Hurricane Katrina, Response and Recovery (10-12-06)
Hurricane Katrina crossed Florida as a category 1 storm,
gained strength over the Gulf of Mexico, and pummeled the Gulf Coast,
near New Orleans, as a category 3 storm, causing severe damage and
displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi,
and Alabama. Damaging winds and storm surge destroyed thousands of
houses, and an unknown number of buildings, roads, bridges, boats
and vehicles along the coast. Subsequent flooding damaged hundreds
of thousands of houses and more buildings, roads, boats and vehicles.
Electricity and communications (telephone land lines and mobile phones)
for over 2 million people and an unknown number of businesses and
government facilities were knocked out by wind and water throughout
the Gulf Coast and Florida. The city of New Orleans was completely
shut down. The federal, state and local government response to the
disaster was slow, disorganized and inept. Congress has responded
with large emergency supplemental relief packages and has started
to investigate why the preparation and response were so poor. The
Earth science community plays an important role in understanding the
causes and effects of hurricanes, providing engineering solutions
for natural and man-made barriers to wind and water, protecting energy
exploration, refining and distribution, determining and mitigating
the environmental impact of natural and man-made hazards and restoring
the natural and built environment to mitigate future hazards. Geoscientists
must help educate the public, industry and policy makers about these
issues to reduce future risks.
In addition to holding hearings
that deal specifically with Hurricane Katrina, Congress is also conducting
hearings on energy supply concerns
that were aggravated by the hurricane, and on wetlands
and coastal resources. The background
section contains more details about human and economic losses and
a timeline of events before and after the storm.
For more information on public policy and hearings relating
to wind hazards, click here.
Senate Introduces Hurricane Research Bill
On September 29, 2006, Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL),
Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a new bill
entitled The National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI, S.
4005). The new bill would provide funding for the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation
(NSF) to improve understanding of hurricane movement and intensity.
The bill is partially based on recommendations from a draft report
of the National Science Board entitled "Hurricane Warning: The
Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative."
The report stated, "Time is not on our side."
The NHRI would put NOAA and NSF in charge of implementing
specific goals laid out in the bill, including prediction of hurricane
intensity, storm surge, rainfall and inland flooding, assessment of
susceptible infrastructure, and improved disaster response, recovery
and evacuation planning. The bill would also create a National Infrastructure
Database to provide a baseline for creating standards, measuring modification
and loss, and establishing sound public policy.
"Hurricanes, by far, cause more economic damage
to a more widespread area than any other natural disaster. This bill
takes sound, scientific recommendations and builds from them a foundation
for better, more coordinated research," said Martinez.
The NHRI has been referred to the Senate Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation. There is no comparable legislation
currently being considered in the House. (10/12/06)
NIST Releases a Report on the Performance of Physical
Structures in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
On June 9, 2006, the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) released a reconnaissance
report on the "Performance of Physical Structures in Hurricane
Katrina and Hurricane Rita." The report was coordinated by the
Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL)
group at NIST, which is authorized to investigate all major building
failures in the United States. The group studied a variety of buildings,
physical infrastructure (levees, bridges, water and wastewater systems,
power, communications and industrial facilities) and residential structures
in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Based on the findings, the report makes 23 recommendations for specific
improvements in the way that these structures are designed, constructed,
maintained, and operated in hurricane-prone regions across the United
States. For example, the report urges states to adopt building codes
that require 'critical equipment' such as electrical systems and generators
to be located above potential flood levels, and masonry walls and
roofing to be securely anchored and reinforced in order to protect
against wind damage. In short, many buildings will be better able
to withstand future storms simply provided that contractors are vigilant
about strictly adhering to building standards and statewide model
construction codes. The report further recommends that states consider
creating a licensing program for roofing contractors, continuing education
courses for contractors, and field inspection teams to monitor construction.
Many of NIST's recommendations are being utilized by federal agencies,
state and local governments and the private sector, in order to lessen
or prevent future hurricane damage to structures. For instance, federal
agencies are currently updating flood hazard maps to better estimate
the effects of storm surge and wave action on coastal structures.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
is also repairing and improving the flood protection system in New
Orleans, based on findings from its Interagency Performance Evaluation
Team (IPET) and recommendations
from the NIST report.
To read the full text of the report, click here.
For a comprehensive slideshow briefing, click here.
Army Corps of Engineers Releases Report on New Orleans
In a report released on June 1, 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
acknowledged that the levee system in New Orleans was incomplete and
inconsistent, flawed in design and construction due to a reliance
on outdated data, and not built to handle a hurricane the size of
Katrina. The findings came in a report entitled "Performance
Evaluation of the New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Protection
System," which was prepared by the 150-member Interagency Performance
Evaluation Task Force (IPET).
The Corps concluded that New Orleans hurricane protection system
was "a system in name only." Its performance was compromised
by three main factors: incompleteness of the system, inconsistency
in the levels of protection, and a lack of a second tier of protection
in the event that the first tier failed. The report found that floodwalls
and levees were at substantially lower elevations relative to sea
level than they had been designed to be, due to incomplete construction,
errors in interpretation of measured datum points (several structures
were built 1 to 2 ft below the intended elevation), and substantial
subsidence over the past 35 years (in some areas greater than 2 feet).
Inconsistencies in the quality of materials used in the levees (some
levee sections were composed of highly erodible materials), weaknesses
at transitions between structure types, and differences in floodwall
design also added to the instability of the system. While overtopping
of the levees during Hurricane Katrina was considered inevitable,
it was the foundation failure of the I-wall structures that caused
major breaching and massive flooding of New Orleans.
The foundation failure of the hurricane protection structures was
due in part to their construction over relatively weak and compressible
Holocene age deposits. The report found that in areas where foundation
failures occurred, the subsurface sediments generally consisted of
peat and/or weak clays overlying sand and/or clay layers. Undermining
of the floodwalls was due to shearing planes that occurred within
the clay layers and seepage through the beach sands beneath the buried
floodwall foundations. The Corps admitted that soil shear strengths
in some areas were overestimated, and that it was a mistake to base
design and construction plans on average soil strength values unrepresentative
of highly variable subsurface conditions.
The report stated that while "the repaired sections of the hurricane
protection system are likely to be the strongest parts of the system,"
it warned that the area will remain vulnerable to hurricanes until
the remainder of the system can be repaired and upgraded.
Click here to read the full
text of the IPET report. (6/6/06)
UC Berkeley Releases Independent Report on Hurricane
On May 22, 2006, the Independent Levee Investigation Team (ILIT) released
its report on the "Investigation of the Performance of the New
Orleans Flood Protection Systems in Hurricane Katrina on August 29,
2005." ILIT, led by the University of California at Berkeley
and funded by the National Science Foundation, is composed of 36 members
from universities, private engineering firms, and state and federal
agencies. The team found that the failure of the New Orleans regional
flood protection system can be traced to "engineering and maintenance
lapses, poor judgments, and efforts to reduce costs at the expense
of system reliability."
Even once $3.1 billion in levee and floodwall repairs are completed
later this year, existing design and construction defects raise doubts
that the system can withstand another hurricane the size of Hurricane
Katrina. ILIT reported that defects that caused breaches in the hurricane
protection system were due mainly to the use of highly erodible shell
sand fill in the levees, and underseepage flows that passed beneath
the concrete floodwall support pilings. The team recommended that
Congress authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to comprehensively
reevaluate the entire system and determine its level of safety and
In addition to the technical issues associated with the hurricane
protection system, ILIT identified multiple organizational and institutional
concerns. The report stated that there were underlying problems associated
with "governmental and local organizations jointly responsible
for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the flood
protection system, including provision of timely funding and other
critical resources." The report makes clear that no group or
organization was single-handedly responsible for the failure of the
hurricane protection system, but that multiple parties are to blame.
Eleven major recommendations, such as strengthening the USACE's technical
abilities and creating a national flood defense authority, were included
in the report. ILIT emphasized that the U.S. must "seriously
consider defining risk in the framework of federal, state, and local
government responsibilities to protect their citizens," and minimize
attempts to arbitrarily reduce the costs of constructed works.
The report concluded that "simply addressing engineering design
standards and procedures is unlikely to be sufficient to provide a
suitably reliable level of protection. Steady commitment and reliable
funding, shorter design and construction timeframes, clear lines of
authority and responsibility, and improved overall coordination of
disparate system elements and functions are all needed as well."
To read the full ILIT report, click here.
Senate Approves Emergency Supplemental Bill with
$28.9 Billion for Hurricane Katrina Relief
On May 4, the Senate approved a $109 billion emergency supplemental
appropriations bill in a 77-21 vote. Roughly two-thirds of the emergency
appropriations will be spent on the war in Iraq, with the remaining
funds dedicated to Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery. The Senate
version of H.R.
4939 includes $28.9 billion for hurricane relief efforts and $4
billion for levee repair and flood control projects. The Senate bill
appropriates roughly $15 billion more than the $91.9 billion passed
by the House in mid-March. Other details of the supplemental include
$122.85 million for wetland restoration in the Gulf Coast, $132 million
for repairs of National Wildlife Refuges in the Gulf Coast, $10 million
to the U.S. Geological Survey for investigations and repairs in the
Gulf Coast, $7 million of additional funds for the leaking underground
storage tanks program to investigate and repair damage related to
Katrina, $6 million for Environmental Protection Agency investigations
in the Gulf Coast and $15 million to the Minerals Management Service
for repairs and to offset other funding transfers made earlier. Also
included in the bill was $5 million for the Army Corp of Engineers
to provide drought assistance to southwestern states and extension
of the Drought Relief Act to 2010. The bill is now headed for House-Senate
conference action, which promises to be contentious. House leadership
has said it refuses to pass a bill that spends more than the $92.2
billion as originally requested by President Bush. Additionally, the
President has threatened to veto the final bill if it exceeds his
Senate Releases Hurricane Katrina Report
Approximately one month before the start of the 2006 hurricane season,
the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
released its bipartisan report on "Hurricane Katrina: A Nation
Still Unprepared." The report, released on April 27, 2006, identified
the U.S. government's "inadequate response and recovery efforts"
during Hurricane Katrina and proposed changes to the nation's emergency
response system. The report faulted the Bush administration for emphasizing
terrorism at the expense of natural disaster preparedness, and - among
its 86 recommendations - called for the replacement of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with a National Preparedness and
Response Authority (NPRA). The NPRA would reunify the disaster preparedness
and response activities that were decoupled by Secretary Michael Chertoff
in 2005, and would be led by a director with greater access to the
President during an emergency. The Senators who led the inquiry, Susan
Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), acknowledged that such
an overhaul could not possibly be completed by the start of the 2006
hurricane season, but emphasized that FEMA has become "discredited,
demoralized, and dysfunctional" and should not continue to operate
in its current state.
To read the full text of the Senate report, click here.
House Approves an Additional $19.1 Billion for Hurricane
On March 16, the House voted 348-71 to pass a $91.9 billion emergency
supplemental appropriations bill that includes $19.1 billion in additional
funding for Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery, falling $700 million
short of the amount requested by the administration in February. Katrina
funding in H.R.
4939 includes $9.55 billion for the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, $1.36 billion for levee construction
and flood control efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers, and $100
million for wetland restoration in the New Orleans metropolitan area.
The supplemental also provides an additional $10 million for the Emergency
Watershed Protection Program, which authorizes "the purchase
of easements on floodplain lands in disaster areas affected by Hurricane
Katrina." The Senate is expected to start work soon on its version
of the supplemental bill. (3/24/06)
Congress and the White House Release Hurricane Katrina
Reports, Updated Impact Statistics
Six months after Hurricane Katrina, a series of hearings and investigations
have culminated in the release of reports by Congress and the White
House. On February 15, the House
Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and
Response to Hurricane Katrina released its final report, "A Failure
of Initiative." The report cites "failures at all levels of government,"
focusing on incomplete evacuations, the lack of a coherent National
Response Plan, the unfamiliarity of federal agencies with their responsibilities,
the lack of preparation within the Department of Homeland Security
and the affected states, and problems of coordination and communication.
The report also addresses problems with the levees, including the
"diffuse" nature of responsibilities for levee maintenance, the lack
of a warning system for levee breaches, and the fact that the levees
were not built to withstand the most severe hurricanes.
Roughly one week after the release of the House report,
the White House introduced its own version, entitled "Hurricane
Katrina, Lessons Learned." The White House Report also cites
a number of government failures, including communications problems,
delays in supply deliveries, and confusion among federal agencies
about their roles in managing the disaster. Regarding levees, the
report cites problems caused by the delay in reporting the breach
of the levees, due mainly to a misunderstanding about the difference
between breaching and overtopping. The report also contains 125 recommendation,
including rewriting the National Response Plan.
The Government Accountability
Office (GAO) is also addressing the issue with over 30 studies
related to the hurricane. In a preliminary statement released February
1, David Walker, the GAO Comptroller General, identified three key
problems with the Katrina response: clear and decisive leadership;
strong advance planning, training, and exercise programs; and capabilities
for a catastrophic event. The GAO has since released specific reports
on major emergency issues, hospital and nursing home evacuation, the
National Flood Insurance Program, and fraud problems in FEMA's expedited
The Senate has not yet released a report on Katrina;
however, the Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs is continuing a series of hearings
to investigate the disaster. More information on the Senate investigation
is available on the hearings page.
The recent White House report provides an updated assessment
of the scope of the disaster. It cites an estimated $96 billion worth
of damage caused by the hurricane and storm surge. Over two-thirds
of the total damages ($67 billion) are attributed to the destruction
of roughly 300,000 homes. Business property losses totaled an estimated
$20 billion. The remaining $10 billion worth of damages were split
between consumer durable goods ($7 billion) and government property
($3 billion). The overwhelming destruction of property resulted in
118 million cubic yards of debris.
In addition to property damage, the White House report
details environmental and economic problems related to the hurricane.
Katrina caused 10 oil spills, releasing 7.4 million gallons of oil,
over two-thirds the amount that was spilled during the 1989 Exxon
Valdez disaster. It also caused the 11 petroleum refineries to be
shut down, preventing 114 million barrels of production capacity from
The report also revises estimates of the human impacts
of Hurricane Katrina. 770,000 people were displaced by the storm,
1330 were killed, and 2096 are still missing. The majority of the
fatalities occurred in Louisiana, where 1080 people perished. In addition,
there were 231 fatalities in Mississippi, 15 in Florida, 2 in Alabama,
and 2 in Georgia. According to the National Hurricane Center's tropical
cyclone report published in December, most of the deaths in Louisiana
were caused by the flooding of New Orleans, while the majority of
the deaths in Mississippi were caused by the storm surge. Three of
the fatalities in Florida were attributed to fallen trees, and three
others to drowning. Both deaths in Alabama and one death in Georgia
were caused by car accidents during the storm, and the final death
in Georgia was caused by a tornado.
To access the House report, click
To access the White House report, click
To access the GAO reports, click
Hurricane Katrina Downgraded as Record-Breaking Hurricane
Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Atlantic Ocean on December 30 and
became the long-lasting storm in January as it drifted northwest before
petering out on January 7. This ended a record breaking year for the
hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean. Among the many records broken:
o 27 named storms (previous record: 21 in 1933)
o 14 hurricanes (previous record: 12 in 1969)
o Four major hurricanes hitting the U.S. (previous record: three in
o Three category 5 hurricanes (previous record: two in 1960 and 1961)
o Seven tropical storms before August 1 (previous record: five in
o Costliest Atlantic season ($107 billion+) (previous record 2004,
o Costliest hurricane: Katrina ($80 billion+) (previous record Andrew,
$26.5 billion - 1992 dollars)
In related news, on December 22, researchers downgraded Hurricane
Katrina from a Category 4 storm to a Category 3 storm when it made
landfall on the Gulf Coast. The change was made after researchers
analyzed data from hurricane hunter aircraft, including from dropsondes,
devices dropped into the hurricane that measure wind speed, temperature,
humidity and atmospheric pressure, stepped frequency microwave radiometers
and radar images. The maximum wind speeds were probably about 125
mph at landfall. New Orleans, which is about 63 miles northwest of
landfall, probably only experienced category 1 or 2 wind speeds. Ground-based
anemometers measured maximum wind speeds of only 95 mph at a NASA
facility in eastern New Orleans. (1/7/06)
Hurricane Katrina Legislation Working Through Congress
Over three months after Hurricane Katrina the disaster continues to
be a major issue in Congress, with hearings being held every week
to oversee the response to the disaster. Despite this interest, there
has been little legislative activity directed at hurricane recovery
beyond the $64 billion in emergency appropriations passed in early
September. Several bills have been introduced, in particular the Louisiana
Recovery Corporation Act (H.R.
4100) and the Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act (S.
1765), but thus far none of the bills have made it out of committee.
No decision has been reached on President Bush's October request to
rescind $2.3 billion in government spending and reallocate another
$17 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to pay for infrastructure
repairs and other recovery efforts either. Of the $64 billion already
appropriated for hurricane relief, $19.58 has been obligated: $7.15
billion has been spent on housing assistance, $2 billion has gone
to flood insurance claims, and $1.45 billion is being used to rebuild
infrastructure. Another $615 million has gone to human services needs
and $86.5 million is committed to unemployment assistance. $4.5 billion
has been directly appropriated to the Army Corps of Engineers, of
which $4.1 billion has come from the Disaster Relief Fund and is being
used for FEMA procurement, debris removal, and logistical support.
A small portion of the emergency appropriations will be directed towards
dredging navigation systems ($182 million) and restoring hurricane
and flood protection ($141 million). Based on this break down of the
emergency appropriations, about $35.704 billion of the $64 billion
has been directed to specific projects.
On November 17, the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee passed S.2006,
a bill that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a $1
million assessment of infrastructure needs in southeast Louisiana
and report back to the committee before January 15, 2006. The bill
also directs the Corps to work with state authorities to design a
Category 5 flood protection system within four months of that assessment.
The bill seems to have stemmed from the frustration of several committee
members, particularly Senator David Vitter (R- LA), that the Corps'
planned forensic study of the levee failures would not be ready until
June 1, 2006, which is the beginning of the next hurricane season.
Several Corps officials have attempted to persuade Vitter and other
Senators that findings from the study would be incorporated into levee
reconstruction before the official results were released. Vitter has
maintained, however, that lawmakers and the public need access to
these results much sooner. The Corps is currently planning to restore
the levee system to its designed pre-Katrina protection levels, but
officials have said they will upgrade the system to Category 5 protection
if authorized to do so. (12/12/05)
New Federal Coordinator for Post-Katrina Recovery
On November 1, 2005, President Bush and Homeland Security Chief
Michael Chertoff announced the appointment of Donald E. Powell to
be the Federal Coordinator for post-Hurricane recovery efforts along
the Gulf Coast. Don Powell has been the chairman of the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and will report to the administration
as a central coordinator for state and local governments, the private
sector, and community leaders as rebuilding plans get underway. President
Bush, members of Congress and local government officials who testified
before Congress all agreed that selecting such a point person was
essential to an efficient and effective recovery process. Powell's
background includes 30 years of experience in financial services and
involvement with community organizations in Amarillo, Texas. (11/2/05)
Shuffling Hurricane Katrina Emergency Spending
On October 28, 2005, President Bush requested that Congress rescind
$2.3 billion in government spending and reshuffle another $17 billion
in FEMA funds to pay for rebuilding critical infrastructure in the
Gulf Coast region. The $2.3 billion would come from mostly unused
FY 2005 funds in a variety of government programs, including Interior
department wildfire management, radioactive waste treatment at the
Hanford Reservation, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The $17 billion would come from the $60 billion previously allocated
to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund
Under the plan, the Army Corps of Engineers would receive
$1.6 billion to rebuild levees, waterways and wetlands and $4.6 million
to finish a levee upgrade study. Other specific recovery efforts that
would receive new funding include $324 million for NASA repairs, $124
million for national parks and wildlife refuges, and $41.4 million
to upgrade National Weather Service hurricane forecasting equipment.
House fact sheet summarizes the plan as well as how $64 billion
in emergency relief has been spent. Because the request does not propose
any new spending, it is unlikely that it will face major congressional
opposition, although the budget cuts may prove controversial.(11/2/05)
Four Emergency Spending Packages for Hurricane Katrina Approved
On September 2, 2005 Congress approved a $10.5 billion emergency spending
package to cover the immediate costs of the disaster caused by Hurricane
Law 109-61 entitled "Emergency Supplemental Appropriations
Act to Meet Immediate Needs Arising From the Consequences of Hurricane
Katrina, 2005" gives FEMA $10 billion for direct relief efforts
and the Department of Defense $500 million for its expenses related
to disaster response.
On September 8, Congress passed a second emergency spending package,
Law 109-62, for $51.8 billion in additional relief. The House
Appropriations Committee in a press release indicated that they expect
the funds to be distributed as follows: $26.13 billion for public
assistance ($813.4 million for unemployment assistance, $250 million
for damage inspections, $23.2 billion for housing and other short-term
aid, $1.6 billion for manufactured housing and $250 million for legal
and mental health counseling); $7.65 billion for rebuilding public
infrastructure; $4.58 billion for FEMA ($2.6 billion for logistics,
$1.9 billion for supplies and $75 million for search and rescue);
$3.4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers operations and repairs;
$3.9 billion for Defense Department operations and repairs; $5.5 billion
for other agencies and $648.8 million for future disaster prevention.
The actual language in this second bill, public law 109-62, is very
brief and gives $1.4 billion for Defense Department operations and
maintenance, $200 million for the Army Corps of Engineers operations
and maintenance, $200 million for the Army Corps of Engineers flood
control operations and $50 billion for the Department of Homeland
Security. How the funds should be used is not specified in the Act.
On September 21, Congress passed the "Katrina Emergency Tax
Relief Act of 2005" (H.R.
3768), which offers $8.4 billion in tax deductions and waivers.
Of the $70.7 billion in total hurricane relief, $16 billion has been
spent, and it is unclear how soon Congress will need to pass a third
emergency package. The administration estimates total costs will fall
somewhere between $100 and $200 billion, including the 3 initiatives
described in President Bush's speech to the nation from New Orleans
on September 15. Louisiana's Senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David
Vitter (R), have proposed legislation to provide about $250 billion
in federal aid to help their state rebuild over a 10-year period.
The bill includes about $180 billion in direct federal spending, with
the rest of the spending coming from tax breaks. Despite criticism
by some Members for being too costly and by others for including measures
that are not related to direct relief, the bill was signed into law
Law 109-73 on September 23.
A fourth emergency relief bill was signed into law as Public
Law 109-91 on October 20. The "Hurricane Katrina Unemployment
Relief Act of 2005" authorizes a transfer of $500 million from
the federal unemployment account to unemployment trust funds in the
states affected by Hurricane Katrina. Of that total, $15 million would
be transferred to Alabama, $85 million to Mississippi, and $400 million
to Louisiana. (10/20/05)
Hearings on Hurricane Katrina Begin in Congress
Soon after the hurricane, several committees in Congress announced
hearings on the government response to Katrina. Many of these hearings
were delayed or canceled as the leadership in Congress continued to
disagree about how to best conduct federal oversight. Democrats insisted
on an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate government
failures in the wake of Katrina, but thus far Republicans have countered
that congressional committees are the proper forum for this type of
investigation. On September 8, 2005 House Republican leadership announced
a House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina, to conduct all of the
Katrina investigations in the House. Thus far most Democrats have
boycotted the committee because there would not be an equal number
of Republicans and Democrats on the committee and because the Democrats
believe the Republican-dominated Congress cannot fairly investigate
the shortcomings of a Republican administration. In the Senate, Homeland
Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins
(R-ME) declined to form a special panel and forged ahead with her
own committee's investigations.
Despite the ongoing debate over how an investigation should be conducted,
several congressional committees have continued conducting oversight
hearings on recovery strategies, energy supply impacts, and government
accountability. Click here for
full summaries of hearings on Katrina response and recovery. Click
here for hearings that deal with how the 2006 Hurricane season,
particularly Katrina and Rita, impacted oil and gas supplies. (9/30/05)
Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category three storm that battered
the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama with damaging winds, strong
storm surge and subsequent flooding. The levees and canal walls that
protected New Orleans failed within hours after Katrina's first landfall,
causing 80% of the city to be flooded, leading to further chaos, a
complete shutdown of the city, and emergency evacuations of stranded
citizens. Over a million people have been displaced by the hurricane,
an unknown number remain homeless and over 1200 perished in the storm
or within days after its passage as relief was slow to materialize.
Hurricane Katrina is the costliest disaster in U.S. history, destroying
homes, businesses, roads, bridges, vehicles, ships, barges, canals
and the energy and communications infrastructure along the Gulf Coast.
The oil, natural gas, fishing, poultry, cattle, and timber industries
along the Gulf were shutdown and in some cases destroyed. Shortages
of energy and agricultural resources produced by these industries
have caused short and probably long term price increases that affect
the entire country. In its wake, the hurricane exposed significant
shortcomings in emergency planning and response at the local, state
and federal level. The hurricane also focused attention on racial
issues, economic disparities, and the special needs of the elderly,
infirmed and handicapped in an emergency situation. Earth scientists
had predicted and modeled the damaged from a hurricane hitting New
Orleans for decades and policymakers and emergency planners had been
updated on disaster scenarios to help them prepare. The Federal Emergency
Management Administration (FEMA) was inept, disorganized and too slow
to respond to Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard, private businesses
and the public provided immediate rescue and relief, while other federal,
state and local agencies faltered. FEMA continued to be heavily criticized
days to weeks after the hurricane because of their continued disorganization
and ineptitude, eventually leading to the resignation of FEMA's director,
Michael Brown. In response to the disaster and the criticism, Congress
has initiated investigations into the government response.
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. After roaring
across Florida and regaining strength over the Gulf of Mexico, the
category 4 hurricane passed just east of New Orleans, causing severe
damage and displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana,
Mississippi, and Alabama. Damaging winds and storm surge destroyed
thousands of houses, and an unknown number of buildings, roads, bridges,
boats and vehicles along the coast. Subsequent flooding has damaged
hundreds of thousands of houses and more buildings, roads, boats and
vehicles. Electricity and communications (telephone land lines and
mobile phones) for over 1 million people and an unknown number of
businesses and government facilities were knocked out by wind and
water throughout the Gulf Coast. The city of New Orleans was completely
Over a million people were displaced with 104,900 moved to Red Cross
shelters in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and an unknown
number moved to shelters run by non-profit organizations, religious
institutions and other non-governmental groups. About 3,600 children
were listed as missing in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia;
many were separated from their families during the evacuation and
are expected to be reunited soon. Fatalities stand at 974 deaths in
Louisiana, 221 deaths in Mississippi and 19 deaths in Florida, Georgia,
Alabama and Tennessee as of September 30, 2005. Officials are worried
that the death tolls may rise.
Energy Supply and Infrastructure
Oil production, oil refineries and oil distribution by pipeline or
other means throughout the stricken Gulf Coast region have been limited
or completely shut down. The Minerals Management Service estimated
that 95% of daily oil production was initially reduced (by 1.4 million
barrels per day) and 72% of daily natural gas production was halted
in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of evacuations, shut downs to prevent
problems, damage to production facilities, damage to refinery facilities
or loss of power. About 45 of 4000 Gulf platforms and 4 of 17 Louisiana
refineries were damaged by the storm.
The system of ports of South Louisiana near Fort Fourchon and Pilottown
and the New Orleans port were damaged, hundreds of barges have been
lost or damaged and navigational waterways from the ports to the Mississippi
River have been blocked with debris. The port system of South Louisiana
is the largest U.S. port with 198.8 million tons in trade in 2003.
About 59% of U.S. grain exports go out through Gulf Coast ports while
90% of corn exports and 60% of soybean exports go out through the
New Orleans port. Farmers in the Midwest are concerned about the economic
impact of lower grain prices and higher transportation costs if the
Gulf Coast ports cannot handle barges of agricultural products coming
down the river after the upcoming harvest in a few weeks.
The timber, agricultural and fishing industries along the coasts
of Louisiana to Alabama were severely damaged and may take years to
recover. About 30% of domestic seafood comes from Louisiana and the
shrimping industry alone could lose $540 million over one year. Three
superfund sites within and near New Orleans were flooded, EPA has
documented at least 5 oil spills in New Orleans, raw sewage and other
toxic substances were released into flood waters and damage to oil
platforms, oil refineries and chemical plants released other pollutants
into the waterways. Much of this toxic soup will flow into the Gulf
eventually leading to unknown environmental impacts on the plant and
animal community, leading to potentially longer-term damage to timber,
agricultural and fishing industries. In addition, at least 25 national
wildlife refuges suffered immediate damage from wind, water and pollutants
and 30 square miles of marsh near New Orleans was obliterated. The
marshes had provided some protection against hurricanes.
Below is a brief and non-comprehensive timeline of the path
of Hurricane Katrina, the initial response of the state
and local governments and the federal government.
Estimates of the amount of damage are given, but could change as more
is learned in the aftermath of this disaster. No estimates of the
loss of life or injuries are provided because of the larger uncertainties
in these numbers.
|Tue. 23 August
||Katrina became the 11th named tropical storm of
the Atlantic season when it was located about 175 miles southeast
of Nassau in the Bahamas.
|Thu. 25 August
||Katrina struck the Florida coast near
Hallandale as a category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds. Heavy
rains caused extensive flooding and power was out for over 1.3
million Floridians. NOAA estimated a maximum rainfall accumulation
of 5 inches.
|Fri. 26 August
From August 26-August 28, Katrina grew from a category 2 (100
mph winds) to a category 5 (with maximum winds of 175 mph) as
it moved west-northwest at about 7 mph through the nearly 90°F
waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
|Sat. 27 August
||At 10:00 am (local time), the National Weather Service
(NWS) issued a hurricane watch for New Orleans. At 4:00 pm the
watch was extended to Mississippi and Alabama.
|Sun. 28 August
|Mon. 29 August
Katrina made landfall at 6:10 am (local time) near Buras, LA
(about 63 miles southeast of New Orleans) as a category 4 hurricane
with 145 mph winds.
At 8:14 am, the NWS issued a flash flood warning due to a levee
breach along the Industrial Canal in eastern New Orleans. They
estimated 3 to 8 feet of flooding in the Ninth Ward and Arabi.
The storm made its second landfall at 10:00 am (local time)
near the Louisiana-Mississippi border as a category 3 hurricane
with 125 mph winds. Winds and storm surge damaged a 125-mile
stretch of coastline from Alabama to Louisiana. Rainfall accumulations
exceeded 8 to 10 inches in much of the hurricane-affected coastal
area. Storm surge of 20 to 30+ feet inundated much of the Mississippi
coast, destroying the major population centers of Biloxi and
Gulfport, MS. Storm surge of less than 20 feet inundated Mobile
Bay and flooded out the city of Mobile AL. Storm surge near
Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans was estimated to be less than
11 feet, below the 14 feet storm surge the levees were designed
|Tue. 30 August
From August 29 to early August 30, tornadoes spawned from the
outer bands of Hurricane Katrina in Georgia, damaged tens of
buildings and poultry houses and caused electricity outages
By August 30th, 80% of New Orleans was under water with the
floods reaching as high as 20 feet in some areas.
Local Government Response
|Fri. 26 August
||Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declares a state
of emergency in her state
|Sat. 27 August
||New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of
emergency and asked residents to evacuate low-lying areas of the
city. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour also declared a state
of emergency and ordered a mandatory evacuation of Hancock County.
|Sun. 28 August
||Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city,
less than 24 hours before the hurricane's estimated landfall.
Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared a state of emergency.
|Mon. 29 August
|Tue. 30 August
||Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco asked that the
estimated 100,000 people still left in the city (including about
10,000 at the Superdome and hundreds more at local hospitals)
evacuate New Orleans immediately.
|Fri. 26 August
||The military deployed 10,000 National Guard troops
along the Gulf Coast.
|Sat. 27 August
||President Bush declared a state of emergency in
|Sun. 28 August
|Mon. 29 August
||President Bush declared emergency disasters in Louisiana
and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
|Tue. 30 August
||According to the Washington Post, the Department
of Homeland Security declared Katrina an "incident of national
significance" which should trigger the highest level of federal
response, but the decision was not publicly announced until the
next day. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed higher-polluting
gasoline to be sold in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi
to ease gas shortages.
|Wed. 31 August
||The Department of Health and Human Services declared
a federal health emergency throughout the Gulf Coast and began
to send medical supplies. President Bush authorized the release
of as much as 30 million barrels of oil from the 700 million barrel
Federal Petroleum Reserve. EPA eased restrictions on the types
and blends of gasoline that can be sold in different states.
|Thu. 1 September
|| The military deployed an additional 20,000 National
Guard troops to the Gulf Coast.
|Fri. 2 September
Congress approved a $10.5 billion spending package to cover
the immediate costs of the disaster. FEMA received $10 billion
for direct relief efforts and the Department of Defense received
$500 million for its expenses related to disaster response.
|Sat. 3 September
||President Bush ordered 7,200 active duty forces
to the Gulf Coast, although by law the troops cannot engage in
domestic law enforcement and will not be under the command of
state officials. The military deployed an additional 10,000 National
Guard troops, who will be under the command of state officials
and can engage in domestic law enforcement.
|Thu. 8 September
||Congress passed a bill for $51.8 billion in additional
relief for a total of $62.3 billion in emergency spending for
Hurricane Katrina. $50 billion was given to the Department of
Homeland Security, $1.4 billion to the Department of Defense and
$400 million to the Army Corp of Engineers.
|Fri. 9 September
||Michael Brown, the director of FEMA was replaced
as the federal government's leader of Hurricane Katrina response
efforts by Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen. The Bush administration
wanted a more effective and experienced manager leading the effort.
|Sat. 10 September
|| Michael Brown resigned from his position as Director
of FEMA and was replaced by R. David Paulison, a career firefighter,
who was leading FEMA's emergency preparedness force. Before coming
to FEMA, Paulison was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and
also directed the Dade County emergency management office.
Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, E&E Daily, Greenwire,
NOAA National Hurricane Center, Government Accountability Office,
Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) Report, Independent
Levee Investigation Team (ILIT) Report.
Contributed by Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff, Linda Rowan,
Director of Government Affairs, Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall
Intern, Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, Jessica Rowland,
2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, and Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall
Background section includes material from AGI's August,
2005 Monthly Review
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on October 12, 2006.