Lucas Zelisko / Staff reporter
15 years ago, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 level storm, made landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The unsuspecting residents were preparing for a storm, but little did they know they were about to experience the ferocity and tragic aftermath of what would become known as the worst hurricane in US History.
The failures of levees and flood walls during Katrina are considered by experts to be the worst engineering disaster in the history of the United States.
By August 31, 2005, 80% of New Orleans was flooded, with some parts under 15 feet of water. Floodwaters did not recede for weeks. Clean water was unavailable, and power outages lasted for weeks.
It’s hard to imagine the level of devastation and destruction Katrina brought: if all the debris from Hurricane Katrina were stacked on a football field, the pile would reach over ten miles high.
Many have seen the pictures of people standing on the rooftops of their flooded homes, or the inhuman conditions inside the Superdome where thousands sought shelter.
It was a story of loss and human tragedy that touched the hearts of not just a nation, but the world. More than 70 countries pledged monetary donations or other assistance after the hurricane, including Kuwait, Qatar, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Ultimately, Katrina’s death toll was 1,833 people. Thousands were reported missing in the aftermath of the storm and 600,000 pets were either killed or made homeless .
You might be wondering why this is relevant today, fifteen years later. The answer is surprisingly simple: Katrina may not be the worst storm on record for much longer, as experts think Katrina-sized storms may become more frequent, for example: Hurricane Irma (2017), Hurricane Matthew (2016)
Simulations modelled in the years after Katrina suggest that the storm may have been made worse by global warming. As our climate warms up, sea levels rise and climate change makes hurricanes capable of carrying even more moisture.
Then-President Barack Obama summed up the tragedy with these words “What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster—a failure of government to look out for its own citizens.” Let’s hope we have learned to pay attention to climate change and are better prepared for the next category 5 hurricane.
Hurricanes and climate change
Hurricane Katrina Satellite images