Saturday, August 29, 2009

Four Years Gone

It began as Tropical Depression 12 forming over the Bahamas on the afternoon of August 23, 2005, a Tuesday, combining with the remains of Tropical Depression 10 north of Puerto Rico, making a new, advanced system. The depression was upgraded the next morning to tropical storm status. That's when it was given a name. Katrina, a variant of the name Katherine, which means "pure" in ancient Greek. It continued to move northwest towards Florida while gaining strength from the warm ocean waters.
Katrina became a full fledged hurricane only two hours before it made landfall, and many were caught unaware, although warnings had been issued at 31.5 and 19.5 hours before it reached the shore, and the Governor of the state, the President's brother, issued a state of emergency the day before it made landfall on Thursday August 25 at 6:30 in the evening. It struck between the cities of Aventura and Hallandale, Florida, as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds reaching 80 miles per hour, and rainfall recorded at 14 inches in some places. Katrina continued on its path toward Coral Gables and southern Miami, spawning tornadoes in its wake, then moved southwest through the unpopulated Everglades, and exited the state at its southern tip. Up to 14 deaths were reported in Florida due to the storm.
Losing energy over land, Katrina was downgraded again to a tropical storm as it entered the Gulf of Mexico. That didn't last long. At 5:00AM the storms winds increased to 75 MPH, and Katrina became a hurricane once again.
By the early afternoon of Friday, August 26th, the storm's predicted path was moved from making landfall a second time in the Florida Panhandle, to the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana, and Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency for the later state. By 11:00PM the National Hurricane Center estimated Katrina would strike the town of Buras-Triumph, LA, 66 miles southeast of New Orleans.
By 5:00AM, Saturday August 27th, Katrina had reached Category 3 intensity, continuously fueled by the unusually warm waters of the Gulf, with winds between 111 and 130 miles an hour. By 10:00AM voluntary evacuations were recommended in Louisiana, particularly low lying areas. By 5:00PM the mayor of New Orleans declared a state of emergency and also recommended voluntary evacuations, opening the Superdome as a shelter of last resort. Blanco requested that President Bush declare a state of emergency for the state, which he did, and which opened federal assistance and funds under the control of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It also allowed for 1,701 Army National Guard and 932 Air National Guard to be deployed to assist.
At 12:40AM Sunday the storm had reached Category 4 proportions, with winds reaching 145 MPH. By 7:00 it had reached Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 175 MPH, gusting up to 215. At 10:00 Mayor Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of all the parish of New Orleans, stating, "We're facing the storm most of us have feared." President Bush declared a state of emergency in Alabama and Mississippi, and a major disaster in Florida.
At 6:10 Monday morning Hurricane Katrina made landfall again as a strong Category 3, with sustained winds of 125 MPH, near Buras-Triumph. By 7:00 Am. in New Orleans, water was seen rising on both sides of the Industrial Canal.
The levees in the city failed in more than 50 places. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans was breached as the hurricane passed just east of the city limits. Eventually 80% of the city became flooded and also large tracts of neighboring parishes, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks. At least 1, 836 people lost their lives due to the storm and its attendant flooding, with 705 missing, making it the deadliest storm in the United States since the Okeechobee hurricane of 1928. Of the 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans due to the floods, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,500. The storm surge from the hurricane caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida.
"Hurricane Katrina weakened as it moved inland, but tropical-storm force gusts were recorded as far north as Fort Campbell, Kentucky on August 30, and the winds damaged trees in New York. The remnants of the storm brought high levels of rainfall to a wide swath of the eastern United States, and rain in excess of 2 inches (50 mm) fell in parts of 20 states. A number of tornadoes associated with Katrina formed on August 30 and August 31, which caused minor damages in several regions. In total, 62 tornadoes formed in eight states as a result of Katrina (Wikipedia)."
The criticism of the federal response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina is well known. President Bush was forced to cut short his vacation for a couple of days, and was provided with a DVD which documented the damage done to New Orleans, the death and suffering, and responded by flying over the affected area on Friday in Air Force One, 4 days after the storm hit. Michael Brown, a law school graduate and former Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association who was forced to resign, was selected by Bush to head FEMA, with the resulting disastrous consequences.
Looting, rape, murder, and other criminal activity occurred in New Orleans after the storm dissipated, which the police and military were helpless to control, their attention being targeted toward rescue efforts. Random sniper fire was reported directed toward police officers, rescue workers and helicopters. The Superdome's normal seating capacity lies between 69 thousand and 72, but 26,000 to 30,000 emergency refugees sought shelter there over several days. Similar overcrowding occurred at the Convention Center.
Body collection throughout the city began on approximately September 9th. Prior to that date, the locations of corpses were recorded, but most were not retrieved.
4 years after Katrina many communities are still struggling to rebuild. Displaced residents are still returning to New Orleans. President Obama said this today, "None of us can forget how we felt when those winds battered the shore, the floodwaters began to rise and Americans were stranded on rooftops and in stadiums," he said. "Whole neighborhoods of a great American city were left in ruins. Communities across the Gulf Coast were forever changed. And many Americans questioned whether government could fulfill its responsibility to respond in a crisis." He promised to come visit before the end of the year.
The World Meteorological Organization officially retired the name Katrina on April 6, 2006 at the request of the U.S. government. It was replaced by Katia, to be used during the 2011 hurricane season.

No comments:

Post a Comment