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Hurricane Katrina

August 23, 2005. Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, becoming one of the costliest storms in US history.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane KatrinaTropical cyclone that struck the U.S. in 2005. The storm that became Hurricane Katrina was one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, with winds in excess of 170 mi (275 km) per hour. On August 29 the hurricane struck Louisiana and, later, Mississippi. It caused massive destruction, especially in New Orleans, where the levee system failed. By August 30, 80 percent of the city was underwater. A public-health emergency ensued, and civil disorder was widespread until an effective military presence was established on September 2. Ultimately, the storm and its aftermath caused more than $80 billion in damage and claimed more than 1,800 lives. It was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Media images of the tragedy sparked passionate debate regarding both the visibility of poor people in the South and racial minorities’ access to government services and assistance. Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, both Democrats, had ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city approximately forty-eight hours before Katrina made landfall. The Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints professional football franchise, was designated as the shelter of last resort for those who did not have the means or the desire to leave their homes. But many of the city's most underprivileged citizens remained trapped in their homes, unable to leave behind their pets, medication, or elderly family members.

Months later, most communities in the affected areas were still without adequate shelter and years removed from economic revitalization, while thousands of citizens remained displaced. In 2012, more than 40,000 homes remained uninhabitable. The city's population never rebounded after the storm, dropping from 484,674 in 2000 to 343,829 in 2010. During that same period, the overall share of the black population dropped 7 percent.

From From CREDO Katrina, Hurricane in the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia and Hurricane Katrina in Culture Wars in America: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices
Image from NASA

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