A Comparison between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey

1.      Introduction

Hurricanes are massive, strong swirling storms with winds blowing at approximately 119 kilometers per hour or higher. They mainly form over warm ocean waters but at times strike land. Upon reaching the ground, hurricanes pushed a wall of ocean waters ashore. The wall of water is referred to as a storm surge, which when accompanied with long heavy rains can cause flooding, especially near the coastlines. The Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale is used to categorize a hurricane depending on its wind speed and magnitude. Hurricanes often start as tropical disturbance when rain clouds build over an area of warm waters in the ocean. Consequently, tropical disturbances build into tropical depressions, which later gain momentum to form storms with winds reaching 23 mph. essentially, a tropical storm with a wind speed of more than 119 mph is referred to as a hurricane. Hurricanes have adverse effects on the economies of the countries that they hit as they cause property damage as well as the loss of lives.

2.      Year of Occurrence

Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast of the Southeastern United States of America on 29th August 2005. The storm that later becomes Hurricane Katrina surfaced as a tropical depression over the Bahamas on 23rd August 2005 (Green, 2008). Upon making a landfall, the storm had a category three rating on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. On the contrary, Hurricane Harvey was the costliest and deadliest tropical cyclone. It made a landfall along Middle Texas in the United States in 2017.

  1. Path of Formation to Landfall

Hurricane Harvey first emerged on 13th August 2017 as a tropical wave off the western coast of Africa that later merged with a broad area of minimal pressure along the Cabo Verde Islands. The tropical storm impacted the Windward Islands and entered the Caribbean Sea as a minute tropical storm and later weakened to a small tropical wave along the Yucatan Peninsula. Harvey rapidly intensified and suddenly became a category three hurricane and later a class 4 one. As it slowly approached the coast, it was accompanied by extreme winds of between 115 and 130 mph. Rockport and Fulton were the hardest hit by Harvey’s eyewall as winds velocities reached 70 mph and above. Moreover, the storm surge caused by Harvey brought about a dramatic increase in water and tide levels over the Texas coast. Consequently, the highest storm tides were observed in Aransas Wildlife Refuge where water surge levels were recorded to be more than 12 feet above the ground levels.

The storm that later formed Katrina emerged on 23rd August 2005 as a normal tropical depression over Bahamas, east of Miami. It made a landfall between Miami and Fort Lauderdale as a type one hurricane with winds strength that ranged from 74 to 95 mph. The storm later increased in magnitude on reaching the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. On 27th August, it strengthened to a category three hurricane with winds exceeding 115 mph accompanied by a circulation that covered the entire Gulf of Mexico. Two days later, it made a landfall as a class four hurricane along New Orleans crossing Mississippi and later making a landfall near the mouth of Pearl River. Additionally, a storm surge of more than 26 feet above the ground level was recorded in the coastal cities of Gulfport and Biloxi. It destroyed homes and resorts along the beach (NASA, 2016).

4.      Category on the Saffir-Simpson Scale and Places of Landfall

Hurricane Harvey made a landfall near Rockport in Texas as category four hurricane according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. On 28th August, it reemerged over the Gulf of Mexico making a landfall in Louisiana the following day. Hurricane Katrina surfaced over Bahamas on 23rd August and later developed into a cyclone as it moved towards Florida and made a landfall at Hallandale Beach and Aventura as a type four hurricane.  It later emerged in the Gulf of Mexico and strengthened to a category five hurricane but later wakened to a class 3 hurricane before making a landfall in south-east Louisiana. North of Houston Cypress Creek was among the major residential areas that were highly flooded with water has prompted numerous harrowing emergency evacuations.

  1. Unusual Features of the Hurricanes

Hurricane Katrina was unusually large and very powerful. A combination of strength and track of the hurricane allowed the storm surge to exceptionally overwhelm the security and protective features and systems that New Orleans administration had put in place. Notably, it is the only city in America where a large population of the citizens lives below the sea level scenario that adds to the unique combinations of events that resulted to many the fatalities of Hurricane Katrina. The magnitude of the aftermath was correlated with the poor city planning and organization of the city as well as poor response to disasters and incompetent disaster management skills and training (NASA, 2016).

Although hurricanes come with heavy downpours, it was unusual for a storm with winds as powerful as those experienced with hurricane Harvey to come with rainfall. The combination of strong and high winds, prolonged downpour saturation, and immersed tumbling trees intensified the catastrophic effects of the Hurricane Harvey. Also, Hurricanes often pick momentum upon approaching land, but Hurricane Harvey lingered while moving at a few miles per hour for several days thus intensifying damage on land (Ervin & Murray, 2017).

6.      Impacts of the Hurricanes


Hurricane Harvey caused at least ninety-one deaths in Guyana and ninety in the United States. On the contrary, Hurricane Katrina resulted to the deaths of 1,245 people in the United States thus making it the most devastating and deadliest hurricane to ever hit the United States since the Okeechobee hurricane of 1928.

6.2.Economic Loss and Property Damages

The total property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina was approximated to be about $108 Billion (2005 USD), which was approximately four times the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew of 1992.Essentially, over 80 percent of New Orleans city and vast tracts of neighboring parishes were flooded causing both agricultural and infrastructural damages. President Bush’s administration sought $105 billion for repairs and the reconstruction of the affected regions. The amount was not inclusive of that needed to fix the damage to the economy that was caused by the interruption of oil supply and adverse destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, infrastructures, and agricultural products (Eisner, 2005).

Hurricane Katrina resulted in the closure of five refineries and destruction of about 30 oil platforms thus intensifying the economic loss incurred by the country. In Mississippi, the forest industry was also adversely affected as the hurricane resulted in the loss and destruction of about 1.3 million acres of vegetation cover. Furthermore, residents of the affected areas were left unemployed leading to the loss of about $105 billion in Mississippi and Louisiana. Additionally, over one million people from the Gulf of Mexico were displaced by Hurricane Katrina (Ervin & Murray, 2017).

According to Moody’s Analytics, the total economic loss caused by Hurricane Harvey was estimated to be about $108 billion (caused by the damage of homes and commercial properties). The lost revenue was approximated to be about $1 billion. A significant portion of the property destructed by the storm was uninsured. The Ball State University compiled a damage report, which approximated the total cost to be at least $198.63 billion (2017 USD). From this report, Hurricane Heavy was the costliest tropical cyclone to hit America.

6.3.Why the Hurricanes Made News Headlines.

When hurricane Harvey made the first landfall in Texas as a category four hurricane, it was classified to be the first major class 3 to 4 hurricane to hit the country since Hurricane Wilma that hit Florida in 2005. The catastrophic aftermath that followed the two cyclones were devastating, and thus Hurricane Harvey became the costliest Hurricane that ever hit America. Also, it was accompanied by many deaths as well as property loss.

7.      Federal government response.

The federal government works in conjunction with foreign government as well as non- governmental organizations to enhance the social ability to prepare and respond in time to natural disasters sustainably. President Donald Trump signed into Law the H.R 601 on 8th September 2017.  The law designated $15 billion and other spending actions for Hurricane Harvey relief.

Disaster recovery response by the federal government in response to Katrina was put into place before the storm began. The Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed refrigerated trucks to mortuary to facilitate correction of bodies. Volunteers also rendered assistance to residents, for instance evacuating them, as soon as the storm made a landfall (Eisner, 2005).

The United States Northern Command established Joint Task Force which acted as a local military response to the scene affected by hurricane landfall. In response to catastrophic effects of the hurricanes, the federal government activated approximately 58,000 National Guard personnel to take care of the storm’s aftermaths. Additionally, the National Department of Defense activated volunteers of the American Civil Air Patrol to aid in the evacuation of stranded and trapped victims. The secretary of the Homeland department security took over local operations as a National Response Plan to reduce fatalities of the hurricane. Moreover, President George W Bush sought the help of former presidents for additional contributions given that they had dealt with other natural disasters during their terms. In response to the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA provided housing assistant to the affected citizens who were approximated to be about 700,000. American Law enforcement and various satisfied public safety agencies gave aid to hurricanes’ victims in Louisiana and New Orleans after the disasters (Eisner, 2005).

8.      Non-Governmental Agencies (NGOs) Response

In response to Hurricane Harvey catastrophe, The American Red Cross Society, Salvation Army, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief among others offered relief and first aid response to the victims in the Gulf Coast Synod disaster (Ervin & Murray, 2017). Furthermore, celebrates and operation BBQ relief together with other charitable organizations offered help to the victims of the storms. The Business Aviation played a major part in offering rescue efforts, providing support as well as donating airlifts and supplies to the victims after the immediate aftermath (Gauging Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on the U.S. Economy, 2017). Approximately, the Operation BBQ relief served 450,000 meals to the victims of the storms. Television and Radio channels created a fundraising campaign to help Texas residents in settling and covering the damaged property after the hurricane.

After the hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross Society, Feeding America, Southern Baptist, Convection, Salvation Army, and Burner without borders among other charitable entities provided help to the victims of the storms by offering shelter, giving first aid, and providing evacuation help among other services (Hastwell, 2005).  The charitable organizations raised approximately $4025 billion as donations from the public to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina (Gauging Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on the U.S. Economy, 2017).

After Hurricane Katrina made a landfall, the Salvation Army allocated approximately 365 dollars in donations to serve victims of the storms by providing shelter, foods and clothes in all the affected states. The organization was also involved in feeding the victims, offering clothes, and other basic amenities to the victims during and after the storms. Volunteers and other charitable agencies provided counselors to provide comfort, emotional support, and spiritual needs of the millions of victims (Tarrant, 2005).


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