The effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans
were shattering and long-lasting. As the center of Katrina passed east of New Orleans on August 29, 2005, winds downtown were in the
Category 3 range with frequent intense gusts and tidal
surge. Though the most severe portion of Katrina
missed the city, hitting nearby St.
Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, the storm surge caused more than 50
breaches in drainage canal levees and also in navigational canal
levees and precipitated the worst engineering disaster in the
history of the United States.
By August 31, 2005, eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded, with
some parts under 15 feet (4.5 m) of water. Most of the city's
levees designed and built by the United States Army Corps
of Engineers broke somewhere, including the 17th Street Canal levee, the Industrial
Canal levee, and the London Avenue Canal floodwall.
These breaches were responsible for most of the flooding, according
to a June 2007 report by the American Society of Civil
. Oil refining stopped so the price of petrol
increased all over the world.
percent of the residents of southeast Louisiana were evacuated in the most successful evacuation of
a major urban area in the nation's history.
many remained (mainly the elderly and poor). The Louisiana
Superdome was used as a designated "refuge of last resort"
for those who remained in the city.
The city flooded due
primarily to the failure of the federally built levee system. Many
who remained in their homes had to swim for their lives, wade
through deep water, or remain trapped in their attics or on their
The disaster had major implications for a large segment of the
, and politics
of the entire United
States. It has prompted a Congressional review of the Corps of
Engineers and the failure of portions of the federally built flood protection
system which experts agree should have protected the city's
inhabitants from Katrina's surge. Katrina has also stimulated
significant research in the academic community into urban planning,
real estate finance, and economic issues in the wake of a natural
New Orleans was settled on a natural high ground along the Mississippi River
. Later developments
that eventually extended to nearby Lake Pontchartrain were built on fill to bring them above the average
Navigable commercial waterways extended from the
lake into the interior of the city to promote waterborne commerce.
After the construction of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal in
1940, the state closed these waterways causing the town's water
table to lower drastically. After 1965, the United States Army Corps
built a levee system around a much larger
geographic footprint that included previous marshland and swamp.
These factors created subsidence
of up to
in some areas due to the consolidation of the underlying organic
1999–2001 study using LIDAR technology found
that 51% of the terrestrial surface of the contiguous urbanized
portions of Orleans, Jefferson, and St.
Bernard parishes lie at or above sea level, with the
highest neighborhoods at 10–12 ft (3.05–3.66 m) above
mean sea level, while 49 percent lies below sea level, in places to
In 1965, heavy flooding caused by Hurricane Betsy
brought concerns regarding
flooding from hurricanes to the forefront. That year Congress
passed the Flood Control Act
which, among other issues, gave authority for design
and construction of the flood protection in the New Orleans metropolitan area
to the Corps of Engineers subject to cost sharing principles, some
of which were waived by later legislation. The local municipalities
were charged with maintenance once the projects were
When authorized, flood control protection design and construction
were projected to take 13 years to complete. When Katrina made
landfall in 2005, the project was between 60–90% complete with a
projected date of completion estimated for 2015, nearly
50 years after it first gained authorization. Moreover,
another major hurricane flooding had long been predicted, and while
the close call of Hurricane Georges in September 1998 galvanised
some squabbling scientists, engineers and politicians into
collective planning, as at October 2001, Scientific
declared that "New Orleans is a disaster waiting to
On August 29, 2005, flood walls and levees catastrophically failed
throughout the metro area. Many collapsed well below design
thresholds (17th Street and London Canals). Others collapsed after
a brief period of overtopping (Industrial Canal) caused “scouring”
or erosion of the earthen levee walls– an egregious design flaw.
The American Society
of Civil Engineers
refers to the flooding of New Orleans as the
worst engineering disaster in US history.
The eye of Hurricane Katrina was forecast to pass to the east of
New Orleans. In that event, the wind would come back from
the north as the storm passed, forcing large volumes of water from
Pontchartrain against the levees and possibly into the
It was also forecast that the storm surge in Lake
Pontchartrain would reach 14 to 18 feet (4 to 5 m), with
waves reaching 7 feet (2 m) above the storm surge.
On August 28, at 10:00 a.m. CDT, the National Weather Service
field office in New Orleans issued a bulletin
predicting catastrophic damage to New Orleans and the surrounding
region. Anticipated effects included, at the very least, the
partial destruction of half of the well-constructed houses in the
city, severe damage to most industrial buildings, rendering them
inoperable, the "total destruction" of all wood-framed low-rise
apartment buildings, all windows blowing out in high-rise office
buildings, and the creation of a huge debris field of trees,
telephone poles, cars, and collapsed buildings. Lack of clean water
was predicted to "make human suffering incredible by modern
It was also predicted that the standing water caused by the storm
surge would render most of the city uninhabitable for weeks and
that the destruction of oil and petrochemical refineries in the
surrounding area would spill waste into the flooding. The resulting
mess would coat every surface, converting the city into a toxic
marsh until water could be drained. Some experts said that it could
take six months or longer to pump all the water out of the
In anticipation of widespread destruction caused by Hurricane
Katrina, Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center
telephoned New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin
on the night of August 27 to express his
extreme concern, and on the following day, made a video call to
U.S. President George
W. Bush at his
farm in Crawford,
Texas about the severity of the storm.
With the hurricane threatening the Gulf Coast, many New Orleans
residents started taking precautions to secure their homes and
prepare for possible evacuation on Friday the 26th and Saturday the
27th. By mid morning on the 27th, many local gas stations which
were not yet out of gas had long lines. Nagin first called for a
voluntary evacuation of the city at 5:00 p.m. on August 27 and
subsequently ordered a citywide mandatory evacuation at 9:30 a.m.
on August 28, the first such order in the city's history. In a live
news conference, Mayor Nagin predicted that, "the storm surge most
likely will topple our levee system", and warned that oil
production in the Gulf of Mexico would be shut down. President Bush
made a televised appeal for residents to heed the evacuation
orders, warning, "We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane
poses to Gulf Coast communities." Many neighboring areas and
parishes also called for evacuations. By mid-afternoon,
officials in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Jefferson, St.
Tammany, and Washington parishes had called for voluntary or mandatory
Although Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the
city, many people refused to leave, which a CNN writer described as
"gambling with their own lives." Reasons were numerous, including a
belief that their homes or the buildings in which they planned to
stay offered sufficient protection, lack of financial resources or
access to transportation, or a feeling of obligation to protect
their property. These reasons were complicated by the fact that an
evacuation the previous year for Hurricane Ivan
had resulted in the illnesses
of many elderly people since cars were stalled in traffic for six
to ten hours. The fact that Katrina occurred at the end of the
month, before pay checks were in the hands of many was also
significant. A "refuge of last resort" was designated at
Beginning at noon on August 28 and running
for several hours, city buses were redeployed to shuttle local
residents from 12 pickup points throughout the city to the
"shelters of last resort."
By the time Hurricane Katrina came ashore early the next morning,
Mayor Nagin estimated that approximately one million people had
fled the city and its surrounding suburbs. By the evening of
August 28, over 100,000 people remained in the city, with 20,000
taking shelter at the Louisiana Superdome, along with 300 National Guard troops.
The Superdome had been used as a shelter in the past, such as
during 1998's Hurricane Georges
because it was estimated to be able to withstand winds of up to
200 mph (320 km/h) and water levels of 35 feet
(10 m). While supplies of MREs
(Meals ready to eat) and bottled
water were available at the Superdome, Nagin told survivors to
bring blankets and enough food for several days, warning that it
would be a very uncomfortable place. As the elevation of the
Superdome is about three feet (1 m) above sea level, the
forecast storm surge was predicted to cause flooding on that site.
Survivors were told to keep out of the lower levels of the
structure, for fear it would be flooded.
The entire northern Louisiana region was declared a disaster area
by the Federal Government before Hurricane Katrina made landfall,
and the Federal
Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) prepositioned 18 disaster
medical teams, medical supplies and equipment, urban search and
rescue teams along with millions of MREs, liters of water,
tarpaulins, and truckloads of ice.
Hurricane Katrina made its second and third landfalls in the Gulf
Coast region on August 29, 2005 as a Category 3 hurricane
August 29 area affiliates of local television station WDSU reported New
Orleans was experiencing widespread flooding due to several Army
Corps-built levee breaches, was without power, and that there were
several instances of catastrophic damage in residential and
Entire neighborhoods on the south shore of
Lake Pontchartrain were flooded.
The extensive flooding stranded many residents, who remained long
after Hurricane Katrina had passed. Stranded survivors dotted the
tops of houses citywide. Some were trapped inside attics, unable to
escape. Many people chopped their way onto their roofs with
hatchets and sledge hammers, which residents had been urged to keep
in their attics in case of such events. Clean water was
unavailable, and power outages were expected to last for
By 11:00 p.m. on August 29, Mayor Nagin described the loss of life
as "significant" with reports of bodies floating on the water
throughout the city, though primarily in the eastern portions.
There was no clean water or electricity in the city, and some
hotels and hospitals reported diesel fuel shortages. The National Guard
began setting up
temporary morgues in select locations.
Coordination of rescue efforts August 29 and August 30 were made
difficult by disruption of the communications infrastructure. Many
telephones, including most cell phones, and Internet
access were not working due to line
breaks, destruction of base
, or power failures, even though some base stations had
their own back-up generators. In a number of cases, reporters were
asked to brief public officials on the conditions in areas where
information was not reaching them any other way.
All local television stations were disrupted. Local television
stations, and newspapers, moved quickly to sister locations in
nearby cities. New Orleans CBS-affiliate WWL-TV was the only
local station to remain on the air during and after the
Broadcasting and publishing on the Internet became an
important means of distributing information to evacuees and the
rest of the world. Amateur radio
provided tactical and emergency communications and handled
health-and-welfare enquiries. By September 4, a temporary
communications hub was set up at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown New
Damage to buildings and roads
Most of the major roads traveling into and out of the city were
damaged. The only route out of the city was west on
the Crescent City Connection as the I-10 Twin
Span Bridge traveling east towards Slidell, Louisiana had collapsed. The long Lake
Pontchartrain Causeway escaped unscathed but was only carrying emergency
traffic. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International
Airport was closed before the storm but reported no
flooding in airplane movement areas or inside of the building
By August 30, it was reopened to humanitarian and
rescue operations. Commercial cargo
resumed on September 10, and commercial passenger service resumed
on September 13.
On August 29, at 7:40 a.m. CDT, it was reported that most of the
windows on the north side of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans had been
blown out, and many other high rise buildings had extensive window
damage. The Hyatt was the most severely damaged hotel in the city,
with beds reported to be flying out of the windows. Insulation
tubes were exposed as the hotel's glass exterior was completely
The Superdome sustained significant damage, including two sections
of the roof that were compromised, and the dome's waterproof
membrane had essentially been peeled off. On August 30, Louisiana
governor Kathleen Blanco
complete evacuation of the remaining people that sought shelter in
the Superdome. They were then transported to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.
Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding area of northwest
New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana
As of mid-day Monday, August 29, the eye of Hurricane Katrina
passed to the East of the City subjecting it to hurricane
conditions, but sparing New Orleans the worst impact. The City
seemed to have escaped most of the catastrophic wind damage and
heavy rain that had been predicted. Most buildings came through
Satellite photos of New Orleans taken
in March 2004, then on August 31, 2005, after the levee
The storm surge had severely taxed the city's inadequate levee
system built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Mississippi
River Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO") breached its levees in approximately 20
places flooding much of eastern New Orleans, nearly all of Saint Bernard Parish and the
East Bank of Plaquemines Parish. The major levee
breaches in the city included breaches at the 17th Street Canal levee, the London
Avenue Canal, and the wide, navigable Industrial
Canal, which left approximately 80% of the city
flooded. There were three major breaches at the
Canal; one on the upper side near the junction with
MR-GO, and two on the lower side along the Lower Ninth
Ward, between Florida Avenue and Claiborne
The 17th Street
was breached on the lower (New
Orleans West End) side inland from the Old Hammond Highway Bridge,
and the London Avenue Canal
breached in two places, on the upper side just back from Robert E.
Lee Boulevard, and on the lower side a block in from the Mirabeau
Avenue Bridge. Flooding from the breaches put the majority of the
city under water for days, in many places for weeks. Many roads and
buildings were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
In a June 2006 report on the disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers admitted that faulty design specifications, incomplete
sections, and substandard construction of levee segments,
contributed to the damage done to New Orleans by Hurricane
Katrina.A report released by the American Society of Civil
Engineers in June 2007 concluded that two-thirds of the flooding in
the city could have been avoided if the levees had held.
The failure of the Hurricane
Protection Project of New Orleans
has prompted many government
officials to call for hearings, committees and investigations,
including a call for an 8/29 Commission to investigate both the
engineering and decision-making behind the collapse of a flood
protection system that should have held against Katrina's storm
Later studies have determined that most of New Orleans' Katrina
dead were old, and lived near levee breaches in the 9th Ward and
Loss of life
Coast Guard aircrew searches for survivors in New Orleans
during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Final reports indicate that the official death toll, according to
the Louisiana Department of Health, was 1,464 people. The first deaths were
reported shortly before midnight on August 28, 2005, as three
nursing home patients died during an
evacuation to Baton Rouge.
On September 4, Mayor Nagin speculated that the death toll could
rise as high as ten thousand after the clean-up was completed. Some
survivors and evacuees reported seeing dead bodies lying in city
streets and floating in still-flooded sections, especially in the
east of the city. The advanced state of decomposition of many
corpses, some of which were left in the water or sun for days
before being collected, hindered efforts by coroners to identify
many of the dead.
There were six deaths confirmed at the Superdome. Four of these
were from natural causes, one was the result of a drug overdose,
and one was a suicide. At the Convention Center, four bodies were
recovered. One of these four is believed to be the result of a
homicide. Body collection throughout the city began on
approximately September 9. Prior to that date, the locations of
corpses were recorded, but most were not retrieved.
A fire raged in a downtown business
the morning of September 2.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, looting
, violence and other criminal activity
became serious problems. With most
of the attention of the authorities focused on rescue efforts, the
security in New Orleans degraded quickly. By August 30, looting had
spread throughout the city, often in broad daylight and in the
presence of police officers. "The looting is out of control.
Quarter has been attacked", City Councilwoman Jackie
"We're using exhausted, scarce police to
control looting when they should be used for search and rescue
while we still have people on rooftops."
Incapacitated by the breakdown of transportation and communication,
as well as overwhelmed in terms of numbers, police officers could
do little to stop crime, and shopkeepers who remained behind were
left to defend their property alone. Looters included gangs of
armed gunmen, and gunfire was heard in parts of the city. Along
with violent, armed robbery of non-essential valuable goods, many
incidents were of residents simply taking food, water, and other
commodities from unstaffed grocery stores. There were also reports
of some police officers looting. Significant looting continued in
areas of the city with few, if any permanent residents, such as the
Lakeview, Gentilly, and the Midcity regions.
fire" was also reported throughout
the city, targeted at rescue helicopters, relief workers, and
police officers. One of the possible causes of the sniper fire was
resistance to relocation or evacuation.One report of violence
involved police killing
people on the Danziger Bridge, which carries the Chef Menteur
Highway across the industrial canal, who were reportedly shooting
at contractors of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
involved in the 17th Street Canal
and violence was also hampering efforts to evacuate the Tulane
University medical center, as well.
Looters in boats
with machine guns and grenades had attempted to break into the
hospital but were repelled by hospital staff. "If we do not have
the federal presence in New Orleans tonight at dark, it will no
longer be safe to be there, hospital or no hospital", Acadian Ambulance
Services C.E.O. Richard
Zuschlag told CNN. Several news sources reported instances of
fighting, drug use, theft, rape, and even murder in the Superdome
and other refuge centers.
A small number of initial reports of mass chaos, particularly in
stories about the Superdome, were later found to be exaggerated or
rumor. In the Superdome for example, the New Orleans sex crimes
unit investigated every report of rape or atrocity and found only
two verifiable incidents, both of sexual assault. The department
head told reporters, "I think it was urban myth. Any time you put
25,000 people under one roof, with no running water, no
electricity and no information, stories get told." Government
expected hundreds of dead to be found in Superdome, but instead
found only 6 dead (of which there were 4 natural deaths and one
suicide). In a case of reported sniper fire, the "sniper" turned
out to be the relief valve of a gas tank popping every few
At the time of the hurricane there were some 400 priests and 750
nuns in the Archdiocese of
, many stationed in the city. While most elderly and
infirm clergy and nuns were evacuated, many others refused to
leave, even when a general evacuation was ordered.
Additional acts of unrest occurred following the storm,
particularly with the New
Orleans Police Department
. In the aftermath, a tourist asked a
police officer for assistance, and got the response, "Go to hell,
it's every man for himself." Also, one third of New Orleans police officers deserted the city in the days
before the storm, many of them escaping in their department-owned
This added to the chaos by stretching law
enforcement thin. Additionally, several NOPD officers were arrested
weeks after Katrina for suspicion of vehicle theft.
of Gretna on the West Bank received considerable press
coverage when, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (late August 2005),
displaced and dehydrated survivors who attempted to escape from New
Orleans by walking over the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River were turned back
at gunpoint by City of Gretna Police, along with Crescent City
Connection Police and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies, who set
up a roadblock on the bridge in the days
following the hurricane.
On August 31, New Orleans's 1,500-member police force was ordered
to abandon search and rescue missions and turn their attention
toward controlling the widespread looting. The city also ordered a
mandatory curfew. Mayor Nagin called for increased federal
assistance in a "desperate S.O.S.", following the city's inability
to control looting. He was often misquoted as declaring "martial law
" in the city, despite there being no
such term in Louisiana state law (a declaration of a state of emergency
was instead made). On
the same day, Governor Kathleen
announced the arrival of a military presence, stating
that they "[knew] how to shoot and kill and [expected that] they
[would]." Despite the increased law enforcement presence, crime
continued to be a problem.Relief efforts were constantly disrupted
by violence, and there were reports of groups of armed men running
rampant through the streets, looting and pillaging unattended
buildings and stores. Charity Hospital, one of several facilities
attempting to evacuate patients, was forced to halt the effort
after coming under gun fire. By September 1, 6,500 National Guard
troops had arrived in New Orleans, and on September 2 Blanco
requested a total of 40,000 for assistance in evacuation and
security efforts in Louisiana.
Some concern over the availability and readiness of the Louisiana
National Guard to help stabilize the security situation was
questioned. Guardsman Lieutenant Colonel Pete had commented that
"dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers, and generators
were abroad." At the time of the hurricane, approximately 3,000
members of the Guard were serving a tour of
duty in Iraq
. With total personnel strength of 11,000, this
meant that 27% of the Louisiana National Guard was abroad.
both the White
House and the
Pentagon argued that
the depletion of personnel and equipment did not impact the ability
of the Guard to perform its mission—rather, impassable roads and
flooded areas were the major factors impeding the Guardsmen from
securing the situation in New Orleans.
Before Hurricane Katrina, the murder rate in New Orleans was ten
times higher than the U.S. average. After the situation in New
Orleans was brought under control, criminal activity in New Orleans
Displaced people bringing their
belongings and lining up to get into the Superdome.
As one of
the largest structures in the city, refugees were brought to the
Superdome to wait out the storm or to await further
Damage to the Superdome as a result of
Many others made their way to the Superdome on
their own, hoping to find food, water, shelter, or transport out of
town. On August 29, Katrina passed over New Orleans with such force
that it ripped two holes in the Superdome roof. On the evening of
August 30, Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, of the Louisiana
National Guard, said that the number of people taking shelter in
the Superdome had risen to around 15,000 to 20,000 as search and
rescue teams brought more people to the Superdome from areas
hard-hit by the flooding. As conditions worsened and flood waters
continued to rise, on August 31, Governor Blanco ordered that all
of New Orleans, including the Superdome, be evacuated. The area
outside the Superdome was flooded to a depth of three feet
(1 m), with a possibility of seven feet (2.3 m) if the
area equalized with Lake Pontchartrain. Governor Blanco had the
state send in 68 school buses on Monday to begin evacuating
Despite increasingly squalid conditions, the population inside
continued to grow. The situation inside the building was described
as chaotic; reports of rampant drug use, fights, rape, and filthy
living conditions were widespread. At the time, as many as 100 were
reported to have died in the Superdome, with most deaths resulting
from heat exhaustion, but other reported incidents included an
accused rapist who was beaten to death by a crowd and an apparent
suicide. Despite these reports, though, the final official death
toll was significantly less: six people inside (4 of natural
causes, one overdose, and an apparent suicide) and a few more in
the general area outside the stadium.
announced that, in conjunction with Greyhound, the National Guard, and Houston
Metro, the 25,000 people at the Superdome would be
relocated across state lines to the Houston Astrodome.
Roughly 475 buses were promised by FEMA to
ferry evacuees with the entire evacuation expected to take two
days. By September 4, the Superdome had been completely
Although the Superdome suffered damage by water and wind to the
overall interior and exterior structures, as well as interior
damage from human waste and trash, the facility was repaired at a
cost of $
140 million and
was ready for games by the autumn of 2006. The Saints'
first game in the Superdome after
Hurricane Katrina was played on September 25, 2006 (the third
of the regular
season), resulting in a 23–3 Saints victory over the Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Convention Center
of Hurricane Katrina, the Ernest
Convention Center suffered a loss of water pressure and electricity,
and one of its convention halls had a large hole in its
The center was otherwise only lightly
On August 29, as people were being turned away at the Superdome and
rescues continued, rescuers began dropping people off at the
Convention Center, which, at above sea level, easily escaped the
flood. Captain M.A. Pfeiffer of the NOPD
quoted as saying, "It was supposed to be a bus stop where they
dropped people off for transportation. The problem was, the
transportation never came." By the afternoon of the 29th, the crowd
had grown to about 1,000 people. The convention center's
president (who was there with a small group of convention center
employees at this time) addressed the crowd near dark, informing
them that there was no food, water, medical care, or other
services. By late on the evening of the 29th, the convention center
had been broken into, and evacuees began occupying the inside of
the convention center.
A contingent of 250 National Guard engineering units occupied one
part of the convention center beginning August 30 and remained
there until September 1, at times barricaded in their location. The
units were never given orders to control the crowd, and were not
expected to be prepared for such a task, as engineering units. The
number of people at the convention center continued to grow over
the next three days by some estimates to as many as
20,000 people. Reasons for arriving included being sent to the
convention center from the overwhelmed Superdome, being dropped off
there by rescuers, or hearing about the convention center as a
shelter via word of mouth. No checking for weapons was done among
the crowd as was done at the Superdome, and a large store of
alcohol kept at the Convention Center was looted. Reports of
robberies, murder, and rape began to surface. In general, those who
died, regardless of cause of death, did not have their bodies moved
or removed and were left to decompose.
By September 1, the facility, like the Superdome, was completely
overwhelmed and declared unsafe and unsanitary. However, even
though there were thousands of people who were evacuating at the
center, along with network newscasters, pleading desperately for
help on CNN, FOX, and other broadcast outlets, FEMA head Michael Brown
and Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff
claimed to have no knowledge of the use of the Convention Center as
a shelter until the afternoon of September 1.
A sizable contingent of National Guard arrived on September 2 to
establish order and provide essential provisions, and on September
3, buses began arriving at the convention center to pick up the
refugees there. The Convention Center was completely evacuated by
31, a public health emergency was declared for the entire Gulf
Coast, and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco ordered a mandatory
evacuation of all those remaining in New Orleans.
organizations scrambled to locate suitable areas for relocating
evacuees on a large scale. Many of the survivors in the Superdome were
bussed to the Reliant
Astrodome in Houston,
Houston agreed to shelter an additional
25,000 evacuees beyond those admitted to the Astrodome, including
one "renegade bus" that was commandeered by private citizen
, who had been released
on bond from the Orleans Parish Prison just days before the storm
hit, and had a previous criminal conviction. By September 1, the
Astrodome was declared full and could not accept any more evacuees.
R. Brown Convention Center nearby was opened to house additional
evacuees. San Antonio, Texas also agreed to house 25,000 "refugees", beginning
relocation efforts in vacant office buildings on the grounds of
KellyUSA, a former air force base, and the Reunion Arena in Dallas,
Texas was mobilized to house incoming evacuees, and
smaller shelters were established in towns across Texas and Oklahoma. Arkansas also opened various shelters and state parks
throughout the state for evacuees.
Expected to last only two days, the evacuation of remaining
evacuees proved more difficult than rescue organizations
anticipated as transportation convoys struggled with damaged
infrastructure and a growing number of evacuees. By the morning of
September 1, Governor Blanco reported that the number of evacuees
in the Superdome was down to 2,500. However, by evening, eleven
hours after evacuation efforts began, the Superdome held 10,000
more people than it did at dawn. Evacuees from across the city
swelled the crowd to about 30,000, believing the arena was the best
place to get a ride out of town.
Evacuation efforts were hastened on September 2 by the wider
dispersal of evacuees among newly-opened shelters. Louis Armstrong International
Airport was reopened to allow flights related to relief
efforts, and began to load evacuees onto planes as
Elements of the 82nd Airborne
arrived in New Orleans September 3. The flooding was a
challenge for the paratroopers when they first arrived. The
division had just four boats at the time, however, the division
quickly started getting Coast Guard, Navy and Marine assets placed
under their control. Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the
82nd's commanding general, noted: "We eventually became the 82nd
'Waterborne' Division," the general said, "and that really was our
forte" during search-and-rescue and security missions in flooded
sections of the city.Task Force Katrina Commander Army Lt. Gen.
Russel Honore also charged the paratroopers to straighten out the
evacuation situations at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International
Airport, the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome. In
all, 3,600 of the division's paratroopers were deployed to New
Orleans to participate in Task Force All-American. The unit worked
in tandem with state, local and other federal authorities to feed,
process and transport evacuees to other accommodations; the
division's soldiers helped evacuate 6,000 New Orleans residents. By
September 18, the 82nd Division medical personnel had treated
1,352 people and given 2,047 immunizations, according to unit
documents. By September 19, 82nd Division military engineers had
cleared 185 city blocks of debris, cleared 113 streets, and removed
218 trees, according to unit documents. The division's paratroopers
are trained to be flexible, they excel in combat operations in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and also perform well during humanitarian
On September 3, some 42,000 evacuees were evacuated from New
Orleans, including those remaining in the Superdome and Convention
Center. Efforts turned to the hundreds of people still trapped in
area hotels, hospitals, schools and private homes.
On September 6, Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a forced evacuation of
everyone from the city who was not involved in clean up work,
citing safety and health concerns. The order was given not only as
an attempt to restore law and order, but also out of concern about
the hazardous living conditions in the city. Eviction efforts
escalated three days later, when door-to-door searches were
conducted to advise remaining residents to leave the city. Despite
this, a number of residents defied the eviction order. While
initially lax in enforcing evictions, National Guard troops
eventually began to remove residents by force.
There was a concern that the prolonged flooding would lead to an
outbreak of health problems for those who remained in the city. In
addition to dehydration
and food poisoning
, there was also potential for
the spread of hepatitis A
and typhoid fever
, all related to the
growing contamination of food and drinking water supplies in the
city compounded by the city's characteristic heat and stifling
humidity. Survivors could also face long-term health risks due to
prolonged exposure to the petrochemical tainted flood waters and
mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow
and West Nile Virus
On September 2, an emergency triage
was set up at the airport. A steady stream of helicopters and
ambulances brought in the elderly, sick, and injured. Baggage
equipment was used as gurneys to transport people from the flight
line to the hospital, which was set up in the airport terminal. The
scene could be described as, "organized chaos", but efficient. By
September 3, the situation started to stabilize. Up to
5,000 people had been triaged
than 200 remained at the medical unit.
Hospital evacuations continued from other area hospitals that were
flooded or damaged. Reports from the Methodist
Hospital indicated that people were
dying of dehydration and exhaustion while the staff worked
unendingly in horrendous conditions. The first floor of the
hospital flooded and the dead were stacked in a second floor
operating room. Patients requiring ventilators were kept alive with
hand-powered resuscitation bags.
Among the many hospitals shut down due to destruction related to
the hurricane was the public hospital serving New Orleans, Charity Hospital
, which was also the only
trauma center serving that region. The destruction of the
hospital's structure has forced the continued closure as funding
for a new building is sought out.
On September 6, E. coli
detected in the water supply. According to the CDC
, five people
died from bacterial infections caused by the toxic waters. The
deaths appear to have been caused by Vibrio vulnificus
bacteria, of the
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