Hurricane Katrina: Lest We Forget

August 29 will mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which cost 1,836 lives due to the hurricane and floods which caused property damage of $81 billion and left thousands homeless.

It doesn’t seem like it has been five years since Hurricane Katrina hit the United States on August 29, 2005. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina left thousands of refugees without homes.

The refugees first went to the Superdome for safety but when the levees broke many of them had no homes to return to after the levees broke and water as high as 15 feet flooded the city in some places.

The hurricane did massive damage to the city but the flooding turned a bad situation into an even worse situation as stranded flood victims begged for someone to rescue them from the roofs of their houses.

While this was going on there were thousands at the Superdome and Civic Center who had no food or water for several days as the government was extremely slow in responding to the calls for food and water by the refugees.

I don’t know the timeline in Haiti as to how fast food and water arrived after the earthquake there but I have a feeling they may have been given food and water faster than those refugees in New Orleans who begged food and water for days before finally getting help.

President Bush told the television networks that Michael Brown was doing a great job as FEMA director while there were thousands of people begging for food and water to stay alive. While nobody was responding to the calls for help people were dying from the lack of food and water to sustain them.

How could government officials see the pain the people were in and not respond sooner is beyond me. I know it takes time to get the food and water to the refugees but there should have been a contingency plan that could have expedited the relief efforts.

I realize that it was not easy to get to the refugees because of the flooding but why wasn’t there some airdrops made that could have dropped pallets with food and water for the refugees.

The television networks documented the situation showing the need of the refugees yet it seemed like nobody in the government was doing anything to alleviate the situation. People were dying in the city because they were unable to get a bottle of water for each refugee.

Not only did the federal government fail the refugees but the state and local government did nothing till after refugees had died from lack of water and food.

Hopefully some lessons were learned by the different government entities that failed the refugees that will prevent another situation like was experienced by the refugees in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Thousands of the refugees who had no homes to return to boarded busses to different destinations taking them to an uncertain future in different parts of the United States. Many of them have never returned to New Orleans.

My son left New Orleans before the hurricane hit riding his bicycle and made better time than the motorists who were in long lines of cars exiting the city of New Orleans. We were living in Pineville, Louisiana which is 219 miles northwest of New Orleans at the time of the hurricane.

The hurricane didn’t affect us much since the hurricane hit the eastern side of the state. However we had an interest in what was happening to New Orleans since we had been there several times over the years.

Brian Williams of NBC made an interesting retrospective of what it was like when Hurricane Katrina hit and the aftermath on a recent Dateline NBC program that reminds us again of the suffering endured by the refugees of Hurricane Katrina.

Those who missed the broadcast and would like to see the program can find it in six parts:

This photo shows how the flooding covered part of the I-10 and I-610 interchange in the New Orleans area.

I was impressed by the sincerity of Brian Williams in the Dateline NBC program and his ability to tell what it was like to be there in the center of the storm and the aftermath in which our government was unable to respond to calls for food and water until several days after the hurricane had hit.

If the government doesn’t have a better contingency plan than we had in 2005 we are doomed to repeat history the next time a major hurricane hits the United States.

Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

4 thoughts on “Hurricane Katrina: Lest We Forget”

  1. Just observed on TV the construction of a huge tidal barrier to stop flooding that the levees were suppoosed to do—the levees were adequate as long as repairs and maintenance were made–demands for levee repair was received, but nothing done–money went to political limbo–one hurricane before Katrina weakened levees considerably–but if maintained would have held–nothing ever said re this–mayor was democrat–too late response was fault of government–but sloppy levee upkeep–really was cause of any deaths–

    1. I agree….The loss of life and property damage due to the government not repairing the levees is squarely on the shoulders of the government. If the government had done their job the people would have gone home after the hurricane hit but the lack of action on the levees caused them to break and render their homes unusable.

  2. Maybe we are asking for trouble when building a city below sea level. I have visited New Orleans several times. I remember walking down a sidewalk and seeing a boat above me. That is not natural and something had to give. During Katrina, it did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s