Earth's Journal

Atmosphere Journal Entry

Katrina Leaves Gulf Coast in Ruins (September 5, 2005)

Hurricane Katrina

Satellite View of Hurricane Katrina as it crossed the Gulf Coast and pounded Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. NASA.

It's been more than a week since Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi and left their coasts in ruins. Now, the region is focused on providing emergency help to survivors and evacuating people unlucky enough to have gotten out before the storm hit.

The region is also facing the grim task of digging through the rubble left in Katrina's wake to find and bury those who died. It is still too early to get a handle on how many people died but relief officials fear the toll could rise into the thousands.

This week, devastated New Orleans was like a soggy ghost town. Most of its 500,000 people have already left the city, taking refuge with relatives and friends wherever they could. More than 200,000 refugees went to neighboring Texas. Thousands took shelter in the Astrodome in Houston, while many others crammed into civic centers and hotels. The state's governor said Texas had just about reached the limit of how many people it could absorb.

Images of New Orleans are shocking. Before Katrina hit, the "Big Easy" was a fun-loving, lively city filled with the sounds of music. Now, the city is in shambles with most of it buried under water and mud. Whole neighborhoods have been swallowed up with thousands of homes and businesses ruined. As the mind-boggling scope of the disaster comes more and more into focus, it's looking likely it will take many years for the city to rebuild.

The work has already begun. Engineers and construction crews were busy trying to fix the breached levees in New Orleans that swamped the city last week. Workers made good progress sealing the breach at the 17th Street Canal at Lake Pontchartrain. The levees must be plugged before pumps can start moving water out of flooded parts of the city.

Thousands of National Guardsmen arrived on the scene to help flood victims and try to restore some order amid all the chaos and destruction. Their arrival was welcomed but many people are bitter, saying the government's response to the disaster has been much too slow.