Katrina Rescue and Recovery

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Aug. 31, 2007 – Since Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, nearly all government and some private entities failed Katrina victims, a number of investigations show. Here’s how the rescue and recovery unfolded.

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005

  • Rescue workers said that there were still many, "holdouts," who were not following the mandatory evacuation order first issued by Nagin on Aug. 28. They were: concerned about their property being looted, unaware of the full extent of the disaster, worried about their pets and concerned that conditions would be worse in the shelters. But because of unsanitary conditions in the city, as well as contaminations of E. coli bacteria in the standing water, Nagin ordered the forced evacuation of everyone that was not involved in cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina. The evacuees, many of whom were poor Black people, were forcibly dispersed to more than 44 states across the United States, leading to an informal classification of Internally Displaced Persons.
  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) calls for Michael D. Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to resign. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)and Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voiced criticism of the disaster's handling, and of the Bush administration's management, delegation of control, leadership and human consideration.

Thursday, Sept. 6, 2005

  • Angering Democrats and union leaders, President Bush ordered the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, allowing federal contractors rebuilding after Katrina to pay workers below the prevailing wage.

Friday, Sept. 9, 2005

  • Michael Chertoff, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, removed the agency’s director, Michael Brown, from directing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans. Brown was replaced by Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen, chief of staff of the United States Coast Guard.
  •  U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré and New Orleans Director of Homeland Security Terry Ebbert announced a "zero access" policy to prevent journalists embedded with rescue teams from reporting on the recovery of dead bodies in New Orleans. CNN filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order. The federal government subsequently caved on the embed ban.

Monday, Sept. 12, 2005

  • Brown resigns from FEMA in "the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president.”

Thursday, Sept. 14, 2005 

  • Congress approved the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 for Hurricane Katrina victims, which included the elimination of the early withdrawal penalty on retirement accounts.
  • Karl Rove is reported to have been put in charge of reconstruction projects.

Friday, Sept. 15, 2005

  • Bush addresses the nation from Jackson Square, New Orleans, outlining many of the steps that the federal government was taking to provide assistance and relief to Katrina victims and calling for a Urban Homesteading program that would help Katrina victims return home. (No such program every materialized.)

Monday, Sept. 19, 2005

  • After starting to allow residents back into the city, Nagin ordered yet another evacuation, due to Hurricane Rita.
  • As of Sept. 19, the official death toll stood at 973. Mississippi had refused to raise its death toll above 218, or to explain why.
  • Thousands of dead people in Mississippi and Louisiana have not been counted, nor have their bodies been retrieved.

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2005

  • The official death toll was raised to 1,036, with 63 additional deaths recognized in Louisiana. This marked the first time since 1928 that a natural disaster in the United States had been blamed officially for killing at least 1,000 people. State-by-state death tolls: Louisiana 799, Mississippi 218, Florida 14, Alabama 2, Georgia 2, Tennessee 1.
  • Hurricane Katrina’s wrath fueled a surge in jobless benefits, the U.S Labor Department reports. Claims for benefits reached the highest level in more than two years, climbing to 432,000, labor officials say. Unemployment claims linked to Katrina totaled 103,000.


 Friday, Sept. 23, 2005

  • Hurricane Rita headed toward Houston, with its outer bands bringing rain to the New Orleans area. Efforts continued to shore up the levees weakened by Katrina.


Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005

  • Hurricane Rita compounded the already growing problems as it made landfall just west of where Hurricane Katrina had touched shore.
  • The official regional death toll from Hurricane Katrina was upgraded to 1,080. Mississippi officially still had not increased its death toll by much but added 2 to the count. Thousands feared dead in Mississippi and Louisiana remained out of the official death toll. State-by-state death tolls: Louisiana 841, Mississippi 220, Florida 14, Alabama 2, Georgia 2, Tennessee 1.

 Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005

  • To date, about 1.5 million people were evacuated from the damaged areas of  Louisiana; roughly 1 million applied for hurricane-related federal aid; 30,000 were in out-of-state shelters; and 46,400 were in in-state shelters.
  • The official death toll was upgraded to 1,836 with more than 2,500 still missing. State-by-state death tolls: Louisiana 1,577, Mississippi 238, Florida 14, Alabama 2, Georgia 2, Tennessee 1, Kentucky 1.
  • Though poor and minority neighborhoods in Louisiana suffered the brunt of Hurricane Katrina's fury, residents living in White neighborhoods have been three times as likely as homeowners in Black neighborhoods to get state help, according to an Associated Press analysis. At least part of the reason for the disparity, according to the report, is that Whites have been far more likely to seek help in resolving insurance disputes. The AP's analysis of 3,000 settled complaints showed that nearly 75 percent were filed by residents currently living in predominantly White neighborhoods, and only 25 percent were filed by households in majority-Black zip codes.

 Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005

  • Nagin announced that, due to lack of funds, New Orleans would lay off 3,000 non-essential employees from the city's payroll, or about half of its workforce, over the next two weeks


Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005

  • One of the people included in Hurricane Katrina's death toll in New Orleans was shot by police, the Associated Press reported. Danny Brumfield, 45, was killed by an officer outside the Convention Center, just before the National Guard arrived to evacuate the building.

Monday, Oct. 17, 2005

  • The Louisiana attorney general launched an investigation into whether critically ill patients were left to die or were euthanized at a New Orleans hospital during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  There were an estimated 215 deaths at nursing homes and hospitals in the aftermath of the storm, Louisiana Health officials said. Specifically, health officials were looking into whether 45 patients might have been euthanized to end their suffering when they were unable to be evacuated or rescued.

Nov. 4, 2005

  • The bills from hurricanes Katrina and Rita poured in, but Louisiana couldn’t afford to pay the $3.7-billion tab, at least that's what a spokeswoman for Blanco told USA Today. Denise Bottcher told the newspaper that "you can't squeeze $3.7 billion out of this state to pay this bill.” 

Nov. 11, 2005

  • More than a dozen Hurricane Katrina victims sued FEMA, hoping to get the federal government's attention and support, CNN reported. Some of the victims told CNN that they believed FEMA was responding too slowly to requests they made for more housing and financial aid.

Nov. 16, 2005

  • FEMA imposed strict limits on house relocation efforts, including a Dec. 1 cut off on payments to hotels where 50,000 displaced families were staying across the nation.

Early 2006

  • The Army Corps of Engineers workforce, which peaked at 1,700, provided emergency ice and water, 310 temporary critical facilities, power generation, mortuary center construction, disposal of 50 million pounds of rotting meat, housing site evaluations and 81,000 roof repairs under Operation Blue Roof.

Jan. 20, 2006

  • Mississippi and Louisiana were given the responsibility to draw up recovery plans.  Bush estimated that close to $17 billion had been appropriated for direct housing grants in the Gulf Coast.  But the lack of clarity by New Orleans’ leadership about what parts of the city would be rebuilt had left too much uncertainty, Bush said.

Jan. 30, 2006

  • The U.S. Department of Interior had hundreds of trucks, boats and planes, and 4,400 law enforcement officers that could have lent a hand to FEMA, but the agency passed on the help, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post and CNN.


Feb. 2, 2006

  • A congressional report said that not a single administrative official was in place to handle decision-making during the storm and that Chertoff had waited 24 hours after Katrina hit to declare the storm an "incident of national significance." Moreover, the report said, "government entities did not act decisively or quickly enough to determine the catastrophic nature of the incident."


Feb. 2, 2006

  • More than 100 unidentified victims of Katrina still awaited burials.

Feb. 6, 2006

  • After granting an extension, FEMA said it would no longer foot the bill for thousands of Katrina evacuees who were staying at hotels throughout the nation, unless they had been approved for federal extensions.


Feb. 13, 2006

  • At every level – “individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental” – society failed the victims of Hurricane Katrina, according to a congressional report released six months after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. "Our investigation revealed that Katrina was a national failure, an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare," says the summary of the 600-page report. Among 90 separate findings in the report:
  • Both New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco are to blame for unnecessary deaths and suffering because of their failure to evacuate after recognizing the gravity of the situation.
  • The White House was fed contradictory information from its own administration that precluded it from responding rapidly.
  • Much-needed military help was not on hand because there was a complete lack of coordination between local, state and federal aid organizations.
  • FEMA’s paucity of experienced workers stymied its efforts to help victims.
  • Chertoff acted "either late, ineffectively or not at all."


Feb. 27, 2006

  • Six months after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless, jobless and without life-sustaining services, most of the relief funds had been spent. According to a Washington Post survey, there was less than $1 billion remaining of the $3.27 billion raised by charities. Most of the money raised was spent on victims' immediate needs, such as cash, food and temporary and medical care, the Post reported.


March 7, 2006

  • A man who posed as a Hurricane Katrina victim was sent to prison for eight months for bilking the American Red Cross out of more than $2,000. David Zimmerman, 34, was sentenced in Miami County Common Pleas Court and ordered to repay $2,044 to the charity’s North Miami Valley Chapter for filing a false claim, The Dayton Daily News reported.


March 10, 2006

  • Federal disaster aid went unclaimed for more than six months after lawmakers approved it, the Associated Press reported. Congress approved a $2 billion program in Sept. to help displaced families get back on their feet after the Gulf Coast storm but much of that had gone untouch. According to the Health and Human Services Department, only 11 states made requests, which totaled $25.5 million in aid.

May 10, 2006

  • President Bush visited. 
  • Electricity was still out in many places. Roads were still littered with debris. And many areas were still without basic services.

May 25, 2007

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it was all but finished the $800 million project to repair levees damaged by Hurricane Katrina`s destroyed,  just in time for the June 1 start of hurricane season.  But enegineering experts say the city is not storm-proof. Millions of cubic yards of soil was put into place along more than half the 350-mile levee system, federal officials say. New gates stand at the mouths of New Orleans' three major drainage canals and storm-damaged pumps are being renewed,  but engineering experts said the repairs do not make the levees stormproof.

July 10, 2006

  • Policyholders who lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Katrina headed to court in Gulfport, Miss., hoping to force insurance companies to pay up.

July 12, 2006

  • Federal housing officials said they would shell out more than $4 billion for a program to help Louisiana victims rebuild or sell damaged houses.


Aug. 3, 2006

  • Center for missing Katrina victims shuts down.


Aug. 30, 2006

  • High-profile African Americans showed up in force for a Katrina benefit, including Oprah Winfrey, who donated $10 million. Diddy, Jay-Z and BET founder Bob Johnson were among those who kicked in a cool million apiece; scores of musicians, such as jazz man Wynton Marsalis, vocalists Aaron Neville and Lenny Kravitz, and Gulf-area rappers like Master P, David Banner and Juvenile contributed millions for hurricane victims.


Oct 5, 2007

  • Richard Scruggs, the attorney who helped win a $250 billion settlement from the tobacco industry a few years ago, took on insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina flood coverage. In a lawsuit filed in a state court in Pascagoula, Miss., Scruggs said that by excluding water damage in "hurricane protection" policies, insurers "preyed upon trusting American families and taxpayers," adding that those contracts needed to be reformed.
  • Experts reported  a housing boom was afoot in New Orleans. Sales of single-family homes in greater New Orleans for the first quarter of the year jumped by 60 percent over the same period the year before, according to the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors. Sales totaled $826 million for the first quarter, which was $309 million more than for the first quarter of 2005, the realtors reported. Experts said the sales boost was a natural reaction to a natural disaster.

Dec. 27, 2006

  • Government accountants tallied $1 billion in fraudulent Hurricane Katrina aid, but investigators said they expected even more as they began to shift their focus to lucrative government contracts.

January, 2007

  • Federal investigators released the first of several audits examining abuse in more than $12 billion in Katrina contracts.  Examiners found more waste because money the government spent on Katrina relief was hastily doled out in several no-bid contracts to politically connected firms and extended without proper examination, according to The Associated Press. Half of the government’s contracts valued at $500,000 or greater were no-bid contracts.


April 17, 2006

  • A Federal jury trial decided that Allstate owed a Katrina Hurricane homeowner damages based on the wind damage, not only from storm surge, for which he wasn't covered. A number of other insurance cases were pending, but this case had the potential to affect how rates are set in hurricane-prone coastal areas.

April 28, 2007

  • A march in New Orleans led by Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and the Rainbow Coalition drew thousands of marchers. to protest slow government progress toward recovery and to encourage voting in the city’s mayoral election.
  • A team of lawyers filed a "whistleblower" suit on behalf of two sisters who worked for a company that helped Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Insurance Co. adjust policyholder claims on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after the Aug. 2005 storm. The suit was required to be sealed so that Dunn Lampton, the U.S. attorney for the southern half of Mississippi, could investigate and consider intervening in the case.

May 11, 2007

  • Almost two years after Hurricane Katrina, a Kaiser Family Foundation study concluded that Blacks felt they were hit harder by Katrina than Whites to. The survey highlighted the devastating impact of the storm and the government's failure to respond adequately, which would leave longstanding negative effects on the economic well-being, physical and mental health, and personal lives of the people of the New Orleans area. The random, in-person survey of 1,504 people living in the greater New Orleans area that included Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes found that a year after the killer storm, Blacks more often than Whites described their lives as "disrupted."


July 18, 2007

  • An autopsy report obtained by CNN seemed to contradict an account by New Orleans Police that self-defense was the reason officers shot  a man to death during the Katrina chaos. According to the autopsy, 45-year-old Danny Brumfield died on Sept. 2, 2005, as a result of a bullet fired by police that pierced his back. District Attorney Eddie Jordan closed out any criminal investigation, telling CNN that the shooting was deemed a justifiable homicide.

Aug. 7, 2007

  • A U.S. attorney in Mississippi is considering whether to intervene in a lawsuit that accuses insurance companies of overbilling the federal government for flood damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Aug. 23, 2007

  • Courts alreadys inundated by a wave of litigation against insurance companies over damage from Hurricane Katrina braced for a last-minute barrage of lawsuit filings as a deadline neared. Thousands of Louisiana home and business owners were expected to sue their insurers, both in federal and state courts, in the days leading up to Katrina's second anniversary.

Aug. 31, 2007

  • FEMA says it wants back hundreds of thousands of dollars it gave to thousands of the poorist Katrina victims to help them get back on their feet. Agency officials say they believe they overpaid people by a half billion dollars.

Written by BET-Staff

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