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Hurricane Katrina Explained

Images and Details on the Storm

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Hurricane eye and eyewall

The eye of a hurricane is weak compared to the surrounding eyewall.

NOAA
Many remember Katrina for the devastation it brought to New Orleans. Many will never forget the images of those in need of food, shelter, and comfort. No one will forget the agonizing cries for help from victims of the storm. Although Katrina affected more than New Orleans, the focus of this article is on why New Orleans was so hard hit by the hurricane.

The Origin of the Storm

While the brunt of the blow is remembered, Katrina actually started off the coast of Africa many days before. The warm waters of Africa actually created this nightmare. Read the full story Hurricanes and African Deserts. Then launch this NOVA interactive on Katrina. Each resource will explain how the hurricane formed.

The Path and Pictures

Katrina was a part of an extremely active 2005 hurricane season. While it may have caused the media frenzy, other storms were also very devastating that year. For example, Hurricane Rita was like adding insult to injury in an already damaged Gulf region. A video series explaining the process of hurricane formation using Rita as an example is available. Go to the Hurricane Rita Videos Explained article.

Tracking the path of a storm is important for scientists to analyze the ingredients that feed a tropical cyclone. The first storm to be fully tracked from space was hurricane Isabel in 2003. Watch a flash video on Isabel. Then, check out the 2005 hurricane tracking map. For a complete list of all storms from 1995 through 2006.

NOVA Presentations on Katrina

NOVA is by far one of the best locations for a detailed explanation of the power of Katrina. Although the show is in repeats now, the original is available online. You can go to the The Storm That Drowned a City to download the show. It is actually divided into six easy chapters for faster download times.

How New Orleans Flooded

Was it an engineering problem? Was it preventable? Will New Orleans ever fully recover? More and more, questions arise which show a lack of answers. Hurricane Katrina did indeed create media attention, but was it enough to prompt a change? Again, an unanswered question...

For now, let us look at the storm from a strictly scientific angle. One great resource is the NOVA Interactive on pre-Katrina New Orleans and the post-Katrina devastation. (Teachers are encouraged to use the print version of the interactive for students to use if no computers are available.)

While many are asking how to prevent this problem again, experts are focusing their attention on other major cities prone to flooding around the globe. This slide show on flooding begins with an examination of the Netherlands. The efforts of scientists to control the flooding in the Netherlands parallels New Orleans since half the country lies below sea level. (Or go to the print version.)

Why Didn't Anyone Listen?

One man, Ivor van Heerden warned of the coming storm. NOVA interviewed van Heeren prior to Katrina and after her passing. You can find the interviews on the PBS site The Man Who Knew.

More Katrina Resources

  1. NASA Image of Hurricane Katrina
  2. Where did Katrina get all its energy?
  3. Top 7 books on the hurricane
  4. How to help children after a major weather event

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