Hurricane Katrina



In the history of United States, Hurricane Katrina was a seriously catastrophic tropical cyclone. It hit in the early morning on the Gulf Coast on August 29 2005. The storm originated because of interaction between a tropical wave and remnants of the Topical Depression over the Bahamas. The storm had a Category 3 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale when it made a landfill. It brought sustained winds of about 100-140 miles per hour and extended across 400 miles (History, 2018) . The aftermath of the destruction is the most expensive ever reported. It cost $108 billion and insurance covered $80 billion of the losses. Flooding caused fifty percent of the damage in the New Orleans. There was destruction of three hundred thousand homes and rendered them uninhabitable. In addition, the storm destroyed forests, building and green spaces. This paper is a case study of the disaster as it seeks to find out the critical challenges to prevent them in similar situations.

As a result, recovery was fundamental in restoring the lives of the people affected as well as the infrastructure, system and services.  In recovery, every community must ensure its disaster recovery aligns with the unique circumstances of the community. Recovery can be either short term or long term. Disaster recovery has three phases. Restoration of the normal community activities disrupted by the disaster, emergency management cycle whose onset is stabilization of disaster conditions, and the final step that encompasses the process through which the community returns to normal activities.

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Short-term recovery

Short-term recovery is essential in return of essential life support systems to lowest operating standards. It involves completion of the emergency and the relief programs, restoration of infrastructure and important life support system and identification of local resources to form a long-term recovery group and starting plans for permanent housing. Its focus is on immediate tasks of securing the affected area, housing the victims and establishing conditions suitable for recovery (Lindell, 2013).

Power restoration

After the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, power restoration is vital. In order of priority, power restoration is first in the critical restoration of infrastructure. Power aids the function of hospitals, fire departments, law enforcement, fire departments and water utilities. There was disruption of one third of Entergy’s territory and destruction of about a fifth of the transmission system and distribution lines. The storm also destroyed multiple substations and feeders. About 2.5 million customers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama reported outages.

Restoration of power faced many challenges. The restoration personnel had to be vaccinated against water borne diseases before entry into the flooded regions. The floodwaters submerged Entergy’s gas distribution facilities in New Orleans. Natural gas was cut due to flooding, affecting thousands of customers.

These implications had a negative effect on the quality of life of residents. Residents had difficulty in communications. With impaired communications, customers could not access information that is crucial to their wellbeing. Loss of electricity has a significant effect on economic vitality because many businesses rely on electricity.

Short-term recovery of power ensured that the electricity supply to institutions that supplied critical services was put in place within a day. After one week, half the number of customers had received electricity. Many customers received electricity two weeks after the disaster. After four months, most regions received electricity supply with an exception of New Orleans where the power grid was adversely destroyed. The ef


In recovery and reconstruction, temporary housing is an important step post a disaster. Temporary housing protects and provides a habitable environment during assessment and rectification of disaster. The urgency of temporary dwelling is because the victims of a disaster cannot reside in their previous homes. (Abulnour, 2014)Hurricane Katrina did not only cause damage to infrastructure but also to housing and commercial property. In Louisiana alone, about 1.7 million people were affected and needed evacuation. This had a great impact on the victims due to stress related to lack of resources. Many people developed mental illness such as depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder after Hurricane Katrina.

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The poorly constructed houses sustained greater damage thus affecting lower income families more. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided temporary emergency housing by providing trailers and facilitated Building America Structural Insulated Panel homes (McIntosh, 2013). As a result, response and recovery efforts should target people from low-income status and make housing affordable to the target group.

The damage of housing resulted into property damage that creates loss in value of assets and the finances used in cost of repair and replacement. Some houses were damaged beyond repair and could not be replaced. This has a significant negative impact on the economy and quality of life.

Long-term recovery

The local community and the federal government collaborate in long-term recovery. The local community initiates implementation for disaster case management and recovery. In this phase, construction activities include repairing, rebuilding and relocation of home proceeds. This phase also initiates resuming daily life routines. The most critical component in recovery should be restoring critical infrastructure.  Long-term recovery may continue through many years after a disaster. It manages the disaster impact psychologically, economically and politically (Lindell, 2013).

Recovery of roads and highways

After the storm, there was destruction of approximately 45 bridges. The damage was because of surge-induced loading due to their proximity to water. The storm surge caused unseating of the decks and failure of the bridge parapets thus affecting super structures, which was largely dependent on the connection type between the decks and debris. Other bridges were damaged by debris impact from oilrigs and boats. Other bridges were damaged by wind damage, friction and inundation of electrical and mechanical equipment.

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Reconstruction of floodwalls and levees

After the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, levees and floodwalls breached in more than 50 locations, flooding four fifths of New Orleans. In the first 24 hours, 28 breaches were reported and more than 50 in the subsequent days despite the fact that the walls were engineered to withstand a Category 3 storm like Katrina. Even before the water reached the top, the floodwalls failed resulting to flooding in New Orleans. The major breaches occurred at the Industrial Canal, London Avenue and 17th street canals

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers in collaboration with Orleans Parish and Louisiana Department of Transportation officials, embarked on a campaign to conduct emergency repairs on the floodwalls. They used helicopters to place sandbags on the breaches. They also constructed access roads to the breach sites to facilitate repair of the breaches by truck. The temporary repairs of the levees allowed preparation for the long-term repairs.

The long-term project involved the Dutch Engineering Companies in the evaluation, design and construction of the levees. There were special structures of closure erected to protect the communities living near the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal. The project includes installing a pump station that can pump about 3800 cubic meters per minute, and multiple improvements on levee and pump stations.

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Removal of debris

Hurricane Katrina made a significant impact on the bridge and transportation network. In case of an emergency, highways are vital as they are used in recovery efforts and emergency response. The havoc caused direct and indirect economic impact on the transportation system. It is estimated that approximately one billion was used to repair and replace damaged bridges. The deposits of debris hindered the recovery efforts as well as traffic (Padgett, et al., 2008).

In recovery after a disaster particularly after Hurricane Katrina, accumulation of debris was a major concern. The storm created an estimated 118 million cubic yards of debris.71 cubic yards of debris was collected in 5 months. This debris consisted of municipal solid waste, construction and demolition, vegetative, household hazardous and electronic waste.  It is the responsibility of the state and the local governments to remove debris. They can ask for assistance when overwhelmed. There are complicated processes related to removal  of debris from private property that interferes with the response. Cooperation among the officials and improved communication with the public would improve the process.

Debris removal was further complicated by difficulty in separation of waste and slow return of residents, disposal of solid and hazardous waste and community concerns, more demolition of private properties and asbestos in the demolished buildings (Luther, 2006).

Structural and nonstructural mitigation efforts

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as reducing the adverse effects of a disaster. Structural mitigation efforts focus on the engineering parts such as building dams and levees. Nonstructural mitigation efforts focus on policies that aim to reduce damages and casualties. Evacuation of residents began as soon as Hurricane Katrina hit. An additional support called A Joint Task Force called JTF-Katrina was created. FEMA could not adequately support survivors as a result the Federal government sent supplies and resources. FEMA also sent numerous Mobile Emergency Support detachments to the Giulf Coast region to try to re-establish communications.


Future mitigation efforts should comprise of non-structural approaches that will manage both hig frequency and high consequence risk. Non-structural protection could be demonstrated through property buyouts and relocations to new elevated structures, elevation of the structures in place, construction of secondary levees and floodwalls, and hardening of critical facilities. Pumps, generators, electrical wiring and other equipment above the first floor (Nance, 2009).


After the Hurricane Katrina devastating effects, it shed light that preparedness for disaster in the country was slacking. For instance, the levees and the floodwalls were built with outdated technology. In addition, the levees were constructed to withstand a lower category of hurricanes. Experts argue that if communications were up and running on time clean up would be easier. There is still a lot that needs to be done in relation to infrastructure and the amount of debris that is yet to be eliminated. Hurricane Katrina provided so many lesson in relation to disaster preparedness and recovery. It established that it is important to plan and design post disaster recovery of critical amenities such as roads, bridges, housing and electricity well before a disaster.

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  1. Abulnour, A. (2014). The post disaster temporry dwelling: Fundamentals of provision, design and construction. HBRC Journal, 10-12.
  2. History (2018). Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from miles
  3. Lindell, M. (2013). Recovery and Reconstruction after Disaster. Springer, 479.
  4. Luther, L. (2006). Disaster Debris Removal After Hurriane Katrina: Status and Associated Issues.
  5. McIntosh, J. (2013). The Implications of Post Disaster Recovery for Affordable Housing. INTECH, 205-214.
  6. Nance, E. (2009). Responding to Risk: The Making of Hazard. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Resources, 21-30.
  7. Padgett, J., DesRoches, R., Nielson, B., Yashinsky, M., Kwon, O., Burdette, N., & Tavera. (2008). Bridge Damage and Repair Costs from Hurricane Katrina. Journal of Bridge Engineering , 6-13.
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