Hurricane Katrina made landfall off the coast of Louisiana on August 29, 2005. It hit land as a Category 3 storm with winds reaching speeds as high as 120 miles per hour. Because of the ensuing destruction and loss of life, the storm is often considered one of the worst in U.S. history. An estimated 1,200 people died as a direct result of the storm, which also cost an estimated $108 billion in property damage, making it the costliest storm on record.
The devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina exposed a series of deep-rooted problems, including controversies over the federal government’s response, difficulties in search-and-rescue efforts, and lack of preparedness for the storm, particularly with regard to the city’s aging series of levees—50 of which failed during the storm, significantly flooding the low-lying city and causing much of the damage. Katrina’s victims tended to be low income and African American in disproportionate numbers, and many of those who lost their homes faced years of hardship.
Ten years after the disaster, then-President Barack Obama said of Katrina, “What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster—a failure of government to look out for its own citizens.”