I. What Happened
Viewing the weather conditions people may admit that it is changeable especially in some areas. This statement is true considering the natural disasters that were argued by the changes in the weather forecast. Such disasters as hurricane, earthquake, or flood affect hundreds of thousands of people annually. They bring too much damage to humans and the environment. Among the most ruinous natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest storms in the history of the USA. This paper presents the background information about the current catastrophe, describes the response factors to it, discusses the outcomes, learned lessons, and recommended actions to given event.
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1. Incident Background
- What happened
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the USA. The storm stuck landfall with the category 3 due to the rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It brought strong winds of about 100–140 miles per hour and was stretching for approximately 400 miles across (Laforet, 2012). The damage of this storm was definitely huge, and its consequences were catastrophic. Thus, it ranks as one of the deadliest hurricanes in the United States.
This natural disaster appeared with destructive force at daybreak on August 29, 2005 (Laforet, 2012). However, the actual hurricane was active in the Atlantic Ocean for several days before (some sources pointed its beginning from the 23rd of August), and lasted as the tropical storm for several days after that (Zimmermann, 2015).
- Why (how and who)
According to the NOAA, on August 23, Katrina formed 200 miles southeast of the Bahamas in the format of a tropical depression (Zimmermann, 2015). A clear band of storm clouds started to wrap around the north side of the storm’s circulation center in the next morning. With winds of about 40 mph, the storm was named Tropical Storm Katrina.
It continued its way to the southern Florida by having the category 1 hurricane. After passing over Florida, Katrina weakened its force and was classified as a tropical storm. However, later it stalled under an enormous upper-level anticyclone that was dominant in the whole Gulf of Mexico, and, thus, gained its strength very fast. This weather condition re-intensified in a hurricane of category 5 with blowing winds at about 175 mph. When the storm turned on the north side toward the Louisiana coast, it was weakened to a category 3 hurricane.
After moving over southern and central parts of Mississippi, Katrina had a category 1 storm. It was lowered to a tropical one six hours later and became very weak on August 31 (Zimmermann, 2015).
Hitting the Gulf Coast, the storm stroke the city of New Orleans and did the damage to its neighbor, a state of Mississippi (Laforet, 2012). Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana were also hit hard.
Different sources provide various numbers of people who suffer from this natural disaster. However, in total, due to the statistics, 1,833 people died during the hurricane as well as the flooding (Zimmermann, 2015). About 900 people are declared missing, and more than hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced or had to leave the region of New Orleans entirely (Soergel, 2015). According to the U.S. News, “about 1.5 million people were evacuated from New Orleans and nearby areas in Louisiana before Katrina walloped the region” (Soergel, 2015, para.5). As a result of Hurricane Katrina, there were at least 986 deaths of Louisiana residents. Approximately half of a total number of victims was older than 74 years (Plyer, 2015).
- Relevant Environmental Factors
Hurricanes usually develop over warm waters in the Atlantic area. While reaching land, they begin to lower their strength. It was when Katrina swept across Florida for the first time having a category 1 hurricane. However, the storm obtained new energy while moving into the Gulf of Mexico where water was warmer than in the Atlantic Ocean. This helped Katrina strengthened fast and, as a result, it became a category 5 hurricane.
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There is some built environment that provokes such disasters as Hurricane Katrina. As New Orleans is situated amid two bodies of water, many parts of it are below the sea level. The city was built on the Mississippi floodplain that is the area on both sides of the river. This condition would normally flood as soon as the water rises.
II. Response Factors and Actions
1. Public Safety Agencies
Local. Repairing the levees in the cities, pumping out the floodwaters, and searching homes for thousands of displaced residents are still in progress.
State. After American President George Bush had signed the bill, the U.S. Congress approved 10.5 billion dollars as an aid for rescue and relief during Hurricane Katrina (Drye, 2005).
Regional. Some regional organizations were responsible for a central goal (reducing suffering) as well as more specific aims (evacuation, delivering essential materials, providing medical services, restoring power and communications) (Moynihan, 2009).
Federal. The Federal Emergency Management Agency have not set up necessary operations in New Orleans until several days past after the hurricane started. The Federal Department of Health of Human Services in coordination with the Department of Defense took the lead in the identification of victims and provided mortuary services, but they were slow in doing this task (Moynihan, 2009).
Non-profit. The professional football stadium in New Orleans housed more than 15,000 residents during the storm.
Private Sector. The Red Cross coordinated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide response actions on the disaster. Unfortunately, it was not always successful. An example of it was the case when the Red Cross made a request of 300,000 ready-made meals for Louisiana on September 1. However, FEMA canceled this order, then reordered, and delivered it only on October 8. The same situation was with housing and shelters (Moynihan, 2009).
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The major of New Orleans, Ray Nagin during his speech on the national television asked a “desperate SOS for help from the federal government” (Drye, 2005, p.2). He admitted that there were not food for those people who took shelter at the convention center at the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans (Drye, 2005).
A convoy of the American National Guard troops cooperating with supply trucks arrived in New Orleans and handed around necessary food and water to citizens who stranded at the Superdome as well as a convention center.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided some containment in the response actions to the hurricane by their delayed reaction to current orders (it is clearly seen through its cooperation with the Red Cross Organization).
5. Any Other Aspects Considered Relevant
On the third day of this natural disaster, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, announced a public health emergency in such cities as Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama. At that time, the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, ordered to all remaining residents of New Orleans leave the city immediately (Drye, 2005). Unfortunately, buses and trucks were not available to carry out the command.
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Hurricane Katrina brought an enormous number of deaths as well as severe damage to the land. About 80 % of New Orleans and large nearby areas became flooded as there were floodwaters for some weeks. According to The Data Center, this disaster displaced more than 1 million humans in the Gulf Coast region (Zimmermann, 2015). Hundreds of thousands of evacuated people scattered far and wide from their native lands. Additionally, people obtained serious physical and mental health outcomes after the storm.
Harvard University in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University connected with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to set up a free hotline in Mississippi. Their aim was to provide the population with direct access to public health practitioners and other medical staff who were able to ensure information that was the response from the Mississippi Public Health Department. People who called there could also leave their voicemails with requests to reply to some issues that were even non-emergency.
IV. Lessons Learned
Government officials have implemented better evacuation, communication, and environmental policies. Thus, the Army Corps of Engineers rebuilt the levee system making higher barriers and sustaining them with steel beams that are about 65 feet below the sea level. In 2006, the USA Congress signed an act of reorganizing FEMA. It also has increased funding for both Urban Search and Rescue teams. Also, the resident access to alert information and evacuation has been improved in New Orleans (Zimmermann, 2015).
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Although ten years past from Hurricane Katrina, the region has not recovered from it at all. The population in the metro area in New Orleans had acutely dropped from 1.386 million people in 2005 to 1.04 million in 2006. Some housing units, as well as business establishments, had fallen. Moreover, it did not return to 2005 levels by 2014 (Zimmermann, 2015).
3. Areas Requiring Attention
Many areas for tourists such as the French Quarter have already recovered. However, there are still some regions that are not far from the city that have gone.
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V. Recommended/Post-event Actions
One of the most important recommended actions in the response to the natural disasters is to provide environmental safety and human well-being. The area should have a strong environmental infrastructure that consists of good quality drinking water, sanitation, and taking off the trash and waste in the streets, neighborhoods, and even state levels. In the context of the long-term observations, it is necessary to reconstitute the communities in the region to ensure social support.
Being one of the deadliest natural disasters in the history of the USA, Hurricane Katrina brought a lot of damage to the environment and about 2 thousand of human deaths. Hitting the Gulf Coast, it hurt such states as Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. Various public safety agencies made great efforts in response actions to the storm. Government officials provided good policies in recovering human well-being after the hurricane. Nevertheless, there are some actions needed to implement for social maintenance.