Nine years ago today, Hurricane Katrina arrived on the Gulf Coast. The storm brought with it death and destruction, fear and sadness, grief and misery, and even now, nearly a decade later, most Louisiana residents have horror stories about their experiences during and after Katrina.
In Louisiana, in many ways and on many fronts, Katrina will forever be a benchmark by which we measure ourselves.
The Costliest Disaster in U.S. History
Katrina made landfall at about 6 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2005, near Grand Isle, La. Within hours, there was severe flooding in New Orleans and the levees had begun to give way to rising floodwaters that would not recede for several weeks.
The destruction left in Katrina’s wake was immediate – homes and businesses destroyed, lives lost, families displaced – and expensive. More than $127 billion in federal funding was provided for infrastructure repairs, temporary housing and aid to victims, and insured losses attributed to Katrina are estimated at approximately $60 billion. Even now, almost a decade later, we still have no precise figure for how much the storm cost, but for many Louisiana families, no estimate will ever be enough to adequately cover the lost lives.
The Stories We Tell
The stories about lost lives, missing persons, destroyed homes and infrastructure and political fallout were covered from nearly every angle by media around the world in the days, weeks and months after the hurricane. Thousands of evacuated Louisiana residents watched these stories unfold from afar on televisions in motel rooms, in their relatives’ living rooms and in temporary shelters in distant cities and states. The ones who remained were interviewed at length about their experiences and shared heartbreaking stories that left the world in tears.
For most of us in south Louisiana, the question, “Where were you when Katrina hit?” yields a torrent of these tales, and it probably always will. Someday, much as grandparents today tell their grandchildren about where they were and what they were doing on the day President John F. Kennedy was shot, the future generations of Louisiana will hear stories from their grandparents about the day Katrina arrived in our beautiful state.
The Untold Story
Yet in the midst of the stories told about Katrina, the one story that never received quite as much attention is the one about what the storm did to health care in our state.