On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana in Plaquemines Parish about one hour south of New Orleans. Katrina was moving with Category 5 strength less than twelve hours prior to landfall. The storm generated a 28-foot storm surge and 55-foot waves.
The damage wrought by the storm was unprecedented. Approximately 80% of New Orleans was flooded to depths exceeding 15 feet in many areas. Surge and waves caused 50 major levee breaches in the regional Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS). Thirty-four of the city's 71 pumping stations were damaged, and 169 of the system’s 350 miles of protective structures were compromised. Also contributing to the flooding was heavy rainfall: 14 inches in a 24-hour period. More than 1,500 lives were lost. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Katrina is costliest disaster ever to occur in the United States.
Task Force Guardian
The US Army Corps of Engineers established Task Force Guardian immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. Task Force Guardian's main mission was to repair and restore the HSDRRS to pre-Katrina conditions, a feat accomplished by the beginning of the 2006 hurricane season.
The Corps also established a special task force to rid New Orleans of flood water. Task Force Unwatering removed 250 billion gallons of water from the city in 53 days.
In addition, the Corps established recovery offices in Mississippi and Louisiana to handle all emergency response missions requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). emergency response efforts included delivering ice and water, installing generators, removing debris, and providing temporary blue tarp roofing to damaged homes.
The greater New Orleans system of hurricane and storm damage risk reduction is stronger and better than it has ever been.
In repairing and rebuilding levees and floodwalls, the Corps is incorporating lessons learned and recommendations from international experts, scientific organizations, government agencies and the private sector who studied causes of system failure during Katrina.
With post-Katrina design criteria and full federal funding from Congress, the Corps is on track to complete construction of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) with the goal of completing the work in 2011. However, the Corps cannot do this alone. Completion of the HSDRRS will require the coordination of the entire team of federal, state, and local partners.