Myths about Hurricane Katrina

Posted by – September 3, 2012

To commemorate the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Washington Post examined 5 persistent myths about this hurricane and the destruction it left in New Orleans. This disaster killed 1836, displaced over 1.3 million people, and caused over $81 billion in damage in eastern North America, mostly in New Orleans and Gulf Coast Mississippi. Jed Horne of the Post lists these myths as:

  1. New Orleans’s levees failed because Katrina was just too big. (Truth: The U.S. Army Corps and an American Society of Engineers Expert Review Panel concluded that the system of levees, floodgates, and pumps failed well below its design limits due to poor engineering and construction).
  2. The state response was as bad as the federal one. (Truth: Kathleen Blanco declared a state disaster August 26, three days before landfall, and over the coming days would move 400,000 people out of New Orleans).
  3. The storm gutted the heart and soul of New Orleans, turning it into a majority-white city. (Truth: The 2010 census shows the population of New Orleans declined about one-third, with a post-Katrina influx of hispanics reducing the city’s black majority from 67 percent to about 60 percent now).
  4. New Orleans’s levees are fixed and could withstand another Katrina. (Truth: the Army Corps of Engineers has designed the current levee system to withstand a 100-year storm surge, but Katrina was a much-more severe 400-year storm and not even a direct hit on New Orleans).
  5. New Orleanians learned their lesson and are more likely to evacuate sooner. (Truth: it is very difficult to get people to respond to emergency warnings; in the run-up to Hurricane Issac, some New Orleanians seemed more interested in pre-landfall barbeques than evacuation).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has an excellent flyover tour of the system protecting New Orleans.