Is Gulf Coast Ready for Another Hurricane?

August 24, 2006

A year after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the U.S. Gulf Coast, Louisiana and Mississippi residents wait uneasily to see what the peak of the 2006 hurricane season might send their way.

If a hurricane does head for the region this year, Katrina's survivors will face "some unique challenges," according to Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

One of the biggest challenges would be the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people who have been living in trailers since their homes were destroyed last August and September.

About 81,700 temporary trailers currently provide shelter for as many as 200,000 people, according to the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana.

"One important point to make is that they can't stay in those trailers during a hurricane or even a strong tropical storm," Mayfield said.

"Mississippi and southeast Louisiana will be the first to evacuate if another hurricane comes that way. This is something that hasn't been done before."

(Was Katrina predicted by National Geographic magazine? Read the 2004 article.)

Busted Barriers

The eye of Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 (watch a video time line of Hurricane Katrina). The tempest reached shore as a Category Three storm with winds up to 125 miles (200 kilometers) an hour.

The hurricane broke levees in New Orleans, Louisiana, putting much of the city underwater, and its storm surge—an abnormal rise in sea level associated with hurricanes—pulverized homes in Mississippi.

As many as 1,800 people were killed in the storm and its aftermath.

Katrina also heavily damaged or destroyed natural and human-made barriers that are meant to protect the Gulf Coast from winds and waves.

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