Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was a large and destructive Category 5 Atlantic hurricane that caused over 1,800 fatalities and $125 billion in damage in late August 2005, especially in the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. It was at the time the costliest tropical cyclone on record and is now tied with 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. The storm was the twelfth tropical cyclone, the fifth hurricane, and the third major hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the contiguous United States.

Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 2005
Not to be confused with Hurricane Catarina or Hurricane Karina.
For other storms of the same name, see Tropical Storm Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina
Category 5 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)

Hurricane Katrina at peak intensity in the Gulf of Mexico on August 28
Formed August 23, 2005
Dissipated August 31, 2005
(Extratropical after August 30)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 175 mph (280 km/h)
Lowest pressure 902 mbar (hPa); 26.64 inHg
Fatalities 1,836 total
Damage $125 billion (2005 USD)
(Tied as costliesttropical cyclone on record[1])
Areas affected
Part of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season
Hurricane Katrina
2005 Atlantic hurricane season
External links

Katrina originated on August 23, 2005, as a tropical depression from the merger of a tropical wave and the remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. Early the following day, the depression intensified into a tropical storm as it headed generally westward toward Florida, strengthening into a hurricane two hours before making landfall at Hallandale Beach on August 25. After briefly weakening to tropical storm strength over southern Florida, Katrina emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26 and began to rapidly intensify. The storm strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico[2] before weakening to Category 3 strength at its second landfall on August 29 over southeast Louisiana and Mississippi.

Flooding, caused largely as a result of fatal engineering flaws in the flood protection system (levees)[3] around the city of New Orleans, precipitated most of the loss of lives.[4] Eventually, 80% of the city, as well as large tracts of neighboring parishes, were inundated for weeks.[5] The flooding also destroyed most of New Orleans’s transportation and communication facilities, leaving tens of thousands of people who had not evacuated the city prior to landfall stranded with little access to food, shelter, or other basic necessities. The scale of the disaster in New Orleans provoked massive national and international response efforts; federal, local, and private rescue operations evacuated displaced persons out of the city over the following weeks. Multiple investigations in the aftermath of the storm concluded that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had designed and built the region’s levees decades earlier, was responsible for the failure of the flood-control systems,[6] though federal courts later ruled that the Corps could not be held financially liable because of sovereign immunity in the Flood Control Act of 1928.[7]

The emergency response from federal, state, and local governments was widely criticized, resulting in the resignations of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Eddie Compass. Many other government officials were criticized for their responses, especially New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, and President George W. Bush, while several agencies, including the United States Coast Guard (USCG), National Hurricane Center (NHC), and National Weather Service (NWS), were commended for their actions. The NHC was especially applauded for providing accurate forecasts well in advance.[8] Katrina was the earliest 11th named storm on record before being surpassed by Tropical Storm Kyle on August 14, 2020.[9]

. . . Hurricane Katrina . . .

Map plotting the storm’s track and intensity, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Map key

  Tropical depression (≤38 mph, ≤62 km/h)
  Tropical storm (39–73 mph, 63–118 km/h)
  Category 1 (74–95 mph, 119–153 km/h)
  Category 2 (96–110 mph, 154–177 km/h)
  Category 3 (111–129 mph, 178–208 km/h)
  Category 4 (130–156 mph, 209–251 km/h)
  Category 5 (≥157 mph, ≥252 km/h)

Storm type
Extratropical cyclone / Remnant low / Tropical disturbance / Monsoon depression

Hurricane Katrina originated from the merger of a tropical wave and the mid-level remnants of Tropical Depression Ten on August 19, 2005, near the Lesser Antilles. On August 23, the disturbance organized into Tropical Depression Twelve over the southeastern Bahamas. The storm strengthened into Tropical Storm Katrina on the morning of August 24. The tropical storm moved towards Florida and became a hurricane only two hours before making landfall between Hallandale Beach and Aventura on the morning of August 25. The storm weakened over land, but it regained hurricane status about one hour after entering the Gulf of Mexico, and it continued strengthening over open waters. On August 27, the storm reached Category 3 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, becoming the third major hurricane of the season. An eyewall replacement cycle disrupted the intensification but caused the storm to nearly double in size.[10] Thereafter, Katrina rapidly intensified over the “unusually warm” waters of the Loop Current, from a Category 3 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane in just nine hours.[11]

Katrina on August 28, nearing the Gulf Coast.

After attaining Category 5 hurricane status on the morning of August 28, Katrina reached its peak strength at 1800 UTC, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 902 mbar (26.6 inHg). The pressure measurement made Katrina the fifth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record at the time, only to be surpassed by Hurricanes Rita and Wilma later in the season; it was also the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico at the time, before Rita broke the record.[10] The hurricane subsequently weakened due to another eyewall replacement cycle, and Katrina made its second landfall at 1110 UTC on August 29, as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h), near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. At landfall, hurricane-force winds extended outward 120 miles (190 km) from the center and the storm’s central pressure was 920 mbar (27 inHg). After moving over southeastern Louisiana and Breton Sound, it made its third and final landfall near the Louisiana–Mississippi border with 120 mph (190 km/h) sustained winds, still at Category 3 hurricane intensity.[12] Katrina maintained strength well into Mississippi, finally losing hurricane strength more than 150 miles (240 km) inland near Meridian, Mississippi. It was downgraded to a tropical depression near Clarksville, Tennessee; its remnants were absorbed by a cold front in the eastern Great Lakes region on August 31. The resulting extratropical storm moved rapidly to the northeast and affected eastern Canada.[10]

. . . Hurricane Katrina . . .

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. . . Hurricane Katrina . . .