In Context

In terms of dollars and cents, Hurricane Katrina was the largest weather disaster in U.S. history. Total damages were somewhere between $96 and $135 billion. By comparison, Hurricane Andrew (the second largest U.S. natural disaster) had estimated damages of $22 to $33 billion.

In fewer than 40 hours more than one million people left the city of New Orleans, twice the number that had ever evacuated a U.S. city before. However, close to 50,000 people remained, many of them poor or elderly and with no place to go or means for traveling. Most of these people lived in the most flood-prone areas of New Orleans and were taken to the Superdome sports and convention center as a last resort. For six days, the Superdome housed more than 25,000 people stranded in the city.

Once these people left the Superdome, many of them became dependent on federal grant money and local relief programs for home repair and survival. Due to its location on the canal, the Lower Ninth Ward was one of the most affected neighborhoods with the highest percentage of damaged areas and the highest number of deaths by drowning. Many Lower Ninth Ward residents did not qualify for or carry flood insurance because they were considered outside the flood zone--the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had certified the levee walls to be resistant to flooding.

Caption: Carolyn Parker's house
Credit: Courtesy of I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful

» Bureau of Governmental Research. "Mending the Urban Fabric: Part I."
» Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. "Four Years after the Storm: the Road Home Program's Impact on Greater New Orleans."
» Louisiana Land Trust.
» New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.
» Wolff, Daniel. Fight For Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2012.