Today in History: Katrina- One of the Costliest Natural Disasters in U.S. History
by M.C. Millman
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina's storm surge made history with 53 breaches to the flood protection structures in the greater New Orleans area.
The previous day, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents. Katrina briefly achieved Category 5 status over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The National Weather Service predicted the area would suffer devastating damage, and they were right.
The following day, the storm weakened to Category 3 strength at its second landfall over Mississippi and southeast Louisiana. The hurricane brought sustained winds of 145 mph, making it one of the strongest hurricanes recorded. The winds ripped homes apart, cut power lines, and even turned cars into projectile missiles.
The eye of Hurricane Katrina made Louisiana landfall near Buras-Triumph on August 29, 2005, at 6:10 a.m. By 10:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, several sections of the levee system in New Orleans had collapsed. The storm surge breached the levee system protecting New Orleans from Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River.
New Orleans experienced major flooding of 80% of the city due to fatal engineering flaws in the levees. Around 150,000 people stayed in New Orleans, only to be caught in the storm on August 29, with little access to food, shelter, and other necessities.
Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and displaced more than 1 million others. It was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history at the time, with an estimated damage of $125 billion. Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster until 2021 when the severe winter storm in Texas caused at least $190 billion in damage.