In the five years since Hurricane Katrina pounded the U.S. Gulf Coast, the fragile recovery of New Orleans has become an abundant field of study, spurring reports on political, social and economic renewal.
This by-the-numbers summary looks at some of the findings from many reports focusing on the reconstruction of New Orleans.
Background: Hurricane Katrina
- Aug. 25, 2005: Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the Miami-Dade/Broward county line, knocking out power lines and cutting electricity for 100,000homes.
- Aug. 28: Katrina gained strength, reaching Category 5 intensity. New Orleans ordered a city-wide evacuation as the storm flooded 80 per cent of the city.
- Aug. 29: Katrina made landfall at Grand Isle, La. Sustained wind speeds reach 200 km/h.
The storm caused about $81 billion US worth of damage in New Orleans and along the Mississippi coast. In New Orleans, 70 per cent of all occupied housing units were damaged by the hurricane.
The number of people killed in the storm totalled 1,833 across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio. Most of the deaths occurred in Louisiana, with drowning being the major cause of death (40 per cent), followed by injury and trauma (25 per cent) and heart conditions (11 per cent), according to the Greater New Orleans Data Center.
An estimated 1.5 million people in Mississippi and Louisiana were displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the city is growing again, with 2009 estimates reaching 354,850 in July 2009.
Population of New Orleans:
- July 2005: 455,046
- July 2006: 210,768
- July 2007: 288,113
- July 2008: 311,853
In response to the hurricane, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, made 120,000 trailers available to families in need.
In 2007, there were about 45,000 families still living in FEMA trailers. As of June 2010, the number had dropped to 860 families, according to a Brookings Institute's report titled The New Orleans Index at Five.
In March 2010, FEMA sold 100,000 of the trailers at auction. FEMA noted the units were not to be used for long-term housing and cautioned the trailers posed a potential health hazard because of high formaldehyde levels.
Jobs and economy
In 2009, New Orleans had an estimated 519,000 jobs — about 16 per cent less than was counted before Hurricane Katrina, according to the Brookings Institute.
Families below poverty level (2000 census): 23.7 per cent. Families below poverty level in U.S. (2000 American Community Survey): 9.2 per cent.
Families below poverty level in New Orleans (2006-2008 census): 16.1 per cent. Families below poverty level in U.S. (2006-2008 American Community Survey): 9.6 per cent.
Seniors - A study published in 2009 found that Katrina survivors aged 65 and over suffered a sharp decline health after the hurricane. The study, titled Health of Medicare Advantage Plan Enrollees at 1 Year After Hurricane Katrina and published in the American Journal of Managed Care, found that morbidity rates for seniors who lived through the disaster increased 12.6 per cent, compared with a U.S. national increase of 3.4 per cent.
Children - Researchers suggest children in Louisiana and Mississippi are 4.5 times more likely than their peers in other areas of the country to have serious emotional disturbances — specifically emotional issues, hyperactivity and troubles relating to peers. The study, Legacy of Katrina: The Impact of a Flawed Recovery on Vulnerable Children of the Gulf Coast, was published in August in the Journal of Disaster Management and Public Health Preparedness.
The study involved 1,079 families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Researchers also found over one-third of children in families displaced by floods have been clinically diagnosed with at least one mental health problem since the hurricane struck. Nearly half of the families in the study also described their living conditions as unstable.
The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center says 66 of the city's 73 neighbourhoods have regained over half of the population recorded before the hurricane struck.
Optimism is high that the rebuilding process is on track, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Seventy per cent of New Orleans residents said they were confident that the rebuilding process is on track and two in three residents said their lives had returned to normal, according to the survey that involved 1,528 people and had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
But, the Brookings Institute notes, that in Orleans Parish, there are differences in perspectives according to race. Forty-two per cent of African Americans said their own lives and the city in general haven't recovered from the hurricane, while 16 per cent of white residents reported the same.
Crime continues to be a problem in the city, identified by respondents in the Kaiser Family Foundation's report as the biggest problem facing the city. The survey also found that 55 per cent of respondents didn't trust police and 85 per cent said political corruption was a serious problem in the city.
The Kaiser Family Foundation report posed the following question:
Considering everything, what is the single biggest problem facing New Orleans today?
- Crime: 41 per cent
- Gulf Coast oil spill: 12 per cent
- Jobs: eight per cent
- Education/schools: seven per cent
- Housing-related issues (affordable housing): six per cent
- The economy: three per cent
- Hurricane protection/rebuilding flood walls, levees: two per cent
- Health care: one per cent
(Kaiser Family Foundation report - survey of 1,528 people)