People this week are shaking their heads as they recall the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina slamming into the Mississippi-Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Remembering the devastation, the misery, government failings and lives lost stand out most in the numbers. The Census Bureau ahead of the Saturday anniversary released data showing the Category 5 hurricane was the costliest on record in the United States and the deadliest to hit this country since 1928.
The census also reported that 2005 was the most active hurricane season ever recorded with three other major hurricanes hitting America. They were Dennis, Rita and Wilma.
But Katrina is memorable because of the unforgettable TV news images Americans have of people who were unable to evacuate being stranded in New Orleans. Who could forget the levies breaking and New Orleans being inundated with floodwaters?
Never miss a local story.
Also unforgettable were the hundreds of individuals who clamored for help from the rooftops of flooded homes. There were numerous bodies shown worldwide floating in floodwaters. People also saw widespread looting and the Superdome and convention center overrun with evacuees and countless problems.
People also will never forget then-President George W. Bush praising Federal Emergency Management Agency head Mike Brown, saying, “Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job,” when nothing could be further from the truth.
There also were the FEMA trailers and how unsafe they were in part because of the formaldehyde fumes in them that were two times what the Environmental Protection Agency considered acceptable. And then there was the devastation of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans and how the city, particularly the black community, has struggled mightily to get back on its feet.
In all, Katrina claimed 1,833 lives and did an estimated $151 billion in damage, including $75 billion in the New Orleans area. “Federal disaster declarations issued in the hurricane’s wake covered not only all of the coastal counties of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama but extended well inland to include cities such as Baton Rouge, La.; Jackson, Miss.; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” the census notes.
Also striking are population totals for New Orleans. In 2005 the metropolitan area had 1.386 million people. That dropped to 1.04 million in 2006 as evacuees were relocated to cities throughout the United States. The New Orleans area population has since risen to 1.252 in 2014.
New Orleans itself had a population of 494,294 in July 2005 but dropped to 230,172 a year later and now the city has 384,320 residents. The black population fell from 67.3 percent of the total in 2006 to 58.8 percent in 2006 and 59.8 percent in 2014. The white population grew from 26.5 percent in 2005 to 33.1 percent in 2006 and 31.2 percent in 2014. The Latino and Asian populations also grew.
The number of housing units fell from 592,800 in 2005 to 438,278 in 2006 but rose to 553,627 in 2014. Business establishments fell from 31,401 in 2005 to 29,002 in 2006 but increased to 29,794 in 2013. Employment dropped from 517,194 in 2005 to 427,373 in 2006 and went up to 475,098 in 2013.
The number of grocery stores and pharmacies fell while the number of gasoline stations actually increased from 447 in 2005 to 481 in 2013.
The number of hotels and restaurants also increased, signaling that the rebound in New Orleans is driven by tourism. In a generation, the city may get back to normal.