In New Orleans' 289-year history, the city has flooded 27 times, about once every 11 years. National Geographic
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. At sea, it reached Category 5 strength, but by the time it made landfall in the Gulf Coast, it weakened to a Category 3 storm. As the storm moved through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, it created an official disaster zone of 90,000 square miles. National Climatic Data Center
Over a million people from the Gulf Coast were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Brookings Institution
A local oil refinery spilled a million gallons of oil in Chalmette, contributing to the nearly 8 million gallons of oil that contaminated Katrina’s floodwaters. Virtually unreported, this is one of the largest oil spills in United States history. National Resources Defense Council
Katrina first made landfall in southeastern Louisiana with destructive winds up to 140 MPH. Shortly after the storm made its second landfall on the Mississippi/Louisiana border. Towns on the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts were flooded by Katrina's 20-30 ft storm surge, and ravaged by high velocity winds. National Climatic Data Center
Katrina did not directly hit New Orleans; the storm made landfall northeast of the city on the LA and MI coasts. Most of the destruction in the city was due to flooding from over 50 breaches in the 17th Street Canal, the Industrial Canal, and the London Avenue Canal Levees. 80% of New Orleans was submerged in water due to these breaches. Times Picayune, National Geographic
Damages to the region are estimated at $81 billion. US Dept. of Health and Human Services
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed approximately 1,800 people. There are many critics of the US government's plans to rebuild the levee system in New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that strengthening the New Orleans' levee system enough to withstand another storm the size of Katrina would take until after 2010. National Geographic
Historical Facts of Interest: The 17th Street Levee in New Orleans had been under-financed for years. In 2005 right before hurricane season, the New Orleans district cut $71 million for levee renovations from their budget. New York Times
During the Great Flood of 1927, a group of local businessmen, appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans, dynamited the Poydras levee, in order to save New Orleans. Lower class and rural communities in the area flooded instead. Many residents believe that the levees were purposely breached during Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina. PBS
Even though the Convention Center in New Orleans was originally set up as a temporary stop for evacuees, over 20,000 people, mostly African Americans, were stranded there for five days without adequate water and food supplies. Washington Post
As evacuees on foot tried to leave NOLA, armed police blocked the Crescent City Connection bridge that connects New Orleans and Gretna, LA and would not let the evacuees cross. As the majority of evacuees were African-American, many critics called the blockade a racist act. Gretna Police maintain they did not have enough resources to support the evacuees because they had been affected by the storm as well. CBS
In January 2006, four months after the storm, state legislators filed a federal suit against the City of Gretna and the Police Department charging them with violating the evacuees' rights. The case has been postponed to January 2009. AP
The City of New Orleans dropped to about a third of its pre-Katrina size after the hurricane. University of Michigan
Hurricane Katrina destroyed over 70,000 homes in Mississippi. National Geographic
The storm destroyed 41,000 affordable rental units in New Orleans. This caused fair-market rent for an efficiency apartment in the city to rise from $463 to $764. Policy Link, MSNBC
Homelessness in New Orleans has doubled since Katrina. 1 in 25 New Orleans residents are homeless. 60% of the homeless in NOLA were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. USA Today
As of April 2008, 40,000 families displaced by the Hurricanes were still living in FEMA-provided temporary housing like trailers. At its highest point, 143,000 families from the Gulf Coast Region were living in FEMA trailers and mobile homes. Reuters
Historical Fact of Interest: With over a million people displaced after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, this disaster represents one of the largest internal migrations in U.S. History. The Dustbowl Exodus of the 1930s stretched over a ten-year period and is still considered the largest migration in American history. By 1940, 2.5 million people had moved out of the Plains states. PBS
Oil and toxic chemical spills resulting from Hurricane Katrina caused severe air and water pollution in neighborhoods affected by the flooding. As of September 2005, 575 isolated spills had been reported.
The NRDC estimates 10 million gallons of oil were spilled in the disaster. (Number is based on oil spilled from refineries and oil in vehicles submerged in the flooding).
There are countless reports of illness and skin sores in citizens who came into contact with water polluted by these toxic chemicals and petroleum. Many citizens were not warned of the health risks and returned home uninformed of the necessary precautions.
In its wake, Hurricane Katrina left an estimated 100 million cubic yards of debris, which was soaked in the contaminated floodwaters. One of the principle methods of debris removal is through burning, a method that has caused major health problems to those that have been exposed to the fumes from the burning toxic debris.
Environmental Stats are pulled from a comprehensive study by the NRDC
Tests administered by FEMA showed that 94 percent of trailers tested had unsafe levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can cause respiratory problems. Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, US Congress
Located on the outskirts of Baker, LA, 13 miles north of Baton Rouge, The Renaissance Trailer Park was FEMA's largest temporary housing unit. Housing over 600 families at its peak, Renaissance Village closed in June 2008 with 450 residents still living in the park. FEMA offered a 30-day hotel stay for those who had no place to go. New York Times
As of August 2006, depression and suicide rates in FEMA parks were over seven times the national average. International Medical Corps