A combination of the tropical wave and the tropical depression was formed over the Southeastern Bahamas on August 23rd, which was the beginning of hurricane Katrina. The following day this formation was labeled as a tropical storm and given its name, Katrina. This tropical storm was approaching towards Florida, and it was not considered a hurricane until it hit Hallandale Beach and Aventura on August 25th (Zimmerman, 2012). The intensity of the storm reduced as it approached land but it regained the pressure an hour prior to entering the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane moved from category 3 to category 5 within nine hours. This was a result of the movement of the hurricane from above the Loop Current. The hurricane affected almost 18 U.S. states and parts of Canadian Provinces. The affected states included; Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and many others. This Atlantic tropical cyclone is considered amongst the most destructive in U.S. history. The entire cycle lasted for a week causing widespread damage and long lasting after effects.
The greatest number of deaths was recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana, and it even resulted in a law suit that was filed against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The most dangerous characteristic of a hurricane is the rising of sea level. As New Orleans is located below sea level, the destruction was widespread in this region compared to others. Furthermore, the levees system failed and added to the destruction intensity. Hurricane Katrina was coupled with rainfall, strong winds, and thirty-three tornadoes which contributed towards the destruction. The winds were strongest over the coast of Florida and Louisiana. Even though, these winds did not result in casualties, but it caused flooding in coastal areas. The tornadoes which were created by hurricane Katrina reported only one casualty.
Hurricane Katrina recorded a death toll of above 1500 people. Apart from this, it had an economic effect, environmental effect, and law and order was disrupted. People who survived the storm were left homeless, and businesses were destroyed. It took several months before their routine was normalized. In areas where there was flooding, engineers were able to drain the water and repair the broken levees, but it took them several months. From an economic perspective, the hurricane resulted in a loss of $300 billion which included repairing costs of $105 billion. Highways, refineries, exports, and forestry were destroyed from Katrina. Businesses were affected which resulted in a loss of tax incomes, and the government had to provide for these people from its own fund. To further add to the destruction, there were looting in different areas which led to a loss of items which could have been retrieved. Criminals were on the loose and there were no formal security checks. Three million people had no electricity for over a week after the storm had subsided. This caused a hindrance in their attempts to return to their normal routine.
The environment was also affected as a result of the hurricane. The soil of coastal areas was eroded and some have been permanently damaged. Damaged coastal areas were the breeding ground and habitats for many mammals and fish. Entire generations of the affected creatures were destroyed. As pipelines leading to oil refineries were broken, it led to oil spills and this had a negative impact upon the environment and people residing in surrounding areas.
Hurricane Katrina had some devastating social effects as well. Families were separated over different states. People were scattered over 50 states and mostly concentrated within Houston. There have been several organizations who are working towards bringing families together, but still the refugees are disorganized. Moreover, prolonged flooding was a breeding place for many deadly diseases. As people were already weak and did not have healthy living conditions, they were more prone to be affected by these diseases. Apart from this, the oil spill had a negative impact upon the health of those who were exposed to this spillage. Temporary shelters had to be provided to animals as well. Many pet owners refused to be rescued without their pets. Some estimates suggest that 60,000 pets were left homeless after the hurricane was over.
The intensity of hurricane Katrina was not judged accurately by the meteorological department; consequently, appropriate safety and rescue measures were not taken (Moynihan). Even though, there were warnings several days prior to the hurricane a lack of planning led to mass destruction. The key institutions designed to deal with such emergencies were ill-equipped and portrayed mismanagement at all levels. These institutions lacked the expertise to handle the situation that further caused damage. Rescue services were not deployed on time, causing greater harm and destruction. As engineers were questioned after the hurricane about the infrastructure facilities, it was discovered that infrastructure is not designed keeping destructions like this in consideration. It may be easier said than done, but it is impractical to move entire cities to a rescue spot (Wolshon, 2006). Furthermore, not every individual can be rescued and the rescue teams need to make a rational decision. The evacuation plan of New Orleans is considered to be a success because of an experience in evacuating people during earlier storms. Apart from this, the main goal was to save as many people as possible by utilizing all available traffic lanes. However, this catastrophe could be a learning lesson for concerned authorities. These institutions should build contingency plans which could be implemented in the future if a need arises.
Hurricane Katrina was undoubtedly one of the worst natural disasters. However, there were many contributions by people which doubled its impact. For instance; in New Orleans the damage could have been lesser if the levees were functional. In other areas, if appropriate safety measures were taken before hand it could have reduced the number of casualties and economic loss. The various government agencies which were responsible to provide refuge should have been proactive, since, they were aware of this hurricane. The building materials used in areas which are at high-risk of being affected by storms and other natural calamities must be resistant to such disasters. Even though, it may be impossible to completely avoid the damage but the extent of damage can be minimized in the future. Natural disasters can happen any time, but humans can take preventive measures as they cannot put a halt to the natural order. If the government and the relevant institutions take appropriate measures then this extent of damage may be avoided in the future. Regardless, of the damage caused the rescue efforts made by the government cannot be ignored. Even though, decisions were not taken on time but some decisions proved to really benefit the affected areas and people.
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