|Katrina as a Category 5 hurricane on August 28th, 2005. (NOAA)|
For many years, the "New Orleans scenario" was well-known, and had been addressed in practice drills and exercises... it's a very vulnerable city, with many areas situated below sea level. Everyone knew this would be bad; really bad. The NWS forecast office in New Orleans issued the following warning in advance of the landfall:
"MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS."
Of course, as dire as that sounds, the end result was even worse. It made landfall on the morning of August 29th... it would become the costliest natural disaster in the history of the U.S. (~$108 billion), and was responsible for nearly 2,000 deaths. The only good news was that it weakened quite a bit prior to landfall, and came ashore as a weakening Category 3 storm (120mph winds) rather than the Category 5 (175mph winds) it was a day earlier. Watch a radar loop of the landfall... and note that the final frame also marks the time the radar there was destroyed.
It generated a devastating 27.8-foot storm surge in Mississippi, and the smaller surge in New Orleans was enough to stress the levees protecting the city beyond their breaking point. Many beachfront communities were erased from the map, particularly in Mississippi.
|Observed storm surge generated by Katrina. The peak value in the ">16 feet" category was nearly 28 feet in Pass Christian, MS... the largest surge ever recorded in the U.S. (SURGEDAT)|
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