When reading back over the news reports of Hurricane Katrina from almost 6 years ago it seems a lot like a Hollywood epic. Something that was all but expected falls apart. One small failure brings on a larger one and that, in turn, brings on a bigger one yet. In this sense it is very similar to the Titanic and we all know how that ended up. In a little touch of irony, the loss of life in both was nearly the same. In its aftermath the question occurs as to whether or not this had to happen and did it have to be this bad? If not, who is to blame? For this, let us look at New Orleans.
Did this storm have to happen? Of course it did. It is a city on the coast and given enough time every bit of the US east coast will get hit to some degree. The big problem is that New Orleans has is that much of the city sits below sea-level That means that the city is dependent on the levees holding. They did not In fairness this is because the hurricane made landfall due east meaning there was a deluge of run-off.
The next question might be about the casualties. In hindsight the order might not have been given early enough. This would be partly because of the storm’s expected land fall was. The National Hurricane Center originally thought it would make landfall on the Florida panhandle. That would still flood Mobile but that is a much smaller town and above sea-level. The change in direction was a shock.
By the time a more accurate landfall was found New Orleans had to struggle to be ready. The first causalities were nursing home patients being evacuated. Ironically, moving to get out of the way of the water they died of dehydration. Most of the other causalities came from people who underestimated the storm and thought they would just “ride it out.”
In the end there is nowhere to place a clear blame. Unexpected events over-powered the system set up to manage them. In the end the story of Hurricane Katrina is a cautionary tale. No matter how much you plan and how carefully you execute there are always going to be wild cards.