Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hurricane Katrina and the storms of 2005

There have been
more than 2000 federal disaster declarations since the year 1953, that’s an
average of 34 every year. The year 2011 set a new record with 99 federal disasters declared. A federal disaster is declared under the provisions of theStafford Act.  The act requires that the
governor of the state makes a request through the federal government and that
the declaration itself is made by the President of the United States. It is not
only states that can make a request, other entities such as the District of
Columbia, Puerto Rico and American Samoa, among others may also request a
federal disaster declaration.

Once a federal
disaster is declared, the disaster area becomes eligible for a number of
federal supports; a federal disaster presumes that the extent of damage and
devastation is beyond the capability for a local area or a state to provide an
adequate response.

August 29 marks
the anniversary of one of the largest federal disasters in history, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane striking the New Orleans, Louisiana
area. The storm was devastating to New Orleans and surrounding areas of
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Katrina caused 1836 deaths and flooded 80%
of New Orleans destroying many homes, small buildings and businesses.  Four hundred thousand people lost their jobs
as a result of the disaster; donations from U.S. citizens to help those caught
up in the disaster approached $600 million, but help poured in from everywhere,
with donations even from countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  Refugees from the disaster were spread out
across the states, even as far as Washington State and the Olympic Peninsula. 

Katrina caused
about $71 billion in insured losses and replaced hurricane Andrew as the
largest insurance loss from a natural disaster in US history.  There were other disasters as well and that
helped the year 2005 become the most expensive year in history for American
Insurance companies.  The 2005 hurricane set records for the number of storms – actually, more storms then there were
names for. Meteorologists had to add six Greek names to fill out the list of
storms. Counting losses from hurricanes Katrina, Dennis, Wilma, and Rita as
well as other storms and disasters, insurance losses in 2005 ran about $117
billion.  A report from Towers Perrin
noted that insurers writing any property coverage in the southeastern U.S. and
most reinsurers across the globe had losses stemming from Katrina.

Obviously these
storms take a huge human and financial toll not only on the people that they
affect directly, but on the nation as a whole. In addition to the amounts spent
to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina at the time, something over $14
billion has been spent to strengthen the levee system that protects the New
Orleans area. Ironically, as this blog is published, August 29, Hurricane Isaac
is headed toward New Orleans to test that levee system. Let’s all hope it
holds.