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Katrina Most Expensive US Disaster
Hurricane Katrina was the greatest disaster ever recorded for the United States in terms of property damage, which is estimated to be $75 billion dollars. However, it is not the deadliest U.S. hurricane on record.
Other major storms are the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, which killed at least 4,075 people and caused around $100 million in damage ($800 million in 2005 terms, adjusting for inflation). Hurricane Andrew caused $26 billion ($45 billion in 2005 terms) in damages (mostly in south Florida) and is the second most expensive hurricane in American history after Katrina. However, only 65 people died during Hurricane Andrew.
America's deadliest storm occurred on Friday 8 September and Saturday 9 September 1900 when a hurricane followed by rising sea levels hit Galveston Island (Texas) in the Gulf of Mexico. Estimates of the dead range from 4,000 to 8,000, but most sources accept the higher statistic of more than 8,000 casualties (6,000 on the island and 2,000 around Galveston bay). In contrast, though hurricane Katrina was a much larger storm, it resulted in only 1,422 confirmed fatalities.
The difference in casualties between the Galveston storm and Hurricane Katrina can be attributed largely to modern weather forecasting. Based on satellite data and computer models broadcast via TV and radio, combined with modern means of transportation to evacuate the area in time, most residents left before the storm arrived, and those who remained had advance notice that enabled them to make at least some preparations. Only impoverished residents without cars, and some institutional patients who could be moved only with difficulty, remained behind despite official warnings.
On August 28, the National Weather Service issued a bulletin predicting "devastating" damage, and mandatory evacuation orders were issued for large areas of the Gulf Coast. Most infrastructure along the Gulf coast was shut down in anticipation of the storm, including railways and the Waterford Nuclear Generation Station.
Hurricane Katrina was the eleventh named storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season . It was the third most powerful storm of the season, and the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The storm formed over the Bahamas on August, and crossed southern Florida at Category 1 intensity before strengthening rapidly into a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, becoming, at that time, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf. The storm diminished to an extremely large Category 3 storm on the morning of August 29 along the Central Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
The storm surge from Katrina caused catastrophic damage along the coastlines of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The wide extent of the storm caused damage many miles from the eye of the hurricane. Katrina is likely the largest hurricane of its strength to strike the United States in recorded history.
The flooding caused by the 30-foot storm surge was greatly exacerbated by the geography of the area. New Orleans, which was at or just below sea level when it was first built, is now an average of 8 feet below sea level, and continuing to sink gradually as the underlying aquifer is pumped out. Levees up to 18 feet high north and south of the city hold back the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. An intricate system of pumping stations and canals is required to keep the land dry, even after heavy rainfall.
Levees separating Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans were breached by the surge, resulting in flooding of 80% of the city and many surrounding areas. Wind damage was reported far inland, impeding relief efforts.
The excellent pre-flood warning system was not, unfortunately, matched by equally excellent emergency relief once the storm had passed. Rescue efforts were slow and uncoordinated, and public outcry eventually forced the ouster of FEMA chief Michael Brown, an Arabian horse breeder who had been given his job as a patronage appointment rather than for any skills at handling civic emergencies.
Some scientists blame the strength and size of the hurricane on global warming, as rapid intensification of the storm occurred during its first 24 hours after entering the Gulf, due in part to the storm's movement over the warm sea surface temperature of Loop Current. This link cannot be proven without a doubt; statistically, however, hurricanes have increased in both size and numbers in recent years, and 2005 saw so many of these storms that they exceeded the prepared alphabetic name list for that year, causing meteorologists to name the last storms of the season Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta.
Tropical Storm Zeta became the final storm of the 2005 season when it formed on December 30, six hours short of tying the record of the 1954 Hurricane Alice as the latest-forming named storm in a season. Zeta dissipated on January 6, 2006, ending the longest tropical storm season in the history of the Atlantic basin.
On March 21, 2006, New Orleans Mayor Nagin issued a press release stating that any residents wishing to rebuild their ruined homes on the flood plain would not be prevented from doing so, a statement born more out of politics than practicality.
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