On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi. Four days earlier, after briefly coming ashore in southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, Katrina went back into the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength in the warm waters as a Category 5. Before slamming into New Orleans on August 29, Katrina had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, measuring 350 miles across.
On record as the third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, the unofficial death toll ranges from 1,245 to 1,833. According to U.S. News, inquiries were made in 2005 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and The Department of Health in Louisiana led as the most accurate and updated source of information. The report was years in the making as deaths were investigated and missing persons were located. To this day, an accurate death count is impossible to confirm.
Rainfall was not the main problem with Katrina, particularly in Louisiana. The real nightmare began when 50 levees and flood walls failed, quickly covering 80 percent of New Orleans in water.
Trapped in the city and with no way out, thousands and thousands of people sought shelter in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome, but things there deteriorated quickly. Food and water ran low, electricity went out and conditions became unsanitary. With a full-scale relief effort days away, the stranded residents suffered from heat, hunger and a lack of medical care. Reports of looting, rape and even murder began to surface.
Hurricane Katrina caused severe destruction along the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge and levee failure. Thirty-six tornadoes unleashed on Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia — even Pennsylvania and Virginia. Coastal areas and beachfront towns took a beating, experiencing severe property damage and destruction. It’s estimated that Katrina caused $150 billion in damages to both private property and public infrastructure. In all, over one million people were displaced and 275,000 homes damaged or destroyed by the devastating hurricane.
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