On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coastal areas of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi as a Category Four hurricane. With winds over 130 mph and a major ocean storm surge, Katrina caused extensive damage. Most critical was the failure of levees at New Orleans – a city which is reportedly over 10 feet below sea level. Causing the largest natural disaster in U. S. history, Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast with its eye hitting about 55 km east of the city. Several levees protecting New Orleans failed the following day, and the city, filled with water.
The brunt of the storm moved beyond New Orleans to Mississippi’s coast. A recorded storm surge of at least 20 feet washed sailboats and casinos onto a coastal four – lane highway leaving destruction in it’s wake from Ansley, Mississippi to the Alabama coast. Death toll — 1,836 from Louisiana and Mississippi.
With Hurricane Rita approaching the Louisiana/Texas coast on September 24, 2005, the highways were crammed with cars creeping north, the blistering heat added to the discomfort of the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the storm. More than 2 million evacuated. Rita made landfall as a category 3 storm with 120 mph winds near Port Arthur Texas, home to 58,000 people, most of whom had evacuated. The 2.5 mile wide Lake Livingston Dam sustained substantial damage from powerful waves driven ahead of Rita. Rita also affected New Orleans by pushing flood waters in the upper and lower 9th Ward & Gentilly neighborhoods. Rita caused damage on the Gulf Coast of Texas & Louisiana with a death toll of 120 people.