Katrina: 10 years later

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated large areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, causing over $108 billion in damage.

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi.  The storm was ferocious.  In New Orleans, flooding breached four levees, culminating in floodwaters of 15 to 20 feet covering 80 percent of the city.

The current issue of Government Executive takes a look at Katrina through the words of 9 eyewitnesses.  One of those is our colleague, Maj. Gen. (Ret) Don Riley, who at the time was Director of Civil Works at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As Don notes in the interview:

Typical of any disaster, whether it’s an airplane or 9/11, you’ll find not one contributing factor but usually a minimum of 100 contributing factors.

For the whole interview, click here.  Here’s more of Don’s recollection of those trying days:

On Sunday and Monday, I was in Baton Rouge with the Corps’ team of Emergency Responders at the FEMA Response Field Office.  We had already staged our debris removal contractors at the border of Florida and Mississippi to move in quickly and had our emergency power generation teams standing by.

After the hurricane passed over Baton Rouge, we conducted an overflight of the storm-damaged areas. The devastation was stunning and we moved quickly to locate contractors with labor and accessible equipment to begin repairing the breaches in levees and floodwalls. We issued our first verbal contracts on Wednesday.  

Although many of our people in the Corps lost their homes, they and many others responded selflessly and with great fortitude. We quickly built up a response and recovery organization across Louisiana and Mississippi. The need for action was everywhere:

Repair the pumps,

Remove water from New Orleans,

Remove debris,

Place temporary roofs on damaged homes,

Restore power to critical facilities,

Repair damages, Assess and correct engineering failures, and

Begin planning for the long term system to reduce future flood risks for Mississippi and New Orleans.

My stay in Louisiana ended when I deployed to the Texas State Emergency Operations Center in Austin, TX to prepare for and ensure the Corps’ response and recovery systems were in place and operational for Hurricane Rita that hit southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas on September 24.

#CorpsofEngineers #HurricaneKatrina

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