Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Disaster Response–An Overview

On August 29, 2005, the world watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. Not only was this worst natural disaster in our nation’s history—the fury of the storm was matched only by the failure of the government to respond effectively.

The hurricane caused extensive and severe damage in Louisiana and Mississippi, with New Orleans clearly the hardest hit area. A break in the levee system caused massive flooding throughout most of the city. Preliminary damage estimates for the region were well in excess of $100 billion; over 1,800 people died; and it is reported that as many as 275,000 homes were lost.

Less than a month later, Hurricane Rita made landfall on the southern coast of Louisiana and Texas. Rita caused $11.3 billion in damage and was the third Category 5 hurricane of the historic 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. While Rita remained well to the south and west of New Orleans, more parts of the levee wall were breached causing major reflooding in New Orleans.

An impoverished region before the storm, the impact of Katrina and Rita added a devastating hurdle to the already taxed social services system in both Louisiana and Mississippi. As first responders to the area, Operation USA rapidly sent a wide range of emergency supplies to community-based clinics in both rural and urban areas.

To address the needs of Katrina victims in the immediate aftermath of the storm, Operation USA focused our resources on community health clinics. Having over 27 years of experience supporting low-income health programs, OpUSA provided an initial $8 million in supplies and $700,000 in cash grants to Gulf Coast clinics. These resources ensured the clinics’ continuity of operations and allowed them to provide critical disaster relief and social services. Ultimately, Operation USA’s donors were enormously generous following this disaster—allowing us to donate a total of over $17 million in medical supplies and more than $2 million in grants to over 50 local clinics and community organizations

While the natural devastation and the egregious human errors have been well documented, the will and determination of Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita continues to inspire as they rebuild their lives and revive their communities. Although there has been significant progress in much of the region, many residents are still struggling to reconstruct their lives. Operation USA continues to respond to unmet needs.