National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina as seen from the NASA MODIS, August 28, 2005. Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated coastal areas of the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, including the city of New Orleans. It was among the greatest of natural disasters to ever strike the United States.

Katrina, which cut across Florida, had intensified into a Category 5 storm over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 175 mph (282 km/h) before weakening as it neared the coast.

Wind speeds over 140 mph (225 km/h) were recorded at landfall in southeastern Louisiana while winds gusted to over 100 mph (160 km/h) in New Orleans, just west of the eye. As the hurricane made its second landfall on the Mississippi/Louisiana border, wind speeds were approximately 125 mph (200 km/h). Gusts of over 80 mph (129 km/h) were recorded in Mobile and 90 mph (145 km/h) in Biloxi, MS.

The central pressure at landfall was 920 mb, which ranked 3rd lowest on record for US-landfalling storms behind Camille (909 mb) and the Labor Day hurricane that struck the Florida Keys in 1935 (892 mb). Katrina also reached a minimum central pressure of 902 mb at its peak, ranking 4th lowest on record for all Atlantic basin hurricanes.

The vicious storm killed over 1,800 people, disrupted thousands of lives over tens of thousands of square miles, and damaged or destroyed 275,000 homes. Damage estimates exceeded 100 billion dollars.

The loss of life and property damage was worsened by breaks in the levees that separate New Orleans from surrounding lakes. At least 80% of New Orleans was under flood water on August 31st, largely as a result of levee failures from Lake Pontchartrain.

The combination of strong winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge led to breaks in the earthen levee after the storm passed, leaving some parts of New Orleans under 20 feet (6 meters) of water.

Storm surge from Mobile Bay led to inundation of Mobile, Alabama causing imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the City. Large portions of Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi were underwater as a result of a 20 to 30+ foot (6 to 9+ meter) storm surge which flooded the cities.

These images are from the NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA Doppler radar from 8:41 p.m. August 28 to 3:32 p.m., August 29, 2005.
Hurricane Katrina poster. Download: 27"x40" (PDF - 35mb)