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Taken by Storm - Hurricane Katrina

Laurissa Anyas-Weiss, content producer

June 5, 2009 — Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes in the history of the United States. It is the deadliest hurricane to strike the United States since the Palm Beach-Lake Okeechobee hurricane of September 1928.

Hurricane Katrina produced catastrophic damage - estimated at US$75 billion in the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast - and is the costliest U. S. hurricane on record.

This horrific tropical cyclone formed from the combination of a tropical wave, an upper-level trough, and the mid-level remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. A tropical depression formed on August 23 about 300km southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. Moving northwestward, it became Tropical Storm Katrina during the following day about 120km east-southeast of Nassau.

The storm moved through the northwestern Bahamas on August 24-25, and then turned westward toward southern Florida. Katrina became a hurricane just before making landfall near the Miami-Dade/Broward county line during the evening of August 25. The hurricane moved southwestward across southern Florida into the eastern Gulf of Mexico on August 26. Katrina then strengthened significantly, reaching Category 5 intensity on August 28. Later that day, maximum sustained winds reached 280km/h with an aircraft-measured central pressure of 902 mb while centered about 300km southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Katrina turned to the northwest and then north, with the center making landfall near Buras, Louisiana at 1110 UTC August 29 with maximum winds estimated at 200km/h (Category 3).

Continuing northward, the hurricane made a second landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border at 1445 UTC with maximum winds estimated at 190km/h (Category 3). Weakening occurred as Katrina moved north-northeastward over land, but it was still a hurricane near Laurel, Mississippi. The cyclone weakened to a tropical depression over the Tennessee Valley on 30 August. Katrina became an extratropical low on August 31 and was absorbed by a frontal zone later that day over the eastern Great Lakes.

Katrina brought hurricane conditions to southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and southwestern Alabama. The Coastal Marine Automated Network (C-MAN) station at Grand Isle, Louisiana reported 10-minute average winds of 140km/h at 0820 UTC August 29 with a gust to 183km/h. Higher winds likely occurred there and elsewhere, as many stations were destroyed, lost power, or lost communications during the storm. Storm surge flooding of 8 to 9 metres above normal tide level occurred along portions of the Mississippi coast, with storm surge flooding of 3 to 6 metres above normal tide levels along the southeastern Louisiana coast.

Hurricane conditions also occurred over southern Florida and the Dry Tortugas. The National Hurricane Center reported sustained winds of 111km/h at 0115 UTC August 26 with a gust to 140km/h. Additionally, tropical storm conditions occurred along the northern Gulf coast as far east as the coast of the western Florida Panhandle, as well as in the Florida Keys. Katrina caused 254 to 355mm of rain over southern Florida, and 200 to 300mm of rain along its track inland from the northern Gulf coast. Thirty-three tornadoes were reported from the storm.

Katrina is responsible for approximately 1,200 reported deaths, including about 1,000 in Louisiana and 200 in Mississippi. Seven additional deaths occurred in southern Florida. Katrina caused catastrophic damage in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Storm surge along the Mississippi coast caused total destruction of many structures, with the surge damage extending several miles inland. Similar damage occurred in portions of southeastern Louisiana southeast of New Orleans. The surge overtopped and breached levees in the New Orleans metropolitan area, resulting in the inundation of much of the city and its eastern suburbs. Wind damage from Katrina extended well inland into northern Mississippi and Alabama. The hurricane also caused wind and water damage in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Source: National Hurricane Centre

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