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The name of this site is a tribute to the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the most active on record and the year of Hurricane Katrina. An unprecedented 28 named storms formed in the Atlantic Basin. For the first time, the National Hurricane Center used all the names on the regular list and had to resort to the back-up list, the Greek alphabet. Fifteen of the storms became hurricanes, seven of which attained major hurricane strength. One of these major hurricanes, Wilma, became the strongest recorded Atlantic hurricane with a minimum pressure of 882mb. Tragically, many of the storms had a significant impact on land: An accumulated $160 billion in damage was left behind and nearly 4,000 people lost their lives. Hurricane Katrina stands as one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the United States, and its wide-reaching impacts still persist to this day.
By Jason Moreland - 28storms
Living in New Orleans made me aware of the power of hurricanes at an early age. My family always kept up with the local weather reports and the Weather Channel. Hurricane Andrew is responsible for one of my vivid childhood memories. My family and I stayed up all night without electricity while listening to Bob Breck on the radio as the outer bands of Andrew swirled outside. A few years later, I remember watching news coverage of Hurricane Erin heading in our general direction. I firmly believe some of those events are what ignited my passion for meteorology. My parents gave me my first computer for Christmas in 1997 so I could follow the weather. I've tracked every Atlantic storm since then.
In the summer of 2005, I had just turned 18 and was gearing up for my senior year of high school. Not only was I ready to be done with high school, but I was also anxious to begin college life at the University of South Alabama. I had spent the last four years posting amateur forecasts online, but was eager to learn the real science behind weather and build a professional resume.
Senior year began without a hitch on August 15th. On the evening of Thursday, August 25th, our senior ring ceremony was held at St. Joseph's Church across from the Superdome. It was a tremendous night as I, along with all of my classmates, received our rings and celebrated the beginning of our final year together. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but think about the minimal hurricane crossing the Florida peninsula. Some of the model guidance I observed earlier in the afternoon indicated that Katrina could trend closer to New Orleans. That night, I feared it could be the last time I ever saw my senior class as a whole since we didn't have school on Friday and the storm would potentially arrive that weekend. My parents took me to a restaurant after the ceremony, and sure enough live coverage of Katrina's Florida landfall was being shown on television. This only ratcheted up my suspense to return home and track the storm.
The news became steadily worse as everyone headed into the weekend. I can't recall everything that took place the following Friday, but I am positive I didn't leave the computer more than a couple minutes at a time. My friends and family had always jokingly called me the "weatherman" since I was constantly up to date on the weather and always providing forecasts. That weekend, however, was no laughing matter. Seemingly everyone I knew was calling and asking if the news had changed or if they should begin to consider evacuation. My family had already evacuated for Georges and Ivan in 1998 and 2004, respectively. We were warned for decades that a major hurricane would submerge the city in a direct hit. The odds of the worst case scenario becoming a reality within 48 hours was becoming a little much for anyone to handle.
My mom and I stayed awake through Friday night and into the early morning hours of Saturday, August 27th. Sleep wasn't an option as I was on pins and needles. The period of possible rapid intensification was drawing closer. The forecasts couldn't be more accurate. By 3 a.m., Katrina began to rapidly expand and develop a distinct eye feature on satellite. Reports from the early morning hurricane hunter flight also revealed that the hurricane was beginning to explode. At this point I knew we had no choice but to leave New Orleans. We quickly gathered our mandatory travel items and began to take video of our home for insurance purposes. We pulled out of the driveway just prior to sunrise. I had a sick feeling as I figured it'd be the last time I would ever see my home intact.
My grandparents accompanied us as we turned onto Interstate 10 and headed east for Mobile, Alabama. I knew moderate impacts would be felt in Mobile, but the hotel we selected was outside of the storm surge zone and far enough away from the devastating wind swath. Our decision was made easier by the fact that all motels north and west of New Orleans had no vacancy. There was little to no traffic on the interstate as it was early in the morning and many people who chose to evacuate had already done so. We listened to WWL AM radio along the whole way to Alabama. As we drove through Gulfport and Biloxi around 7 a.m., we heard that Katrina had evolved into a catastrophic category 5 hurricane. At that time, I knew New Orleans' fate was sealed and that my life would be changed forever. I couldn't quelch the adrenaline spawned by my life-long interest in storms, but at the same time I was sick to my stomach. I ran to our room, powered up the laptop, and turned on the TV as soon as we arrived. We tuned just in time for Mayor Nagin's dramatic warning to all residents deciding to stay in New Orleans.
Many people remained in the city for a variety of reasons. Some people were poor and had no means of transportation. Others were either afraid to leave their homes or first responders who had to be on duty. A couple of my relatives who ignored my advice to evacuate decided to stay in their home in Lakeview. Meanwhile, my closest uncle was called in for duty since he is a New Orleans Police officer. By Saturday evening, we were becoming increasingly nervous over the well-being of our relatives who would soon be trapped within the city. The outer bands of Katrina were beginning to spread inland as we opted to remain awake for a second night in a row.
At 6:30 a.m., Sunday, August 29th, Katrina struck coastal Louisiana and Mississippi with full fury. However, there were some glimmers of hope. Katrina had weakened slightly overnight and it looked as if the eye would pass just east of downtown. By 8 a.m., sustained winds in Mobile became strong enough to knock out electricity to our hotel. I found myself huddled with family while listening to AM radio to receive any news out of New Orleans; I couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia as I remembered my childhood memories of Andrew.
My grandmother called my uncle, who was still embedded within the NOPD in New Orleans East. To our despair, he said that it was "looking bad." Midway through the conversation, he abrupted one of her questions while yelling that a neighbor's home had lost its 2nd floor in a wind gust! The sound of his voice was not optimistic. The phone line went dead soon after as if Katrina didn't want anyone to reveal the extent of her attack. This would be the last time we heard from anyone for a while as all means of communication were lost. No phones with a New Orleans area code were functional, even if you had evacuated to another area.
Everything seemed to go downhill following the phone conversation. A piece of sheet metal cracked our hotel room window, forcing us to migrate to my grandparents' room. The New Orleans radio station had limited reports, but they were becoming steadily worse. There were rumors of levee breaches and people becoming trapped in their attics. The lack of TV coverage due to no electricity was eating me alive. By Sunday evening, the hotel was warm, muggy, and pitch black as 40-50mph gusts continued to cause a whistling sound within the halls. I decided to venture into our car in the parking lot to attain a weak and tethered internet connection on the laptop. I was desperate for news. It took nearly 15 minutes for WWLTV
to load, but the news was breathtaking. The first headline stated that the twin span, the portion of I-10 used to cross Lake Pontchartrain, had been destroyed. The article went on to say there were reports of bodies floating in floodwater with raging fires below the surface due to broken gas lines. The hellish description went further by saying animals were caught in downed electrical lines. All of these reports were based out of an area very close to my neighbhoord and my uncle's location. I delivered the news to my immediate family. By then, all of us were completely sickened and on the cusp of tears.
For days on end, we couldn't do anything but listen to the radio and wait for power to be restored. After a few days, I did manage to call a good friend in New Iberia, Louisiana, to see if he could relay any news being reported on TV. Aerial helicopter footage was just making it on air at the time. I couldn't believe his descriptions of the city. Later that afternoon, electricity to the hotel was finally restored and we, along with many other Louisiana and Mississippi evacuees, rushed to our TV monitors. Nearly all of us were speechless as the footage showed indescribable destruction all across the region.
At this point, my mom realized that we wouldn't be allowed to go home any time soon. Amazingly, all rentable locations within the immediate vicinity had been vacated by evacuees. We decided to head further east to Destin, Florida, where we ended up staying for the remaining duration of the event. We packed our few possessions from the hotel and hit the road. Our hearts desperately wanted to head in the opposite direction to be sure our relatives and homes weathered the storm. Alas, there was nothing we could do.
It wasn't until several weeks later that communication services were restored and we discovered the fate of our relatives who stayed behind. As it turns out, my relatives' home in Lakeview was flooded by 12 feet of water in a matter of seconds as the 17th Street Levee breached. They were forced to swim across the street and into a neighbor's 2nd floor window for safety. They were later rescued by boat and sent to Texas for a few months. My uncle also made it out okay. He was allowed to leave following a week of service and receiving word that my little cousin had become severely ill. Thankfully she recovered soon after.
We were indescribably happy that they were alive, but we were also taken aback by the news that all our homes had been destroyed. We weren't even allowed back into New Orleans East until October, which is when the waters fully receded. The entire area looked like a war zone and it smelled even worse. My mom couldn't hold back the tears any longer once we made it to our street. I couldn't believe the sight when I walked into my home; nothing was left. The roof and structure were intact, but toxic mold had thrived and completely overtaken the house in the sweltering summer heat. Starting that day, my mom and I began to embark on over a dozen trips back and forth between Destin and New Orleans to gut the house. We would have to drive to New Orleans, work in the midst of the heat and stench, and then drive back to Florida all in a 24-hour span each time. Driving through the streets of New Orleans after sunset was incredibly eerie. There was little to no people or electricity amongst thousands of devastated homes.
Furthermore, we were not out of the woods despite having survived the direct impacts of Katrina. The stress of losing a home and the thought of potentially losing a son in the storm was enough for my grandfather to sustain a series of mini strokes and a list of other medical complications. We were at his bedside as he was hospitalized in Florida for six months. The thought of losing my grandfather following Katrina only added to the stress we already had.
When all is said and done, it turns out that I am lucky. First, I didn't lose a single family member or friend as a direct result of the storm. Second, my family had enough financial means to relocate to Alabama. Third, my grandfather has nearly made a full recovery from his illnesses. Finally, a graduation ceremony for my senior class was held in New Orleans. All my classmates had to finish school in different regions of the country, but we were fortunate to graduate together while receiving diplomas from our original school. I am now an undergraduate of meteorology thanks to the education I received there.
A lot of people haven't been as fortunate as myself. Many people lost loved ones. Hundreds of thousands of people were stuck in FEMA trailers for years. Several victims still haven't even come close to recovering financially. Today, much of southeast Louisiana and coastal Mississippi are still recovering from the wounds inflicted by Katrina. The same can be said elsewhere as a result of other storms that year. We should never forget the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
The 28 Storms of 2005