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Hurricane Katrina: 10 Facts About the Deadly Storm and Its Legacy

August 19, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The 2005 hurricane and subsequent levee failures led to death and destruction—and dealt a lasting blow to leadership and the Gulf region.

Hurricane Katrina, the tropical cyclone that struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, was the third-strongest hurricane to hit the United States in its history at the time. With maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, the storm killed a total of 1,833 people and left millions homeless in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The heavy death toll of the hurricane and the subsequent flooding it caused drew international attention, along with widespread and lasting criticism of how local, state and federal authorities handled the storm and its aftermath.

New Orleans on average is 6 feet below sea level and Hurricane Katrina turned fatal after levees constructed to protect the city from rising waters failed catastrophically. Here, on August 30, 2005, water can be seen spilling over along the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal.

View the 14 images of this gallery on the original article

1. Katrina first made landfall in South Florida.

The storm initially formed as a tropical depression southeast of the Bahamas on August 23. By the evening of August 25, when it made landfall north of the Broward-Miami-Dade county line, it had intensified into a category 1 hurricane. With top winds of around 80 mph, the storm was relatively weak, but enough to knock out power for about 1 million and cause $630 million of damage.

WATCH: Cities of the Underworld: Hurricane Katrina on HISTORY Vault

2. Katrina Stalled over the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength.

After passing over Florida, Katrina again weakened, and was reclassified as a tropical storm. But over the Gulf of Mexico, some 165 miles west of Key West, the storm gathered strength above the warmer waters of the gulf. On August 28, the storm was upgraded to a category 5 hurricane, with steady winds of 160 mph.

In this satellite image, a close-up of the center of Hurricane Katrina’s rotation is seen at 9:45 a.m. EST on August 29, 2005 over southeastern Louisiana. Katrina made landfall that morning as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds in excess of 135 mph.

3. The eye of the storm hit the Gulf Coast near Buras, Louisiana on August 29.

On the morning of August 29, 2005, Katrina made landfall around 60 miles southeast of New …read more


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