From the Field

2005 Hurricane Katrina: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive 2005 storm that caused more than 1,800 deaths along the U.S. Gulf Coast. One of the worst disasters in U.S. history, Katrina caused an estimated $161 billion in damage. To date, it remains the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast as a Category 5 storm, then weakened to a Category 3 before pummeling the coasts of Mississippi and Louisiana and affecting 90,000 square miles of land. In New Orleans, breached levees flooded 80% of the city. Poor neighborhoods and people of color were most vulnerable to the storm’s damaging water and winds. People who lost jobs and lacked insurance, savings, and family resources faced a long and trying recovery.

2005 Hurricane Katrina timeline

The tropical depression that would become Hurricane Katrina was spotted in Caribbean waters near the Bahamas on Aug. 23, 2005. Within a week as its winds circulated and gathered strength, Hurricane Katrina brought destruction to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

  • Aug. 25: The storm reaches hurricane status and makes landfall near Miami, Florida, as a Category 1 storm.
  • Aug. 26: Katrina becomes a Category 2 hurricane as it moves northwest through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Aug. 28: In only 12 hours, Katrina increases from a Category 3 to a Category 5 hurricane. Hurricane-force winds up to 160 mph extend 90 miles from the storm’s center, located in the Gulf about 170 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. New Orleans residents are ordered to evacuate. About 25,000 to 30,000 of them seek shelter in the Superdome.
  • Aug. 29:
    • 6:10 a.m. – Katrina makes landfall with winds of 125 mph. as a strong Category 3 hurricane near the southeast Louisiana town of Buras.
    • 9 a.m. – A levee is breached in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward with more breaks elsewhere. Thousands of people are trapped on roofs and in attics as water pours into low-lying areas of eastern New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward, and St. Bernard Parish.
    • 11 a.m. – Still a Category 3, Katrina makes its final landfall near the mouth of the Pearl River at the Louisiana/Mississippi border with winds of 120 mph.
  • Aug. 30: Katrina is downgraded to a tropical depression over the Tennessee Valley as it continues northward, dissipating over the eastern Great Lakes.
  • Aug. 31: At least 80% of New Orleans remains flooded, with portions under 15 feet of water.
  • Sept. 2: In New Orleans, many people are still stranded without services or aid. National Guard troops arrive to restore order and bring aid.

FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Katrina

Explore Hurricane Katrina facts and frequently asked questions. Learn how you can help families impacted by hurricanes.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) map of Hurricane Katrina shows the route and force of the storm from the time it developed in the Bahamas until it dissipated to a tropical depression over Tennessee eight days later.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) map of Hurricane Katrina shows the route and force of the storm from the time it developed in the Bahamas until it dissipated to a tropical depression over Tennessee eight days later. (Illustration courtesy of NOAA)

Fast facts: 2005 Hurricane Katrina

  • Affected about 15 million people
  • Impacted 90,000 square miles of territory from central Florida to eastern Texas
  • Winds topped 175 mph at its peak as a Category 5 hurricane
  • Storm surge on the Mississippi coast reached 30 feet
  • Produced 33 tornadoes

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How did Hurricane Katrina develop?

Hurricane Katrina developed from a tropical depression, a low-pressure area with a loosely connected group of thunderstorms over the southeastern Bahamas. The tropical depression strengthened, and its circular motion became more organized until it was a tropical storm with wind speeds between 39 and 73 mph. As it approached Florida, wind speeds picked up to 74 mph and greater, making Katrina a Category 1 hurricane.

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When was Hurricane Katrina, and where did it make landfall?

Hurricane Katrina first made landfall on Aug. 25, 2005, in Florida, weakening to a tropical storm as it briefly passed over land. It regained strength as its path turned northwest. The storm traveled the Gulf of Mexico and then made landfall on the Gulf Coast in southeast Louisiana near the town of Buras, on Aug. 29, 2005. Katrina moved north along the Louisiana coast and made landfall again later the same day at the mouth of the Pearl River at the Louisiana/Mississippi border.

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Hurricane Katrina approached the U.S. Gulf Coast as a large and powerful storm.This satellite image shows Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico approaching landfall on the Louisiana coast in August 2005.
This satellite image shows Hurricane Katrina with the distinct “eye” of an intense hurricane as it approaches landfall on the Louisiana coast. (Satellite photo courtesy of NOAA)

How large and powerful was Hurricane Katrina?

Hurricane Katrina was an exceptionally large Category 5 hurricane as it approached the Gulf Coast. Category 5 storms have sustained winds in excess of 156 mph. Katrina’s hurricane-force winds of 160 mph extended 90 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds stretched 200 miles in each direction from its center. Hurricanes are typically no more than 300 miles wide. Right before landfall, Hurricane Katrina weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with winds as strong as 125 mph.

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How many deaths did it cause?

There is still some debate about the number of people killed by Hurricane Katrina. Estimates range from 1,245 to 1,833. The National Hurricane Center states that 1,833 fatalities are directly or indirectly related to Hurricane Katrina, reporting that 1,577 people died in Louisiana, 238 in Mississippi, 14 in Florida, 2 in Georgia, and 2 in Alabama. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) estimates that closer to 1,300 people died, with 1,067 people killed in Louisiana and 230 in Mississippi.

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What was the damage from Hurricane Katrina?

Hurricane Katrina is the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, causing an estimated $161 billion in damage along the U.S. Gulf Coast. It destroyed or damaged more than 850,000 homes. Between 300,000 to 350,000 vehicles were also destroyed, as well as 2,400 ships and vessels. Fifty levees and flood walls failed, causing unprecedented flooding, most notably in New Orleans. At least 80% of New Orleans was under floodwaters on Aug. 31, two days after the hurricane hit. While New Orleans has recovered in many ways, its levee system couldn’t withstand another storm the size of Katrina.

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How can I help people affected by disasters in the U.S.?

  • Pray for U.S. children and families impacted by disasters or in need.
  • Give to provide life-saving aid to families in the U.S. following disasters.

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How did World Vision respond to Hurricane Katrina?

Within 48 hours of the hurricane’s landfall, World Vision was providing emergency supplies to the ravaged region.

Our response focused on Louisiana and Mississippi, where poverty rates are high, insurance coverage is low, and recovery was daunting. We also worked with families from storm-hit areas who had evacuated to Texas, distributing more than $500,000 in $1,000 grants as well as essential supplies to these newly homeless families.

We provided personal hygiene items, bedding, clothes, toys, cleaning supplies, and more for evacuated families. To help ensure assistance went to families in greatest need, World Vision worked through local churches, schools, and other community organizations as they supported hurricane survivors.

Following a disaster area assessment, World Vision’s three-phase response plan included meeting not only emergency needs but also facilitating recovery and rebuilding over three years. To help sustain our three-year plan, World Vision opened a 40,000-square-foot storehouse in Picayune, Mississippi, in February 2006.

During its Hurricane Katrina response, World Vision:

  • Helped 318,890 people
  • Distributed $15.6 million in relief supplies, cash grants, and materials
  • Served 165 churches and faith-based organizations
  • Distributed $6.2 million in cash grants to churches and faith-based organizations
  • Provided $500,000 in $1,000 cash grants to 500 evacuated families
  • Furnished 41,600 students with school classroom supplies
  • Handed out 21,000 backpacks with school supplies
  • Provided gift-in-kind products to 253 partner organizations in 2006, 335 partners in 2007, and 335 partners in 2008

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Andrea Peer of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.

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