whom 1104 were in Louisiana. 350000 people were
evacuated and the damage $75 billion made Katrina the costliest natural disaster in US history. A storm
surge flooded 80% of New Orleans and was responsible for most of the deaths.
Caribbean coastlines, the US Gulf Coast in particular, are used to the impacts of hurricanes. This region is
one of the world's main hurricane zones, along with the Indian Ocean, the West Pacific and North Eastern
Australia. 2004 was reckoned to have been the worst hurricane season in the Caribbean in a series of bad
years, but even this was superseded by 2005's events. The 14 hurricanes in the Atlantic region that year
including the category 5 Katrina/Rita/Wilma trio broke records, but only time will tell whether this is a
function of global warming, natural climatic fluctuations or sheer chance, though it would be sensible for US
government policies to assume the first and react accordingly.
11-12 million people living in costal counties along the Gulf of Mexico, between Florida and
Louisiana. Several large metropolitan areas are also situated along the Gulf Coast where overall
population densities are more than twice the US average. The populations in these areas are still
Loss of wetlands in the Mississippi delta made flooding caused by the storm surge worse. Over the
years large areas of wetlands and salt marsh have become open water. In the past these wetlands
acted as a buffer, absorbing water and giving protection against storm surges and flooding. The
main cause of wetland loss is due to the extraction of natural gas.
The levee system is also significant. While it allowed farms and industries to expand into the delta it
prevented the Mississippi River from flooding, starving the delta of new sediment that would raise
the level of the land on the surface.
The hurricane inflicted most damage on poorer neighbourhoods with high rates of unemployment
and a high proportion of people renting their homes. Most of these people would have neither
home insurance nor the money to return and rebuild. In any case, surveys conducted in December
2005 indicated that about 50% of the half million evacuees were unwilling to return to their homes.
In part this may be because of the sense of danger, which will probably recede as the memory of
Katrina slowly fades, but it is also due to some evacuees discovering that they prefer to live in the
areas to which they were evacuated.
Before the hurricane, New Orleans had a population of 460,000, the majority African Americans. It
has been estimated that the city could lose 80% of its black population following the destruction
caused by Hurricane Katrina.
At least 236 people died in Mississippi as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Here the storm surge was at
its highest and it struck with such ferocity that entire coastal communities were destroyed.
The storm surge reached nearly 9 metres and penetrated over 10 km inland. 109,000 people were
made homeless. The state's agricultural, forestry and fishing industries all suffered extensive
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At least two years' worth of timber was destroyed (worth £1 billion)
- 300 out of the state's 9,000 poultry houses were destroyed and another 2,400 were damaged.
- Over 8 million poultry were killed and the value of the poultry industry fell by 6%.
- The state's dairy industry suffered losses exceeding £6 million.
- 20% of the expected rice and maize harvests was thought lost.
By February 2006 the government had spent over £700 million in Mississippi.…read more