Remembering Katrina 10 Years Later
Ten years ago, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were struck by one of the most devastating disasters in U.S. History. Many think of the hurricane as the reason for the destruction, but we must remember that this was not just a natural disaster. The failure of the federal levee system caused over 80% of the city to flood, and over 1,800 lives were lost.
In late August 2005, Katrina, moved in towards the Gulf Coast. Shortly after 10 a.m. on the 28th, the National Weather Service issued a warning that most of area would be unlivable, even deadly, for weeks.
Most people who could leave New Orleans did so. Many chose to stay and ride it out because they had already been through many hurricanes in their years living in New Orleans. Others simply didn't have the means to leave or anywhere else to go. Basically, if you had money, you left, if you were poor, you made due.
On the night of the 28th, when the hurricane was at the height of its power and the electricity had been knocked out, communications, even cellphones, were down and citizens had no way of knowing that at least 50 levees were about to break and flood the City shortly.
Hurricane Katrina mushroomed into one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to form in the Atlantic. The storm's strongest winds blew at about 175 miles an hour, making it a Category Five storm.
A timeline released by a Senate investigative panel shows 28 reports of levee failures the day Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. The information is at odds with contentions from Bush administration officials who say they didn't learn about the levee failures until the following day.
The following is a timeline of the breach in the levee's, according to NPR.
MONDAY, AUG. 29, 2005
8:30 a.m.: FEMA's regional office is informed that "a twenty-foot tidal surge… came up and breached the levee system in the canal."
9:08 a.m.: A brief from the Transportation Security Administration notes that the Industrial Canal levee has been breached. "There is heavy street flooding throughout Orleans, St. Bernard, and Jefferson parishes," the brief notes. A senior watch officer at the Homeland Security Operations Center receives the brief at 11:41 a.m.
9:14 a.m.: A flash flood warning from the National Weather service notes: "A levee breach occurred along the Industrial Canal… 3-8 feet of water is expected."
9:36 a.m.: FEMA coordinator Matthew Green e-mails FEMA's Michael Lowder, deputy director of response, that the Industrial Canal Levee has failed.
10 a.m.: Department of Homeland Security adviser Louis Dabdoub sends an e-mail to officials at Homeland Security and its main operation center. It reads: "It is getting bad. Major flooding in some parts of the city. People are calling in for rescue… The bad part has not hit here yet."
10:12 a.m.: Michael Heath, special assistant to then-FEMA chief Michael Brown, sends an e-mail to FEMA's chief of staff and acting director that reports: "Severe flooding in the St. Bernard/Orleans parish line... People are trapped in attics."
11:51 a.m.: Heath sends an e-mail to Michael Lowder, FEMA's deputy directory of response, informing him that the 17th Street Canal has been breached, as reported by Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA official on the ground in New Orleans. Brown responds: "I'm being told here water over not a breach."
12 p.m.- 5 p.m.: Levee breaches are reported by, among others, the Louisiana State Police, the National Weather Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security.
6 p.m.: A report from the Homeland Security Operation Center says: "Preliminary reports indicate the levees in New Orleans have not been breached."
6:08 p.m. The American Red Cross e-mails officials at the White House and Department of Homeland Security about reports of levee breaches and "extensive flooding" in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
9 p.m.: Appearing on CNN, then-FEMA Chief Michael Brown says: "We have some, I'm not going to call them breaches, but we have some areas where the lake and the rivers are continuing to spill over."
9:29 p.m.: John Wood, chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, is sent an e-mail that reads in part: "the first (unconfirmed) reports they are getting from aerial surveys in New Orleans are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting."
10:30 p.m.: A Homeland Security situation report reads: "There is a quarter-mile [breach] in the levee near the 17th Street Canal… an estimated 2/3 to 75% of the city is under water… a few bodies were seen floating in the water." This report reaches the White House around midnight, according to congressional investigators.
11:05 p.m.: Michael Jackson, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, is sent an e-mail summarizing reports of the extensive flooding that followed the collapse of the 17th Street Canal levee. The reports had been submitted by Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA official on the scene, beginning at 10:12 a.m. that day.
TUESDAY, AUG. 30, 2005
6 a.m.: A Homeland Security situation report states that the Industrial Canal and 17th Street Canal levees have been breached. It says: "Much of downtown and east New Orleans is underwater, depth unknown at this time… Widespread and significant flooding has occurred throughout the city."
Ten years later, the city of New Orleans reflects back on the magnitude of the destruction of Katrina. We remember the lives lost, damaged land, destroyed homes and grief of the entire nation, as the existence of this incredible American city was severely threatened.
Immediately after the storm, the people of New Orleans, as well as individuals and groups from all over the world, planned rebuilding efforts to bring back a city even stronger than before the storm hit.
Since then, the New Orleans has made incredible strides with rebuilding its population, creating new infrastructure, improving institutions, attractions and much more.
While there are still many improvements to be made, New Orleans thrives more than ever as the authentic, historic and diverse cultural destination that locals and visitors cherish. Today New Orleans maintains its reputation as one of the most resilient cities in the world.