Hurricane Katrina’ Meaning


Hurricane Katrina was an unprecedented and devastating hurricane that caused catastrophic damage to property and a high loss of life. Katrina was reported as one of the five powerful and deadly hurricanes in the history of the United States. On August 23, 2005, Katrina first carved a vast swath of fatalities in southern Florida, extended to the central Gulf of Mexico, and to the northern Gulf coast.

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Katrina weakened in Louisiana and Mississippi, with its effects running through Georgia and Alabama (Tarshis and Dawson 114). Following the coverage of its effects, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and among the most catastrophic events to ever hit the United States. Approximately, Katrina claimed more than 1,245 lives and estimated property damage of $ 108 billion (Morrice 38).

Ten years down the line since Hurricane Katrina happened, it is not easy to say that the affected regions and people have fully recovered. Katrina caused huge psychological damage to many people. Besides, Katrina dented the economy of many cities along with the coastal areas. After August 29, 2005, all seemed beyond approach for the residents of the affected areas, for instance, the New Orleans transformed into a global symbol of inadequate disaster preparedness (Hurricane Katrina: The Storm That Drowned a City).

In nearly all aspects of disaster preparedness, there was evidence of negligence during and after Katrina. The disaster left many people homeless and without any substantial form of income. The extensive damage led to adverse psychological effects that have lingered in people’s minds much longer compared to previous disasters (Morrice 36).

However, in a bid to understand Hurricane Katrina, this paper will focus on the mental, economic, and geographical impact of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, this paper will examine the progress made by the US to restore the affected areas.

Mental impacts

As expected, the mental impacts of natural disasters are huge. Even though various disasters pose varying effects, the aftermath of catastrophic events of the magnitude of Katrina is often devastating. Studies conducted after Katrina indicated that most of the survivors were affected by various mental challenges (McCarthy par. 6). Due to the bereavement, exposure to the danger, and excessive destruction of property, the survivors were exposed to various mental effects.

Katrina was much stressful to the less privileged and the African American residents who formed the larger portion of the New Orleans population. Many of these people, if not all, were left homeless and with no source of income. The displaced people were cut from their social and community networks. The experiences of Katrina left many people in need of mental health support.

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Even to date, many survivors of Katrina have fears whenever the weather turns dark with the slightest indications of a storm. The immediately reported symptoms consistent with mental health indicated that most survivors suffered traumatic stress.

The survivors started to experience frequent nightmares and flashbacks concerning Katrina. Over time, some survivors have developed mental disabilities, and they have not been able to recover. Those survivors who faced difficulties in finding rescue due to the government’s late response acquired more complex mental health issues (Morrice 37).

Therefore, the appropriate remedy the government can offer to curb mental effects in similar disasters is to ensure swift response to maintain the usual functioning that guarantees physical and mental stability.

Some of the Katrina-related stressors are directly linked to the government’s failure to offer rescue in time. Survivors of Katrina urged that timely response and logistical assistance to be always prioritized in future disasters. This move could help reduce the impact of the mental health of survivors.

Economic impact

Katrina massively and forcefully caused evacuation on many people of the affected regions. Usual activities were brought to a standstill leading to a closure of the local economy. The immediate economic state after the Katrina disaster was discouraging. The disaster relief programs offered basic assistance in response to Katrina, which was insufficient to prevent long-term economic damage.

State, individual, and local public disaster intervention agencies encountered extraordinary damage to their rescue facilities. Some safety agencies suffered destruction since they were at the center of the disaster. The floods experienced after August 29, forced the evacuation of millions of residents from New Orleans. This evacuation meant many people had to leave their property as well as their means of livelihood (Eggers 23).

The impact on the national economic growth outcome from the affected regions presented a significant drop in the expected level of output due to lost resources, labor, and capital. Increased budget to resettle and support victims of the disaster meant some projects had to be paused hence derailing economic development.

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The education and health sectors were largely affected, as well. The schools had to remain closed for an undefined period because most people had relocated. Besides, most of the learning facilities were destroyed, forcing the affected populations to seek educational services elsewhere in the country.

Both domestic and international trades were also interrupted, thus affecting the broader national economy. For example, before Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf ports and New Orleans were the key loading centers for imports and exports (Hurricane Katrina: The Storm That Drowned a City). Even though the ports were not closed for a long duration, the overall impact had direct effects on the Federal, State, and local economy.

The National Housing Department reported a loss of more than 150,000 housing units during the period of the disaster (Tarshis and Dawson 121). The immediate reconstruction of new housing facilities significantly slowed the overall economy.

The rate of unemployment increased as a result of the closure of industries and other income-generating ventures. This closure had a direct impact on personal income in the region. For instance, personal income in Louisiana dropped sharply immediately after Katrina since most income-generating ventures were hit by Katrina (Zimmermann par. 6).

Most of the insurance firms were skeptical of compensating millions of homeowners for damages. The lawmakers had diverging opinions suggesting that compensation was hard since identifying the real cause of the damage was another thing. Some lawmakers suggested that they were not obliged to compensate people who had their property destroyed by the wind while they were insured against floods.

In Mississippi, immediate housing assistance was narrowed to individuals who had insurance and whose houses were destroyed by the storm. Despite this limitation, the plan needed support from the US government. This consideration translated that the many poor and uninsured homeowners had to wait for a long period to be considered.

Beyond the massive property destruction, New Orleans lucrative tourist zones and casinos were brought to a standstill. New Orleans is a unique tourist attraction center served as the economic engine for the region. Today it is ten years down the line, but the situation is yet to go back to where it was before the disaster.

Many families who earned from the tourism sector still struggle to make ends meet since most of them did not recover their jobs. The tourism sector lost more than 20,000 jobs increasing the dependency rate to an unsustainable level (Zimmermann par.9).

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Government’s failure

Many American citizens, as well as observers still, believe the US government should have responded better to Katrina, given that it was aware of a possible hurricane. This perception creates a different meaning to what seemed a catastrophic event beyond human control to perceived negligence by the US government.

The possibilities of a huge hurricane had already been predicted for New Orleans because of the risk of levee damage. Contrary, the matter was not addressed with a significant level of intervention. Despite having knowledge of the impending danger, the federal responders handled Katrina as a usual storm. The impact of Katrina was too high for the disaster agencies to overcome, but preparedness problems made the response insufficient. These flaws were blatant as it involved state and local capacity limitations.

During Hurricane Katrina, American citizens watched as events unraveled with the hope that the U.S. government was going to act swiftly and stop the worse from happening. By August 29, these hopes had faded and turned to sorrow. The hopes that Americans held were swiftly matched by concerns and disappointment with the unfolding inability of the government to counter the crisis (Tarshis and Dawson 145).

The impacts of Katrina revealed the big flaws in the government’s preparedness for disasters and the ability to face them. American residents were shocked by the efforts of all relevant agencies for disaster management since all were inadequate. This event reminded Americans of the necessity to safeguard themselves and their loved ones.

Public safety and security also proved insufficient following the events that took place after Katrina. For instance, in the Gulf Coast region, people started looting shops after the storm relented. Crime level increased since the communication and law enforcement facilities were damaged hence paralyzed efforts to contain lawlessness.

The lawlessness also obstructed the rate of response by emergency responders. At times, police were compelled to suspend rescue mission to combat lawlessness because it partly derailed relief missions. The federal government also faced acute resource shortages. The impact of Katrina left the affected regions in great need of assistance for food and shelter. The evacuees lacked access to basic supplies and first aid services.

Lessons learned

The main challenge about Katrina was that it was not isolated to one city or state. Nonetheless, smaller cities such as Mississippi needed less but immediate rescue means to avoid the excessive fatalities and massive destruction of properties. The Department of Homeland Security and the disaster preparedness agencies should ensure that intervention measures are sufficient and reliable.

Additionally, the public and emergency responders should be given timely and accurate information about possible disasters. The transportation sector must also be ready to undertake mass evacuation at times when disasters incapacitate the relevant authorities.

The Federal government faced problems while trying to integrate foreign assistance to the ongoing rescue operations. Lack of proper planning dragged the process of accepting and distributing aid from the private sector and abroad. There was a timely response from the private sector concerning the needed resources, but most of them went unused. These scenarios unearthed the unpreparedness of the Federal, State, and local agencies.

The plans that had been laid reflecting the previous major disaster findings proved lacking for a disaster of Katrina’s magnitude. This incapacitation meant that the Federal disaster preparedness agencies had to develop more integrated plans and increase the capacities of all related agencies (Ehrenreich 17).

The obvious explanation as to why the response to Hurricane Katrina failed is that the main decision-makers were not well informed about the plans. The unfamiliarity with the national plans led to poor coordination at all levels of response. Poor regional planning and coordination made navigation to the affected areas difficult. Due to poor planning, the regional branch agencies were underequipped and disorganized to combat Katrina (Hurricane Katrina: The Storm That Drowned a City).


Debates concerning Hurricane Katrina should acknowledge that the effect of the disaster was tremendous, not necessarily associated with human failures, but due to the magnitude and spread of the task. Effective coordination might reduce the effects of disasters but cannot prevent them from occurring. However, from Katrina’s experience, it is evident that good management and an increased sense of urgency would have reduced the impact of Katrina.

Today, the meaning of Katrina to the Americans is beyond the loss of lives or property. Americans have learned the need to protect themselves as well as respond to evacuation calls whenever necessary. This public awareness and willingness to respond is what matters at a time when the United States looks ahead to avoid loss of life and property, as witnessed during Hurricane Katrina.

Works Cited

Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun, New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed, New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2001. Print.

Hurricane Katrina: The Storm That Drowned a City. Dir. Nova. Arlington: Nova. 2006. DVD.

McCarthy, Nial. “How Do People In New Orleans Feel 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina?Forbes. 2015. Web.

Morrice, Stephanie. “Heartache and Hurricane Katrina: Recognizing the Influence of Emotion in Post-Disaster Return Decisions.” Area 45.1 (2012): 33-39. Print.

Tarshis, Lauren, and Scott Dawson. I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005, New York: Scholastic, 2011. Print.

Zimmermann, Ann. Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath 2015. Web.

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