10 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was only a Category 3 hurricane when it hit New Orleans in August 2005. But circumstances conspired to make it one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. The ingredients for disaster were in place before Katrina even hit.

  • New Orleans is almost entirely below sea level and surrounded by water.
  • City officials had known for years that a major hurricane could cause the levees (walls that hold the water back) to fail. But the problem was never addressed, even as the planet warmed and sea levels rose.
  • Meanwhile the canals and floodwalls built to make the Louisiana coast habitable for humans have displaced the sediments that support its wetlands.
  • Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, which form a natural barrier against hurricanes, are disappearing at a rate of 33 football fields a day.

We won’t soon forget what happened. People trapped on rooftops after the water had risen through the floorboards, poured through windows and filled the attic. Mothers and small children—and children without their mothers—stranded for days in the overcrowded Superdome. New Orleans, one of America’s most vibrant and visited cities, underwater.

Hurricanes have many ways of doing us harm: high winds, storm surge, flooding. But people contribute to the problem. We build on vulnerable coastlines and below sea level. Our industry erodes the land that protects us. There will always be natural disasters. Are we turning them into unnatural disasters?

Learn more about hurricanes and their causes

Hurricane Safety

Some tips from someone who’s lived on the east coast of Florida for 17+ years and gone through many, many hurricanes:

1. Wind: wind gusts are hands down the most dangerous part of a hurricane. As of now (Thursday, 1:08 AM), Matthew is expected to strengthen to a category 4 hurricane by the time it reaches Florida. This means we could be dealing with 145+ mph winds. This is the kind of wind that can literally shred gas stations apart, so please please check around and make sure every loose object outside of your house is either secure, or inside. Throw stray rocks, sticks, plant pots, whatever, inside your garage, and make sure chairs and benches are either secure or inside somewhere. The wind gusts and sheets of rain do look cool from behind a thick window or in a video, but this is the real world and even small rocks lying around are a potential danger.

2. Windows: As mentioned before with potential flying debris, please make sure your windows are closed all the way (obviously) and locked. Cover them up if it’s possible (plywood and shutters is a go-to, but I’ve been hearing that a crapload of stores are out of those), and if it’s not, then duct tape an X over the inside and outside of any thin paned glass windows (this helps keep the glass from completely shattering if hit). If you have double paned windows, you should be fine, but it doesn’t hurt.

3. Power outages: As everyone says and you should know, stock up on canned food, non-perishables, water, toilet paper, etc. Power outages can be fun for the first few hours, reading by candlelight and all that, but hurricane outages can last from a few days to two or three weeks. Prepare for the worst. Also, keep a few water bottles in the freezer and if the power goes out, transfer them to the fridge to keep it cold, and as they melt you’ll have extra water. Make sure you have flashlights, batteries, portable chargers, basically make a list of things you’d need to survive in an apocalypse and just go off of that.

4. Electrical surges: ***EXTREMELY IMPORTANT*** A few hours before the storm hits, go around and unplug everything in your house. Everything. If the power blows or lightning strikes, it could blow a circuit in your house, messing up electronics, or possibly even start a fire. Florida is known as the lightning capitol of the world, but that’s not the only way homes can lose power. If you hear something that sounds like a gunshot and scares the living spirit out of you, and then the power suddenly goes out, don’t worry, the transformer just blew.

5. Evacuation: By now, everyone on the barrier islands has received a notice to evacuate. Please, please don’t ignore this, category 4 hurricanes are no joke and if you live anywhere near a beach, you’re in trouble. If you live on the mainland, we’re not being forced to evacuate, but if you’re really worried, no one is forcing you to stay here either. Your safety is always first, and if you feel like you need to get away and take shelter, please do. Just make sure you’ve checked over your house before you leave.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT GO OUTSIDE DURING THE STORM! I don’t care if it’s fun to play around in rain or you don’t care about the repercussions or you just want the experience, it’s not worth it. If these winds can uproot trees, flip cars, and shred gas stations, it’s not worth it. Wait until the storm is over and then go floating down your street in an inner tube. Kayak down the main roads. Do whatever you feel like (taking caution to all the terrifying animals like water moccasins and alligators and all that jazz), just please don’t run around in the middle of a category 4 hurricane for fun.

That’s about it, but remember that if you ever feel unsafe (if a window breaks, if you’re just having a really bad panic attack), find a room in the middle of the house with little or no windows, and just chill out there for the time being. These things don’t normally last that long, and once it’s over, it’s completely over.