Hurricane Katrina: Preparing for "The Big One" in New Orleans (A)
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When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday morning, August 29, it cut a wide swath of destruction in the area; but despite inflicting enormous damage, it initially appeared that the storm had spared low-lying New Orleans the worst of its wrath. But as Katrina moved on, it soon became clear to those who had not evacuated the city that something was going very wrong: almost every part of New Orleans began to flood, and by the next day roughly 80 percent of it would be under water. The rapidly rising floodwaters, the result of three major breaches in the levees protecting the city, created a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of residents escaped to rooftops or attics, where they waited anxiously for rescue, or waded in waist-deep water to find shelter; many went to the Superdome, which was already packed with people who had waited out the storm there, or to other improvised shelters in the city. As the days dragged on, it would become increasingly apparent that almost every aspect of the response from state, local, and federal government was falling far short of what was needed: evacuees languished in squalid shelters or on highway overpasses waiting for buses that did not come; looting and more serious crimes were reported to be rampant; food, water, and medical care were in short supply. As public outrage grew, fed by TV footage of distraught storm victims, emergency response officials and political leaders, all the way up to President George W. Bush, found themselves scrambling to cope with the "ultra-catastrophe" that Katrina had visited on New Orleans.
The case asks readers to consider why local, state, and federal governments all proved unready to respond effectively to a catastrophic event which had been long predicted. Part A can be taught alone or in tandem with Part B of the case, which describes the post-landfall response to the devastating impact of the hurricane; it would be useful in classes on emergency or strategic management as well as on intergovernmental relations.
- Case Author:
- Esther Scott
- Faculty Lead:
- Arnold Howitt
- Pages (incl. exhibits):
- United States
- Funding Source:
- National Preparedness Leadership Initiative