Looking Back: 10 Things to Know About Hurricane Katrina
Katrina's Reach + Record-Setting Damage
Hurricane Katrina was one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever strike the United States. It was also the costliest. Katrina first caused fatalities and damage in southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane. Then, after reaching Category 5 intensity over the central Gulf of Mexico, Katrina weakened to Category 3 before making landfall on the northern Gulf coast. Even still, the damage and loss of life inflicted in Louisiana and Mississippi were staggering, with significant effects extending into the Florida panhandle, Georgia, and Alabama.
New Orleans, Underwater
About 80% of the city of New Orleans flooded to varying depths up to about 20 feet. The business district and main tourist centers were relatively undamaged, but vast sections of many New Orleans neighborhoods were inundated, making Katrina the largest residential disaster in U.S. history.
Lasting Flood Damage
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, all floodwaters had not been removed from the city of New Orleans until 43 days after Katrina’s landfall.
A Tornado Catalyst
A total of 43 reported tornadoes were spawned by Katrina. One tornado was reported in the Florida Keys, 20 in Georgia, 11 in Alabama, and 11 in Mississippi. The Georgia tornadoes were the most on record in that state for any single day in the month of August, and one of them caused the only August tornado fatality on record in Georgia.
The total number of fatalities known to be either directly or indirectly related to Katrina is 1,833, based on reports to date from state and local officials in five states: 1,577 fatalities in Louisiana, 238 in Mississippi, 14 in Florida, 2 in Georgia, and 2 in Alabama. The total number of fatalities directly related to the forces of Katrina is estimated to be about 1,500 spread across four states: about 1,300 in Louisiana, about 200 in Mississippi, 6 in Florida, and one in Georgia.
Worst for Older Citizens
Louisiana also reports that persons of more than 60 years of age constituted the majority of the Katrina-related fatalities among its residents.
One of the Deadliest Hurricanes
If the assumption is correct that most of the Katrina-related fatalities were caused directly by the storm, then Katrina actually ranks as the third deadliest hurricane in the United States since 1900, and the deadliest in 77 years. However, two hurricanes in 1893 might each have been directly responsible for more fatalities in the United States than Katrina. (One struck the southeastern Louisiana barrier island of Cheniere Caminada and killed about 2,000 people, while the other struck Georgia and South Carolina and claimed somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 lives.)
The Monetary Damage
According to FEMA, the total damage for Katrina is estimated at $108 billion, making Katrina the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. It caused more than three times the total monetary damage of Hurricane Ike (in 2008), the second costliest U.S. hurricane, and about four times the monetary damage of Hurricane Andrew (in 1992).
Millions without Electricity
Combining all of the areas it impacted, Katrina left about three million people without electricity, some for several weeks.
Data provided by FEMA indicate that over 1.2 million people along the northern Gulf coast from southeastern Louisiana to Alabama were under some type of evacuation order, but it is not clear how many people actually evacuated. Many displaced residents moved either temporarily or permanently to other areas in the United States; A large number of these people might never return to live in their pre-Katrina homes or cities.