Monday, 19 September 2011

Hurricane Katrina hit the port of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast as a category 4 hurricane on August 28-29, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Effects, Impacts and Implications


            On August 28-29, 2005, the news of hurricane Katrina hit the whole world as it struck the port of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina has greatly affected the immediate area hit by the said hurricane. Katrina is said to be perhaps the “single worst environmental catastrophe” to hit the United States as a result of a natural tragedy (2005). Thousands of homes were destructed by the water. Walls imploded as thick layers of sediment were scattered inside and out. Roofs collapsed and some homes were picked up by the water and moved into the middle of the streets (2005). In addition, thousands of vehicles were reported to totally or mostly submerged and destructed and were scattered in unexpected places across the area, most of them dangerously leaning up against the roofs, staggering on fences; some were stacked up on top of each other, others crushed by the powerful water (2005). Moreover, commercial strips were completely ruined, as well as schools and public buildings. Power lines were toppled and gas stations were also ruined ( 2005).


Environmental Effects


            It was reported that there was a strong smell of petroleum vapors frequently encountered in the affected areas of the hurricane such as unpleasant smells of rotting sludge and unmistakable odors of widespread mold (2005). It must be noted that dust swirls into one’s lungs as heavy equipments move or as a breeze kicks it up. According to (2005), there were several reports regarding severe pollution and illnesses during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Ordinary people, rescue workers and police as well who have gone to the affected places of hurricane Katrina have had become sick after contact with the flood water or muck. Such illnesses included rashes and blisters from coming into contact with polluted water, infected sores irresponsive to antibiotics, nausea and vomiting, in addition to some respiratory problems like asthma to people who were exposed to fumes in contaminated area (2005).


            According to U.S. Coast Guard and EPA data, there were 575 Katrina-related spills of petroleum and hazardous chemicals that has been reported as of September 11, 2005 (2005).  (2005) noted that even just eleven considerable spills released practically seven million gallons of oil which only a portion of it cleaned up and majority of it not. In lined to this, there was also a considerable amount of gasoline and toxic fluids from vehicles and automobiles destroyed by the flood which added to the reports on spills and leaks of oil and toxic chemicals. Moreover, at least four hazardous waste sites in New Orleans were hit by the storm which had great potential releases of toxic wastes, not to mention the toxic sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of lakes, rivers and streams in industrialized areas over many decades due to industrial spills. According to experts, many of these hotspots have been stirred up and accordingly, the toxic sediments have been re-suspended and re-deposited by the storm and floodwater in large land areas such as residential communities ( 2005).  


Impacts


 (2005) comments that the full impact of hurricane Katrina will not be understood for some time to come. However, the storm was said to impact not just the local environment but as well as the national and global settings.  (2006) has outlined several impacts of hurricane Katrina on industries, fiscal impacts on Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, macroeconomic impacts in the United States as well as global impacts.


Industry impacts included energy production in the Gulf of Mexico – temporary loss of crude oil out (90%) and natural gas production (70%), shutdown of 12% of refineries; shipping/logistics – New Orleans’s port closed for weeks and traffic disruption; fishing and agriculture – loss of sugar cane crop (40%) and rice production, long term damage to oyster beds and shrimp industry; hospitality and gaming – short and long term loss of convention business in New Orleans and temporary interruption of gaming activity in Mississippi; and small businesses – all business closed for some time and many never reopened (2006).


  As for the fiscal impacts, for Louisiana, there were 15 % lost of its sales, income and valorem tax base which is about $ 5 billion revenue loss. Also, New Orleans dismissed half of its municipal workforce. For Texas, it became the primary destination for evacuees which estimated a $ 1 billion for the provision of education and healthcare for the evacuees. There was also minor loss to tax base. Finally for Mississippi, it lost 25 % of its tax base and not to mention that it is already the poorest state in the U.S. with per capita income below 30 % below national level (2006).


Macroeconomic impact in the U.S. included higher energy prices – rising of gasoline prices, natural gas prices and utility bills; overall inflation – producer/consumer price rates doubled compared to last year and increase in transportation costs and building materials prices; national output or GDP; and widening of federal budget deficit (2006;2005).


Finally, global impacts include an increase in higher oil prices. Consequently, financial markets were affected as the storm was reported to destabilize impact on fast growing companies as well as an $ 80 billion loss to global insurance and reinsurance companies (2006).


Environmental Implications


Practically everyone is now aware of climate change and global warming. As there is occurrence of an extreme weather event such as hurricane Katrina, people wonder if it was caused by global warming. There has been so many assumptions that hurricanes will increase in frequency or intensity due to global warming, with higher wind speeds and greater precipitation (2006)


According to , British Government’s chief scientific adviser, “global warming may be responsible for the devastation reaped by hurricane Katrina” (2005). It must be noted that scientists lack a detailed explanation for the effects of global warming in hurricane trends. However, in general, according to scientists and researchers, it makes sense that higher temperatures may increase hurricane strength. Heat is energy and energy is what drives hurricanes (2005).


According to  (2006), the frequency of hurricanes has not risen on average over the long term. Nevertheless, many scientists believe and claim that global warming will cause more intense hurricanes as rising sea surface temperatures offer energy for the intensification of storms. A recently published MIT study in Nature offers the first data analysis revealing that tropical storms are undeniably becoming more powerful and intense over time (2006)


Furthermore,  (2006) states that increasing ocean temperatures may very well influence tracks of hurricanes. Meaning, there is an increase in probability of hurricanes trailing through the Caribbean or making landfall on the east coast of United States. It must be noted though that this phenomenon is not yet very well comprehended; however, it was found out that a trail of unusually deep and warm water appears to have led hurricane Katrina right directly to the Gulf Coast when it hit Louisiana and Mississippi (  2006).


           


 



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