Katrina was the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1, 2005. That's seven more than typically have formed by now in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
New Orleans' worst previous hurricane disaster happened 40 years ago, when Hurricane Betsy blasted the Gulf Coast. In that storm, flood waters approached 20 feet in some areas, fishing villages were flattened, and the storm surge left almost half of New Orleans under water and 60,000 residents homeless. Hurricane Betsy killed 74 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
The human toll from Katrina remains unclear. By one estimate there were 150,000 or more people, largely poor people with limited resources, still in New Orleans when the levees failed. A few days after the storm passed, on 01 September 2005 New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin estimated deaths in his city to number "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands". The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire caused somewhere between 500 to 6,000 deaths, while a hurricane in 1900 at Galveston, Texas, killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. In 2002 John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross predicted that between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die when New Orleans was hit by a large hurricane such as Katrina. on 06 September 2005 Lt. David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, said the death toll could reach 2,000 to 20,000. By 08 September 2005 emergency officials in Louisiana had 25,000 body bags at hand in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
US economic forecasters say total losses from Hurricane Katrina's devastation could top $100 billion. In terms of insurance losses alone, industry forecasters say they estimated payouts to be around $25 billion. Insurance adjusters said they will have a clearer picture of the damage when they are able to enter New Orleans and other Gulf of Mexico coastal cities.
The Times-Picayune reported Sunday 06 September 2005 that Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said that FEMA Director Brown and DHS Secretary Chertoff were in on electronic briefings given by his staff in advance of Hurricane Katrina and were advised of the storm's catastrophic growth. Mayfield said the strength of the storm and its devastating potential was stressed during both the briefings and in formal advisories, including warnings that Katrina's storm surge could overtop New Orleans' levees. "We were briefing them way before landfall," Mayfield told the newspaper. "It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."
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