Analysis of Hurricane Katrina
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the gulf coast of the United States as a category three ratings. It brought strong winds with speeds exceeding 140milesper hour stretching over an area 400 miles wide. Although the initial impact of the storm made serious damages, the aftermath presented a catastrophic disaster (Gutmann 2011). Breaching the levees caused massive flooding over Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Thousands of lives were lost, and many more were displaced in the flooding that followed. Over $100billion, worth of property was destroyed with the meteorologists predicting that most places would remain uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Causes and Impact of the Conflict
Hurricane Katrina formed from the interaction between the Tropical Depression Ten and a tropical wave over the south of Bahamas. As a storm, it moved toward Florida strengthening to hurricane barely two hours before landfall at Hallandale Beach on the August 25, 2005(Gutmann 2011). It strengthened rapidly upon entering the Gulf of Mexico reaching category five within a span of nine hours delivering winds upto 280km/h. It was the strongest recorded hurricane of all time although hurricane Rita would eventually eclipse it later in the year. The hurricane later weakened to category three making second landfall at Buras-Triumph in Louisiana with strong winds of 190km/h and heavy rains (Brunkard et al 2008). It moved southward toward Mississippi making a third landfall near its border with Louisiana.
Although a system of levees had been constructed by the army corps of engineers to keep the city of New Orleans from flooding, officials expressed concern over the possibility of surge waters overtopping the levees (Brunkard et al 2008). However, nobody foresaw the whole system of the levees collapsing as it did. The storm surge led to more than fifty levee breaches in the system designed to protect the city of New Orleans from flooding (Malhotra&Kuo 2008). Neighborhoods housing the poorest people in the city sat below the sea level critically exposing a large population to a catastrophe.Katrina surged forth with overwhelming power destroying bridges in areas bordering Lake Pontchartrain. St. Bernard Parish was swept with waters because of levee being breached as heavy rains continued pouring waters (Horne 2008). By October 23, over seven hundred bodies were recovered in New Orleans alone. Scenes were replicated in Miami, Florida’s Panhandle and the Mississippi among other places.
The Response to the Conflict
The response to the disaster involved the federal government, the affected states as well as several local non-profit organisations.The size and impactof hurricane Katrina made extraordinary response of stakeholders seem insufficient (Malhotra&Kuo 2008). The evacuation and medical response and the immediate search and rescue missions were not only incomprehensive but also failed the test of time. Over five hundred organisations were involved in the aftermath mostly responding to the need to save lives where possible while reducing the suffering of those who survived (Malhotra&Kuo 2008). In line with this general objective, there were the specific goals of delivering food and materials to the affected persons, medicine and making the critical evacuations. Restoring communication lines took center-stage as efforts to trace the missing intensified (Fritz et al 2007). A network of these organisations was affiliated with one or more of the objectives leading to duplication of duties.
Although the groups provided unprecedented response, there were problems with coordination of the vast numbers across and within the networks. A case in point happened to be the responsibility of collecting bodies (Fritz et al 2007). Although Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advocated for state governments to be in charge, the respective governments lacked the capacity to discharge the mandate. The governor for Louisiana blamed FEMA for delayed efforts in recovering bodies (Brunkard et al 2008). The House Report of 2006 reported that the federal Department of Health was supposed to take charge but was too slow in discharging their duties.
Even after the landfall, the federal government lacked urgency, treating reports of catastrophe with skepticism. In general the understanding of and response to the disaster by the federal officials lagged consistently behind the media (Brunkard et al 2008). For instance, the Administratorof FEMA and DHS Secretary were not aware of thousands of victims being sheltered in a convention Centre until they were informed by the reporters. Eventually, FEMA undertook a response delivering over eleven thousand trucks of water, meals, medicine and ice into areas ravaged by the storm (Jonkman et al 2009). On the hand, the department of defense mobilized the largest ever-domestic deployment of military since the beginning of the century.On their part, the Red Cross sourced in excess of $2 billion from over two hundred thousand persons, which was twenty times larger than the previous highest mobilization. The National Guard guard’s deployment of over fifty thousand personnel remains the highest in the history of the government (Jonkman et al 2009). With their best efforts, this intervention still fell short of the requirement.The roads were damaged beyond use while floodwaters remained for weeks making transportation a nightmare. With damaged communication channels, responders were denied situational awareness or the ability to communicate vital information.
Criticism of the Response
The dispersed responsibility lacking central command proved a big hindrance. Existence of many operational commands such as the Joint Field Office and the FederalCoordinating officer and the Principal Federal Official all issuing directives increased confusion about the responsibilities of each group or network (Fussell et al 2010). Similarly, the response of the federal government lacked urgency and awareness of the magnitude of the disaster, although they had been warned much earlier of the impending catastrophe.
Community Development Initiatives
Over ten years after the disaster, FEMA continues to offer support to the affected families. They work hand in hand with local partners as well as the states in rebuilding communities that were devastated by the catastrophe (Fussell et al 2010). Efforts are geared toward provision of economic activities that would adequately address the livelihoods destroyed in the aftermath of the hurricane. In so doing, FEMA has provided monetary assistance of over $15 billion to affected states of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama (Bankston et al 2010).FEMA has also improved its response mechanisms to disasters, providing tools to states to become more equipped in the event of the disasters.
It is important to acknowledge that the effects of hurricane were catastrophic not because of failure in response but because of the scope and size of the devastation. While a more coordinated and timely response on the part of the authorities was possible, it would not possibly eliminate the outcomes that were witnessed. However, future disasters would be alleviated by better coordination and evacuations and general successful management of underlying risks.
Bankston III, C.L., Barnshaw, J., Bevc, C., Capowich, G.E., Clarke, L., Das, S.K., Donato, K.M., Dynes, R.R., Eargle, L.A., Elliott, J.R. and Esmail, A., 2010. The sociology of Katrina: Perspectives on a modern catastrophe. Rowman& Littlefield Publishers.
Brunkard, J., Namulanda, G. and Ratard, R., 2008. Hurricane katrina deaths, louisiana, 2005. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness, 2(4), pp.215-223.
Fritz, H.M., Blount, C., Sokoloski, R., Singleton, J., Fuggle, A., McAdoo, B.G., Moore, A., Grass, C. and Tate, B., 2007. Hurricane Katrina storm surge distribution and field observations on the Mississippi Barrier Islands. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 74(1), pp.12-20.
Fussell, E., Sastry, N. and VanLandingham, M., 2010. Race, socioeconomic status, and return migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Population and environment, 31(1-3), pp.20-42.
Gutmann, A., 2011. On risk and disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Horne, J., 2008. Breach of faith: Hurricane Katrina and the near death of a great American city. Random House Incorporated.
Jonkman, S.N., Maaskant, B., Boyd, E. and Levitan, M.L., 2009. Loss of life caused by the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: analysis of the relationship between flood characteristics and mortality. Risk analysis, 29(5), pp.676-698.
Malhotra, N. and Kuo, A.G., 2008. Attributing blame: The public's response to Hurricane Katrina. The Journal of Politics, 70(1), pp.120-135.