The hurricane that ravaged the Gulf Coast in August 2005 is considered the U.S.’ most destructive storm in terms of cost. After the levee system failed, Katrina caused more than 7 million gallons of oil spilled in the region, groundwater became contaminated and five Superfund sites flooded. There was more than $81 billion in damage.
Observers still debate whether the storm was man-made or a natural disaster. “One of the big drivers of hurricanes is ocean temperature. The warmer the ocean is, the more severe the hurricane,” Smith said. “The other aspect to that is the scientists who specialize in these things are very careful to say you cannot identify a particular hurricane and say that it was made worse or caused by climate change.”
But Black said man did have a hand in the damage from Katrina. “When the storm happened, when the surges happened in the water flow, it’s the plumbing... that gave way. So you have to say, yeah, it was caused to some degree because of the different systems that have been put in place that have failed.”
Before Katrina struck the U.S., the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for parts of the Gulf Coast. A state of emergency was later declared in the region and mandatory evacuations were ordered for those in the storm’s path. But not everyone was happy with the government’s efforts. People filed lawsuits against the Army Corps of Engineers for not building a solid levee system, and the local, state and federal government response was widely maligned.