Katrina Plus Ten: How Can We Understand the Storm’s Impact? Let Me Count The Ways
Ten years ago, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. What followed was a disaster of unparalleled magnitude in recent United States history, an event and its aftermath that forever changed ideas about urban resilience, the relationships between cities and the water bodies on which they are located, the roles of race and class in disaster response, even whether some cities in vulnerable locations should even be restored after disaster struck. The Mississippi River was almost an afterthought during and immediately after the storm; the river itself did not flood the city and the most damaging levee breaches occurred in other locations. Nevertheless, we feel that serious, sustained examination of the relationships between communities, water systems, urban space, and lived experience in the 21st century should start with at least a rudimentary examination of Katrina and its aftermath.
This is the eighth of ten blog posts examining crucial facets of the online coverage a decade after the storm.
The tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina brought forth a large number of written responses. Some of the most vivid and thought-provoking analysis made its appearance in the form of infographics, or as lists of numbers.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune has made its collected issues covering the storm available through a single site. This “first draft of history,” edited and printed at an off-site plant while the city was submerged, earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize. The Hurricane Katrina Archive is sorted by topic, by date, and features some of the most gripping articles highlighted.
FEMA’s performance during the storm came under intense criticism, for all kinds of reasons. One of the important functions of government agencies, though, is to compile the official record of major events such as Katrina. FEMA’s “by the numbers” look at the storm and its aftermath is informative, if not exactly exciting reading.
There are lots of ways to “crunch the numbers” of course, and a website called Landscape Metrics has devised a complex way to visualize recovery after Katrina. The map takes some playing with to really tell a story, but users can manipulate indicators such as demolition permits and new construction permits to trace when, and where, the city rebuilt itself.
Finally, the site Restore the Mississippi Delta has developed a more conventional infographic in order to represent the complex realities of the storm’s impact on the broader Louisiana Gulf Coast region.