Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Living, leaving, and dying for New Orleans—an insider’s perspective on Katrina

William Monfredo, PhD


This article discusses Hurricane Katrina’s meteorological setting and history, surrounding evacuation issues, and aftermath. The author, who lived in New Orleans for more than three years, taught and researched climatic hazards at the University of New Orleans, and was no stranger to evacuations, began driving to Tucson 18 hours before Katrina’s landfall and returned five months later. The article raises important considerations, including recommendations for the future. The results of flood-damage surveys conducted in Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward districts of New Orleans reveal an intriguing aspect: unlike in Lakeview, which filled with water over a period of hours, intense and widespread flash flooding occurred east of the Industrial Canal, yielding damage similar to that from an F4/F5 tornado. Perhaps more importantly, the article explores various reasons for why some people from these areas did not or will not evacuate when faced with imminent danger. Analyzing the events leading up to and following Katrina’s landfall can help us understand how such senseless tragedy resulted from several fatal flaws: denial, woeful preparation, and poverty. Given that Gulf Coast residents now live within a climate pattern of enhanced hurricane frequency and intensity compared to the three-decade period pre-1995, the best advice for those asked to evacuate is to just say yes.
While this piece reads as a more personal account than most on the subject, it is hoped that it offers an intriguing perspective on the cultural issues impacting evacuations.


flood, hurricane, Katrina, New Orleans, storm surge

Full Text:



Knabb RD, Rhome JR, Brown DP: Tropical cyclone report: Hurricane Katrina 22-30 August 2005. National Hurricane Center Web site. Available at Accessed February 7, 2006.

Satellite Services Division: NESDIS—National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service. Satellite Services Division Web site. Available at Accessed August 26, 2005.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution Satellites and Information (OSDPD). OSDPD Web site. Available at Accessed March 14, 2006.

National Climatic Data Center: Technical Report 2005-01: Hurricane Katrina—A Climatological Perspective Preliminary Report. National Climatic Data Center Web site. Available at Accessed November 30, 2005.

The Weather Channel: Severe-weather segments with Dr. Steve Lyons. Viewed on air August 27 and 28, 2005.

AccuWeather Professional: Joe Bastardi’s tropical update video and daily column: Computer models, radar and satellite imagery, surface and upper-air observations. AccuWeather Professional Web site. Available at Accessed August 18-28, 2005.

Aberson SD: Five-day tropical cyclone track forecasts in the North Atlantic basin. Weather and Forecasting. 1998; 13: 1005- 1015.

WVUE Fox 8 TV: New Orleans Mayor gives a mandatory evacuation press conference during mid-morning. Bob Breck’s ongoing weather coverage, August 28, 2005.

DeAngelis R: Hurricane Camille. Weatherwise. 1969; 52(4): 28.

Williams J: Hurricane scale invented to communicate storm danger. USA Today Web site. Available at Accessed May 17, 2006.

Koch K: Katrina, time take their toll on Mississippi town. CNN Web site. Available at Accessed February 20, 2006.

van Heerden I: The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina—The Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist. New York: Viking Adult Press, 2006.

Burdeau C: Corps takes blame for New Orleans flooding. ABC News Web site. Available at Accessed June 2, 2006.

Simpson RH, Riehl H: The Hurricane and its Impact. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.

McFadden JD: Sea-surface temperatures in the wake of Hurricane Betsy (1965). Monthly Weather Review. 1967; 95(5): 299- 302.

Ward M: Interviewed by author in New Orleans, LA, August 24, 2005.

Hill J: Blanco’s legislative agenda detailed. Shreveport Times Web site. Available at Accessed April 2, 2006.

Johnson K: Grand jury to probe hospitals. USA Today Web site. Available at Accessed January 15, 2006.

Rabenold C (ed.): Washington update. Natural Hazards Observer. 2006; 31(2): 11.

Worster D: Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Colten C: An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature. Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 2006.

Army Corps of Engineers: Draft Final Report of New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Protection System during Hurricane Katrina, IPET (Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force). US Army Corps of Engineers Web site. Available at Accessed July 30, 2006.

Moniz D: Guard relief hurt by obsolete equipment. USA Today Web site. Available at Accessed September 20, 2005.

Colten C (ed.): Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs: Centuries of Change. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.

Storm Prediction Center: Storm Reports. Storm Prediction Center Web site. Available at Accessed September 30, 2005.

Cione JJ, Uhlhorn EW: Sea surface temperature variability in hurricanes: Implications with respect to intensity change. Monthly Weather Review. 2003; 131: 1783-1796.

Henderson-Sellers A, Zhang H, Berz G, et al.: Tropical cyclones and global climate change: A post-IPCC assessment. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 1998; 79: 19-38.

Dow K, Cutter S: Crying wolf: Repeat responses to hurricane evacuation orders. Coast Manage. 1998; 26: 237-252.

Cutter SL, Emrich CT, Mitchell JT, et al.: The long road home: Race, class, and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Environment. 2006; 48(2): 8-20.

Mitchell J: Hurricane Katrina and Mississippi’s invisible coast. Southeast Geogr. 2006; 46(2): 1-8.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Emergency Management