images of Hurricane Katrina below show affected
areas as it hit Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama and the northwest Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico on
August 29, 2005.
The purpose of these images is to
assist executives and their advisors who may be considering this region as a
business location, and put it in perspective, since this was one of the
worst storms on record to hit the United States. It is a rare,
For perspective, the last Category 3 hurricane to directly
hit New Orleans and the Gulfport-Biloxi area was Betsy in 1965, forty years
Hurricane Camille (Category 5) was the second worst storm
on record in the US when it hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 1969
with 174 mph winds and a 20 foot storm surge.
Hurricane Frederic hit eastern Mississippi again near
Pascagoula in 1979. Although much less destructive than Camille,
Frederic did damage 180 miles inland, disrupting power and business for a
The damage from Katrina is far greater, and it will take
much longer for some areas to recover, even though it weakened from Category
5 to 4 in the hours before landfall, and soon weakened to Category 3 and
damage estimates below. One of the challenges of
this storm is that many homes and buildings in the region did not have flood
insurance, and severe flooding rather than wind damage was the main problem.
We would not usually publish images such as the ones below, but
Hurricane Katrina was such a catastrophic event for this region that it is
likely to be of interest for many years to the executives and advisors we
serve as they plan major capital investment projects.
Aside from the urgency of the disaster relief and recovery efforts in the
immediate aftermath of the storm, it is therefore useful to take a
longer-term perspective on the potential impact of hurricane risks on
business location selection decisions for projects which are not local in
nature. In other words, many companies have a wide range of choices
about where they will set up their operations, and will therefore need to
consider hurricane risks as a potentially unpredictable and uncontrollable
disruption of the business for which insurance may not really cover the full
impact on the business, as opposed to just the obvious property damage.
In particular, four major hurricanes in the southeast during 2004 and
extensive media coverage of these disasters may create
misperceptions of the frequency and impact of severe hurricanes in this region.
Although even tropical storms or Category 1 or 2 hurricanes are very
dangerous, a devastating storm such as Katrina is extremely rare in the USA,
just as massive earthquakes are infrequent events but somewhat predictable
location risks, even in places which don't have a reputation for frequent
earthquakes, such as the US midwest.
This will probably prove to have been the worst US hurricane since records
began. Major buildings in this region are generally engineered to withstand
severe storms, but many old buildings which preceded such construction
standards were visible victims of this storm, and flooding can irreparably
damage buildings which would otherwise weather such a storm.
contact Bruce Donnelly at TEL 847-304-4655 in Chicago for assistance
with business location decisions (new factories, offices, distribution,
etc.) in any region.
Maps of the Gulf Coast areas hit by Hurricane Katrina
NASA Earth Observatory published satellite images of the greater New
Orleans region before and after Katrina, showing the extent of the flooding
around Lake Pontchartrain. There are similar images of
flooded areas in Mississippi and Alabama, and of
September 5 : Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill
Clinton have announced the creation of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, which
the governors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama will be able to use for
disaster relief and medical services.
Information about other relief organizations and
non-profits active in this region
State of Louisiana
official website for Hurricane Katrina information. Refer also to
the usual state website,
www.louisiana.gov which includes information about setting up a
business, or refer to the Louisiana Department of Economic Development at
There are many websites with content and links related to the
recovery efforts. One source to find many others is the bulletin board
state, regional, and local economic development organizations
Some of these areas also have military bases which were
affected recently by the BRAC recommendations of the Pentagon and the
Base Realignment and Closure
Historical and current forecast information about other hurricanes and weather
events can be obtained from sources such as the
National Hurricane Center or
Service of NOAA, and
The Weather Channel
The only other Category 5 hurricanes to hit the US since
records began were Camille in 1969, Hurricane Andrew which devastated
Homestead and southern Florida in 1992, and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935
which hit the Florida Keys. Katrina did not officially make landfall
as a Category 5 storm because it weakened just a few hours earlier.
Hurricane Hugo caused
severe damage in South and North Carolina in 1989, but wasn't a 5.
Hurricane Floyd in 1999 was a 5 at one point, but came ashore in North
Carolina as a far less damaging Category 2. Hurricane Ivan was a
Category 3 storm when it hit Gulf Shores, Alabama in 2004. See
selective images from 2004
and earlier major hurricanes below.
above shows Hurricane Katrina shortly after midnight on August 29, 2005 as
it approached the Louisiana coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It had
grown on August 28 into a rare Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained
winds of 160 - 175 mph, with hurricane force (75+mph) winds extending across
an area more than 150 miles wide, and it was on a path which would have
taken the eye of the storm directly over New Orleans.
Katrina made landfall east of New Orleans early on the
morning of August 29. It had already weakened overnight and the path
had shifted east, taking the devastating northeast side of the storm
directly over Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, with strong hurricane winds
and storm surge there as well as in Mobile, Alabama and into northwest
The winds soon subsided from around 140mph before landfall
as a Category 4 hurricane, and diminished to 100-125 mph as a Category 3
storm by 11am as it slowly moved inland, but this was clearly the worst
storm to hit this region since records began, and possibly the costliest in
terms of damage in US history, exceeding Andrew. The torrential rains
and strong winds caused flooding and wind damage far inland as it moved up
the Tennessee Valley and northeast toward Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and the
eastern Great Lakes. It caused tornadoes in areas as far away as
eastern Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. This can be visualized from the
image below at 1pm, several hours after landfall.
Storm surge damage to the levee system that protects the
city of New Orleans, which is actually below sea level between the
Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, soon caused severe flooding in
areas which had survived the wind damage. The winds had been much less
severe than originally feared because the storm passed to the east.
The Gulf Coast region of Mississippi, particularly Harrison County (Biloxi
and Gulfport), was devastated by the very high storm surge and the strongest
winds as the storm passed, while New Orleans suffered more devastation from
the flooding of most of the city as the levees and pumping system failed
after the hurricane had already moved north.
that hurricanes are not the only source of damage from weather in this
region. For example, in May 1995 an estimated $3 billion in damage was
caused in New Orleans and nearby areas such as Slidell, Louisiana when heavy
rains remained over the area, causing major flooding. New Orleans had
11 inches of rain in six hours, and 16 - 20 inches during a 36 hour period,
while Slidell reported 25 inches of rain in that period. Unlike the
situation after Hurricane Katrina, however, the massive pumps were soon able
to drain New Orleans again.
to hurricane and flood disaster relief organizations working in the region :
As with the tsunami disaster in Asia, reconstruction of
these communities will take a long time after the initial emergency response
work. Business support of the local economic development organizations
will also be welcome as the recovery effort moves forward. These small
non-profit organizations, which will play an important role in redevelopment
of their local areas, typically rely heavily on contributions from local
businesses which will now have been disrupted or devastated (physically or
economically) by this disaster.
Hurricanes in the US are now categorized according to wind
speeds by what is known as the Saffir-Simpson scale, as developed in the
1970's, which characterizes their usual storm surge and level of
- Tropical depression < 63 km/h - 39
- Tropical storm 63 - 119 km/h =
39 - 74 mph
- Category 1 119-153 km/h = 74 - 95 mph
- Category 2 154-177 km/h = 96 - 110 mph
- Category 3 178-209 km/h = 111 - 130 mph
- Category 4 210-249 km/h = 131 - 155 mph
- Category 5 >250 km/h = >155 mph
Hurricane Gilbert was a Category 5 storm with gusts up to
359 km/h (210 mph). It hit Jamaica and parts of Mexico in 1988 as the
strongest hurricane in the western hemisphere. As another example,
Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in October 1998 with 155mph winds and 50
inches of rain in some areas, causing massive flooding. Hurricane
Allen hit the Texas border with Mexico in August 1980 with 150 mph winds,
but was ranked as Category 3. Few US storms exceed Category 3 at
Many Atlantic hurricanes never reach the US mainland, and
damage estimates such as those at right exclude the impact of storm damage
in other countries.
The Insurance Information Institute provides
information about the estimated costs of hurricane damage. As Katrina
has shown again, however, the direct costs from insured property damage are not the
same as the total economic impact on the affected areas.
These figures are therefore more useful as a relative
indicator of the devastation caused by various major storms rather than as
an accurate measure of their actual impact on the communities involved,
which is affected by many factors other than storm strength.
Initial estimates are that Katrina caused $25 billion or
more in damage. The following are the estimates of damage from other
major US storms in recent years, adjusted to 2005 dollars. This would
not include damage outside the USA.
Once again, the damage to insured property does not
reflect the full economic impact, particularly because people in coastal
areas sometimes cannot obtain or afford insurance, and some damage such as
public infrastructure may not be insured. Similarly, the cost of
government relief programs does not reflect the full impact of such
disasters. It is quite difficult to estimate the total economic
impact, which can continue for many years.
Note that 2004 was already an unprecedented year for US
hurricanes, with four major storms causing heavy damage. The damage
from Katrina, however, is estimated to exceed all four of those major 2004
hurricanes put together. That shows the scale of it.
Refer to the National Hurricane Center report on the
costliest, and most intense hurricanes from 1851 to 2005 for additional
insights into major US hurricane patterns.
Andrew = Cat 5
Charley = Cat 4
|2004 - Ivan
= Cat 3
|1989 - Hugo
= Cat 4
Frances = Cat 2
Jeanne = Cat 3
Georges = Cat 2
|1995 - Opal
= Cat 3
Floyd = Cat 2
||September 14 -
National Hurricane Center of NOAA
provides historic information and imagery about hurricanes, as well as
warnings and other services related to current tropical storms and
hurricanes, including estimates of their projected path, landfall, and
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
maintains information about relief efforts for storm damage from
hurricanes as well as other types of natural disasters or events
involving federal assistance (such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist
|Another useful resource for hurricanes or other US
weather events is The Weather Channel
which provides some
historical storm track graphics.
Service of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
of the US Department Commerce) also provides useful forecast and
economic development organization for
Jacksonville Florida has published a useful map from NOAA
1950-2002 US hurricane landfall locations (PDF) by category.
The purpose is to highlight that this section of the Atlantic coast is
not usually the location of landfall, although storms which make
landfall elsewhere in the state may pass through. This is
explained in their own analysis of the
historic patterns of hurricanes in Florida (PDF).
Hurricane Andrew left 200,000 people homeless when it struck south
of Miami in 1992 as a Category 5 hurricane with winds over 160 mph,
destroying Homestead, Florida. Three years later, In August
1995, Hurricane Erin followed the same path as Andrew across south
Florida en route to the Florida panhandle.
Hurricane Jeanne - see image below at landfall
on September 25, 2004. After Charley hit central Florida from
the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Frances and Jeanne soon followed a path
with landfall near West Palm Beach before moving across some of the
same areas as they went north. Although these storms quickly
weakened over land, their path over heavily populated areas caused
considerable property damage as well as business disruption from the
evacuations, which were taken seriously by Florida residents and
emergency officials in the context of Charley and the unpredictable
path it had taken just a few weeks earlier.
Hurricane Charley was the first of four major hurricanes to hit
the US in 2004, soon followed by Frances, Jeanne, and Ivan in
September. Charley took some unexpected changes in direction as
it grew into a Category 4 storm and made landfall and crossed central Florida, catching many residents
by surprise who had thought they did not need to board up their homes
and businesses and evacuate until it was too late for them to do so.
It passed through various highly populated areas, contributed to the
high level of damage.
Hurricane Georges devastated the Dominican Republic and Haiti, so
by the time it reached Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana the danger
was recognized, with large evacuations in Florida and Alabama.
Roughly 10,000 people took shelter in the New Orleans Superdome at the
time, but despite strong winds and torrential rains in the Gulf coast
region, the lesser impact of this 1998 storm may also have given some
residents of New Orleans a false sense of security despite the
well-recognized flood risks in the city.
Hurricane Ivan was a Category 3 storm when it hit Gulf
Shores, Alabama in 2004.
Hurricane Opal was the second hurricane in 1995 to strike
Hurricane Hugo had winds of 155 mph before it hit Charleston SC on
September 21 and moved up to North Carolina, where it weakened to a
tropical storm on September after causing extensive damage in North
Carolina. Although ranked at the time as the 10th strongest
storm to hit the US, it caused more damage as it hit heavily populated
Hurricane Floyd was a Category 5 storm the size of Texas with 155
mph winds before landfall, prompting one of the largest evacuations in
US history, affecting an estimated 2.6 million people from Florida to
North Carolina. Before landfall at Cape Fear, North Carolina, it
weakened to a Category 2 storm with 100-110mph winds, and weakened
below hurricane strength (75 mph) later that day. Some areas in
North Carolina had 20 inches of rain.
Hurricane Frances - see image below just before
landfall on September 5, 2004
Hurricane Iniki hit western Kauai in Hawaii with 145 mph winds,
but missed Oahu
Hurricane Ivan - For comparison to Katrina on
August 29, 2005 which followed a similar path as shown above, this
image of the Gulf of Mexico is from September 14, 2004.
Hurricane Frances - This image shows
the storm at 10:30pm on September 4, 2004 as it approached Florida as
a hurricane large enough to cover the entire state.
Hurricane Jeanne - This image shows the
storm at 11:30pm on September 25, 2004 at landfall as a hurricane
large enough to cover the entire state of Florida.
assistance with business site selection decisions or related capital
investment project issues, including independent referrals to
professional service providers and economic development contacts,
contact Bruce Donnelly at TEL 847-304-4655.
again, it is not our purpose to publish detailed information about
hurricanes in general. The focus of our work is to assist
executives with their capital investment project plans, such as to
choose new business locations for factories, offices, distribution,