*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
Hurricanes have been devastating communities for thousands of years, bringing about various combinations of rain and wind that can do everything from taking down some dead limbs to wiping out houses. They are also common enough that people who live for any length of time in a region prone to having hurricanes are inclined to accept them as something of a periodic nuisance rather than a serious danger. Modern construction styles allow houses to withstand winds in excess of 100 miles an hour, and early warning systems allow people to evacuate. Thus, most hurricanes of the 21st century take fewer lives than a serious highway accident.
As a result, the world watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans in August 2005, and the calamity seemed all the worse because many felt that technology had advanced far enough to prevent such tragedies, whether through advanced warning or engineering. Spawning off the Bahamian coast that month, Katrina quickly grew to be one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history, killing more than 1,800 people and flooding a heavy majority of one of America’s most famous cities. At first, the storm seemed to be harmless, scooting across the Floridian coast as a barely noticeable Category 1 storm, but when Katrina reached the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, its winds grew exponentially before slamming into the southern Louisiana coast as a massive Category 5 hurricane. In addition to the deadly nature of the hurricane, it was also incredibly destructive as a result of failed levees around the New Orleans area. By the time the storm had passed, it had wreaked an estimated $108 billion of damage across the region, and the human suffering, with nearly 2,000 deaths and a million people displaced, was available for viewing across the world. Naturally, the reactions of political leaders would be heavily scrutinized in the aftermath, and people studied the lessons to be learned from the disaster to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.