Facts for Features: Katrina Impact

Allison Plyer

Published: Aug 26, 2016

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A brief summary of the data on deaths, displaced residents, damages, and recovery funding.

NEW ORLEANS – August 26‚ 2016 – As we approach the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, people around the world will reflect on the devastating impact that the storm and subsequent levee failures had on New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region.


Flooding. When the levees protecting New Orleans failed in August 2005, approximately 80 percent of the city was flooded. The business district and main tourist centers were relatively undamaged, but vast expanses of many New Orleans neighborhoods were inundated, making Katrina the largest residential disaster in U.S. history. The extent of damage varied greatly from one part of town to another. Some areas received one foot of flooding while others were submerged by more than 10 feet of water.


Deaths. Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures resulted in the deaths of at least 986 Louisiana residents. The major causes of death include: drowning (40%), injury and trauma (25%), and heart conditions (11%). Nearly half of all victims were over the age of 74.


Displaced residents. The storm displaced more than a million people in the Gulf Coast region. Many people returned home within days, but up to 600,000 households were still displaced a month later. At their peak, hurricane evacuee shelters housed 273,000 people and, later, FEMA trailers housed at least 114,000 households.


Population decrease. The population of New Orleans fell from 484,674 before Katrina (April 2000) to an estimated 230,172 after Katrina (July 2006) — a decrease of 254,502 people and a loss of over half of the city’s population.(1) By July of 2015, the population was back up to 386,617 — 80% of what it was in 2000.


Housing damage. Katrina damaged more than a million housing units in the Gulf Coast region. About half of these damaged units were located in Louisiana. In New Orleans alone, 134,000 housing units — 70% of all occupied units — suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding.


Total damages. The total damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were $150 billion — $135 billion from Katrina and $15 billion from Rita.(2)


Recovery funding. Of the $120.5 billion in federal spending, the majority — approximately $75 billion — went to emergency relief, not rebuilding. Philanthropic giving, while more than double the giving for either the 2004 South Asian Tsunami or 9/11, was only $6.5 billion. Meanwhile, private insurance claims covered less than $30 billion of the losses.


Be sure to cite The Data Center:
your source for the most up–to–date, reliable data.

For further analysis and recommendations see The New Orleans Index at Ten at www.datacenterresearch.org.


About The Data Center

The Data Center is the most trusted resource for data about Southeast Louisiana. Founded in 1997, we are fully independent and we are experts at bringing data together from multiple sources. In doing so, we are uniquely able to step beyond the limits of analyzing data from just one perspective and take a 360–degree look at issues that matter most to our region from the government, business, nonprofit, and community perspective. In these ways The Data Center realizes its mission to build prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable communities by making informed decisions possible.



(1) Not all people that left the city within the year following Katrina were involuntarily displaced, nor were all people who moved to the city returning residents.

(2) Damages include all financial losses directly attributable to Katrina (damage to buildings, infrastructure, vehicles, etc., irrespective of whether insured or not). This includes business interruption directly due to building damage, but does not include indirect financial detriments such as loss of earnings by down-stream suppliers, shortfall in GDP, nor non-economic losses. All figures are presented in 2005 dollars.


Ahlers, D., Plyer, A., and Weil, F. (2008). Where is the money? Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://gnocdc.s3.amazonaws.com/reports/HurricaneFundingGap.pdf.

Brunkard, J., Namulanda, G., and Ratard, R. (2008). Hurricane Katrina deaths, Louisiana, 2005. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. 2, 215-223.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2006). Current housing unit damage estimates: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://gnocdc.s3.amazonaws.com/reports/Katrina_Rita_Wilma_Damage_2_12_06___revised.pdf.

FEMA. (2005). Governmental Gulf Coast response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Harden, B. and Vedantam, S. (2005). Many displaced by Katrina turn to relatives for shelter. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/07/AR2005090702415.html.

Liu, A., Fellowes, M., and Mabanta, M. (2006). Special edition of the Katrina Index: A one–year review of key indicators of recovery in post–storm New Orleans. Brookings Institution. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2007/08neworleansindex/20060822_katrina.pdf.

Plyer, A. and Liu, A. (2009). The New Orleans Index. The Data Center and Brookings Institution.

Swiss Reinsurance Company. (2006). Natural catastrophes and man–made disasters 2005: High earthquake casualties, new dimension in windstorm losses.

Testimony of Robert David Paulison, Acting Director, FEMA, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. (2005).

U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.) Vintage 2012 and 2000–10 intercensal population estimates. Retrieved August 2, 2013 from http://www.census.gov/popest/.


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