The preparedness and response to the event exposed significant shortcomings in federal, state, and local disaster response and emergency management. The absence of quick response and delayed quick damage assessment made it extremely difficult to gain situational awareness. This was hampered by communication problems such as lack of communication assets and interoperability problems. Overall the response by FEMA raised doubts, if the agency was capable of responding to catastrophic events. FEMA has previously received severe criticism for its response efforts to Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta earthquake. 42
Hurricane Katrina (2005) developed very quickly off the coast of Florida based on the timeline shown above. 43
44 Hurricane Katrina in Florida
Similar to Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina underwent rapid intensification and exploded into a monster storm within a few days. 45
46 The graphic on the left depicts Hurricane Katrina after leaving Florida and entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Very favorable conditions (little wind shear and warm sea surface temperatures) allowed the storm to rapidly intensify and to develop into a major hurricane (right graphic). Note the formation of the Eye in the figure on the right.
Katrina Impacts 49
50 The top two graphics depict the lighthouse in Biloxi, MS before (1998) and after Hurricane Katrina. The bottom graphics illustrate the damage from levee failures in New Orleans before (2000) and 17 days after the storm. The darker shaded areas are flooded areas.
51 Hurricane Katrina was not the most intense storm to affect the U.S. For example Hurricanes Camille and Andrew were both stronger. The catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Katrina had less to do with the intensity of the event but more with how little society was prepared and able to cope with the impacts. While Mississippi suffered catastrophic damage due to inadequacies of the built environment (e.g. buildings not elevated or not elevated enough, insufficient enforcement of building codes, etc.), Louisiana experienced a devastating number of fatalities due to insufficient preparedness and an inexplicable underestimation of the social vulnerability of its population (e.g. lack of transportation, lack of financial resources to evacuate, overestimation of the protection offered by levees, lack of preparedness by nursing homes and hospitals, underestimation of the risk from Hurricane Katrina, and so forth). Louisiana has an equally lax and inadequate attitude towards building codes and enforcement as Mississippi and in fact most Gulf Coast states do with the exception of Florida. While, to many, Hurricane Katrina seems like a one time event, it is certain that it can – and will – happen again somewhere along the Gulf coast if building standards are not significantly improved and/or land use planning practiced to avoid development of the most vulnerable areas.
Hurricane Katrina highlighted the consequences of ill-perceived or implemented public policies (e.g. flood insurance, inadequate codes and no enforcement) over the past decades.
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