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Comparisons between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey

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Lakhwinder Kaur















Winter 2018

Table of Contents




1.      Introduction …………………………………………………………………. Pg. 3

2.      Introduction to hurricanes……………………………………………………. Pg.3

3.      Formation, Timeline, and Area Affected ……………………………………. Pg. 4

4.      Impacts on the USA …………………………………………………………. Pg.5

5.      Hurricane in the news headlines ………………………………………………Pg.5

6.      Responses by Governmental and Non-Governmental Agencies ………………. Pg.6

7.      Unusual facts about the hurricane ……………………………………………. Pg.7

8.      Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………. Pg.7

9.      References …………………………………………………………………….  Pg. 9


















Hurricanes are large twirling storms which form over warm ocean waters. Sometimes these hurricanes strike land and cause damage. Weather disturbances, warm tropical seas, dampness, and light breezes are elements responsible for creating hurricanes. Thus, if correct conditions continue sufficiently long, they merge to create ferocious winds, strong waves, and floods.

They are classified into 5 categories, based on their wind speed. Parts of the USA like Virgin Islands, Hawaii, its territories in the Pacific are prone to hurricanes.

Hurricane Katrina and Harvey are regarded as most cataclysmic natural disasters to hit the United States. Hurricane Katrina was classified into category 5 occurred in August 2005, whereas Hurricane Harvey classified into category 4 occurred from Aug 17– Sep 3, 2017.

This paper would compare hurricane Katrina and Harvey though analyzing and researching.


Introduction to Hurricanes

From the introduction, it is clear about the definition of Hurricanes. There are three parts of a hurricane: the hole at the center of the storm is called ‘eye’. The storms that whirl around the eye and the rain is heaviest is called the ‘eyewall’. ‘Rain bands’ consist of thunderstorms and tornadoes. Hurricane begins as a tropical disturbance, a zone over warm sea waters where rain and clouds build. A tropical disturbance once in a while develops into a tropical depression, a region of rotating thunderstorms with winds of 62 km/hr or less.  Later a tropical depression turns into a tropical storm if its breezes reach 63 km/hr. Finally, it turns into a hurricane if its wind reaches 119 km/hr. Keeping a name for a hurricane is necessary as it helps in distinguishing between different hurricanes that may occur in the same year. Every year, typhoons are named in sequential order arrange. The names originate from a rundown of names for that year. There are six arrangements of names, reused every six years.  If a storm does a considerable measure of harm, its name is removed from the rundown. It is then supplanted by another name that begins with a similar letter.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale classifies hurricanes into following categories:

·         Category 1: Winds 119-153 km/ hr, faster than a cheetah

·         Category 2: Winds 154-177 km/hr (96-110 mph) – faster than a baseball pitcher’s fastball

·         Category 3: Winds 178-208 km/hr. (111-129 mph) – similar to the serving speed of professional tennis players

·         Category 4: Winds 209-251 km/hr. (130-156 mph) – faster than the world’s fastest rollercoaster

·         Category 5: Winds more than 252 km/hr. (157 mph) – similar to the speed of some high-speed trains (May, 2017)


Formation and Timeline and Area Affected


Katrina: Katrina’s inceptions were a complex blend of a tropical wave, the leftovers of a prior tropical depression and an upper tropospheric trough. This formed tropical depression close to the Bahamas on 23 August; where ocean temperatures were over 27 °C, moderately weak vertical wind shear, high mid-level humidity, and upper-level outflow. These conditions created extreme convection related to disturbance providing strength to the storm.

On 24 August it moved towards Florida as a tropical storm, causing flooding with 40mm of rain. It became a category 5 hurricane when it moved to the Gulf of Mexico. It debilitated to category 4 while it moved towards the coast on 29 August, because Katrina entrained dry air from Mainland USA. This led to the erosion of deep convection on the western side of the hurricane.  It finally made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane with a wind speed of 130 mph on 29 August. It crossed the Breton Sound making a second landfall in Pearlington, Mississippi. It debilitated as it exited the warm waters of the Gulf, moving consistently upper east over the USA dropping overflowing measures of rain in its way. On 31 August remainders of Katrina were at last consumed by a frontal boundary in northeastern Canada. (McCallum, 2006)

Harvey: Hurricane Harvey started August 13, 2017, when a tropical wave developed off the west coast of Africa, eventually converging with a broad zone of low pressure near the Cabo Verde Islands. Further, the warm ocean water of Gulf of Mexico provided energy to the storm. For a couple of days on its westward track, “Harvey” stayed disorganized, and there was some uncertainty whether the low would turn into a tropical violent wind. But on August 18 Hurricane Harvey affected the Windward Islands, entering the Eastern Caribbean Sea as a negligible hurricane.

Due to the weakening of wind shear in the Western Gulf, Harvey increased rapidly. On August 27, it moved towards Houston area causing rain and disastrous flooding in southeastern Texas to southwestern Louisiana. It then moved to the Gulf of Mexico with 45mph wind speed.

(Ehrlich, 2017)


Impact on the USA

Any natural disaster that occurs causes great harm to the nation. But in case of hurricane its more damage as compared to other disasters. 

Katrina: The storm killed around 2,000 people, demolished more than 200,000 homes, and causing property damage of $100 Billion. From the period of 2004-2007, Public school enrollment in Orleans fell by somewhat more than half. Even the private school enlistments declined during the similar era and travel ridership diminished by more than 66%. According to the 2000 Census, there were around 215,000 housing units in the city of New Orleans. But By 2006, the evaluated number of units had declined to 106,000, of which more than 32,000 were empty. It also diminished both the number of workers and the number of firms running in the city of New Orleans. The city of New Orleans endured extreme damaged to about two-thirds of its the housing stock in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While the whole region endured ill impacts from the hurricane, the city had to deal with the extra blow of many failures in its levee framework, which left most of the city immersed long after the storm had passed. (Vigdor, 2008)

Harvey: Among 13 million people specifically affected by the hurricane, more than 22,000 were

rescued from floodwaters, an expected 32 000 displaced survivors were given shelters. More than 100 000 homes were destroyed and just 17% of the affected residents had flood insurance.  Damage and recovery estimates are expected to exceed as compared to Hurricane Katrina. The psychological impacts of hurricane Harvey associated with traumatic exposures to storm dangers amid the event, misfortunes, and hardships in the aftermath, also, interruption of crucial care and fundamental medication for those with constant and tenacious mental illness and cognitive weakness. (Shultz, 2017)


Hurricane in the news headlines

If we compare both the hurricane Katrina and Harvey, we see that Harvey was more in the headlines. Katrina occurred in the year 2005, at that time there were not many social media sites and only popular source of news was newspapers and televisions. In case of Harvey, it occurred in 2017 a time where almost everyone has access to the internet. Nowadays the fastest mode of news is through social media sites. The younger generation tends to follow what’s on social media. Thus, in case of Harvey, when people got to know about the hurricane they reacted quickly and moved to a safer place. But in case of Katrina, some people were too late to react and that lead to more loss of lives. 


Responses by Governmental and Non-Governmental Agencies


Katrina:  Government’s response to Katrina was befuddled, confused, and much slower. Whereas the private companies like Walmart and home depot response to Katrina was quick and successful as they planned weeks before Katrina hit, and were ready to bring assets to endure on the disaster area days before government organizations could do. Although the citizens of New Orleans and the media, were aware of the looming and inevitable disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, key government relief management figures, possibly did not officially recognize this was the situation. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, for instance, did not proclaim Hurricane Katrina an “incident of national significance” until 36 hours after it made landfall. This happened despite the fact on August 27th – two days prior Katrina’s arrival – the National Hurricane Center expected Katrina would hit the Gulf Coast. (Sobel, 2006)

INGOs (international nongovernmental organizations) such as International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, and UNICEF provided significant humanitarian assistance and relief. As indicated by the White House report on Katrina, essentially every national, regional and local charitable organization in the United States, and numerous from abroad contributed help to the casualties of Hurricane Katrina. Their primary focus was on health care, emergency relief to survivors, post-conflict development and many more. (Eikenberry, 2007)

Harvey:  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided resources throughout Texas and Louisiana. More than 21,000 government staff were sent to provide support. U.S. Coast Guard and the Texas National Guard transported supplies and volunteers to the shelter areas.  FEMA provided more than 1,900,000 meals in Texas and 416,000 meals in Louisiana. For survivors who endured harm and had government flood insurance, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program issued advance payments of up to $5,000 for building and substance harms preceding an agent’s inspection to help get funds into the hands of survivors as soon as possible. The government also created a webpage with resources and information exclusively for people with disabilities.

The American Red Cross had more than 2000 disaster workers on the ground. They also had skilled volunteers from the Mexican Red Cross, who helped in providing aid to the Spanish speaking victims. The Department of Agriculture (USDA), with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), made food available to school children. (Federal Government Continues Response to Hurricane Harvey:, 2017)

Team Rubicon, a Ngo consisting of military veterans aiding disaster relief, utilized vets as volunteers. Airbnb waived off fees for the storm victims and helped in finding homes for the victims. Convey of Hope, an international aid group sent aid workers from different countries to Texas.


Unusual Facts about the Hurricane



·         Hurricane Katrina sustained winds more than 175 miles for each hour.

·         80 (Haywood, 2015)% of New Orleans was flooded by Katrina.

·         It killed almost 2,000 individuals and affected around of 90,000 square miles of the United States.

·         More than one million individuals in the Gulf region were displaced by the hurricane.

·         40% of the deaths in Louisiana were caused by drowning. 25% were caused by damage and injury and 11% were caused by heart conditions. (Haywood, 2015)


·         Harvey dropped 40-61 inches of rain in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

·         Harvey was the first Hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Ike in 2008




After reading through journal articles, newspapers and websites lot of comparisons can be made on hurricane Katrina and Harvey on basis of various factors such as formation, areas affected, the response by government and Ngo, etc.

Here is the summary of the Comparison:







August 23 to August 31, 2005

Aug 17, 2017 – Sep 3, 2017

Major Cities affected (USA)

Louisiana, Mississippi


Saffir-Simpson’s scale

Category 1, landfall in Florida. Category 3, landfall in Louisiana.

Category 4 in Texas


400 miles

280 miles


17 inches

40-60 inches

Death and damage

1833 deaths, $100 billion damage

Till date: 82, $180 billion damage

(Dewan, 2017)


Hurricane Harvey occurred in August 2017, and there is not much actual publication conducted on it. But the information provided in the newspapers and websites came from the government reports and conducted in real time. Various other facts and information about Harvey is yet to be published which would provide more in-depth detail on it.

The reason why government was slow in responding during hurricane Katrina could be due to the lack of quick and valid information. For Harvey, scientists have now invented great tools that can provide quick and reliable information beforehand.

Thus, both these hurricanes had a lot of impact on the USA. Beside hurricane Harvey, this year we experienced hurricane Irma and hurricane Jose. Some scientist considers global warming to be one major reason for frequent hurricanes. But nothing has been confirmed as of now. Hopefully, this world is safe from such dangerous natural disasters.





Total Words: 2009






Dewan, S. (2017, August 28). How Does Harvey Compare With Hurricane Katrina? Here’s What We know. Retrieved from The New York Times :
Ehrlich, A. (2017, September 2). Harvey timeline: See how the storm developed and marched across Texas and Louisiana. Retrieved from Caller Times :
Eikenberry, A. M. (2007). Administrative Failure and the International NGO Response to Hurricane Katrina. Public Administration Review, 160–170.
           Federal Government Continues Response to Hurricane Harvey:. (2017, September 1). Retrieved from FEMA:
Haywood, L. (2015, August 25). Fast facts about Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from
May, S. (2017, August 6). What Are Hurricanes? Retrieved from NASA:
McCallum, E. (2006, August 15). Hurricane Katrina: an environmental perspective. Retrieved from Royal Society Publishing:
Shultz, J. M. (2017, October 17). Mitigating the Mental and Physical Health Consequences of Hurricane Harvey. Retrieved from The JAMA Network :
Sobel, R. S. (2006). Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina: A public choice analysis. Public Choice, 55–73.
Vigdor, J. (2008). The Economic Aftermath of Hurricane. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 135-154.






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