Social effects of Hurricane Katrina

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Hurricane Katrina had many social effects, due to the significant loss and disruption of lives it caused. The hurricane left hundreds of thousands people without access to their homes or jobs, it separated people from relatives, and caused both physical and mental distress on those who suffered through the storm and its aftermath.[1]


Evacuated citizens have spread to 50 states and many major cities, mostly Houston.[2] Due to this, many people were separated from their family members, including young children separated from their parents and pets. A coordinated effort by the American Red Cross, Microsoft, and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, combined many diverse databases and has been very effective in reconnecting children with their parents.[3] An effort to catalogue, identify, or even to collect remains of the dead is still ongoing as of April 2006, leaving those who do not know the whereabouts of loved ones to suffer uncertainty and anxiety. Over time both the reconnection and recovery operations have improved, but it will be much time before the majority of bodies are retrieved and people reunited.

While many existing organisations have worked to help those displaced, and some new groups and special efforts have been initiated, the survivors of Hurricane Katrina are still largely unorganized. Survivors have only recently begun to form associations for their own interests in the recovery effort. The largest of these associations is the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association,[4] led by members New Orleans Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The group has protested Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policies in both Houston, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and claims over 2,000 members.

President George W. Bush visiting a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina during his September 5, 2005 visit to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Many evacuees from New Orleans, facing months without income, severely damaged or destroyed homes, and little in the way of recoverable possessions have begun expressing desires to permanently resettle elsewhere. But they couldn't find anyone that would take them. Everyone thought they carried diseases.[5] Possible locations include the areas to which they were evacuated, or with friends or family in other states. This would lead to potentially large demographic effects not only on New Orleans but on the entire country, rivaled only by the Great Migration of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century, and the mass migration of the 1930s as a result of the Great Depression. The effects of this migration are likely to endure for decades as former citizens of New Orleans resettle in other areas yet retain strong cultural ties to New Orleans.

Studies have shown that the concentration of poverty is self-perpetuating, thus some postulate that the hurricane may have a small positive impact on future poverty levels.[6]

Not only were evacuees displaced, but also some National Guard soldiers returning home from their deployment to Iraq were displaced because they were unable to find homes upon their arrival.

Health issues[edit]

Aside from the lack of water, food, shelter, and sanitation facilities, there were concerns that the prolonged flooding might lead to an outbreak of health problems for those who remained in the hurricane-affected areas. In addition to dehydration and food poisoning, there was a potential for communicable disease outbreaks of Cholera and respiratory illness, all related to the growing contamination of food and drinking water supplies in the area.

President Bush declared an emergency for the entire Gulf Coast. Before the hurricane, government health officials prepared to respond, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began sending medical emergency supplies to locations near the worst-hit area within 48 hours after landfall.

Supplies shipped by CDC's Strategic National Stockpile provided pharmaceuticals, technical assistance teams, and treatment capacity for citizens otherwise stranded by the hurricane's catastrophic effect on hospital infrastructure in Louisiana and Mississippi. These supplies served an estimated 30 acute care hospitals south of Interstate Highway 10, and volunteers organized around its, "contingency stations," to become temporary stand-ins for hospitals, warehouses, and distribution facilities damaged by the storm. Alongside strong responses from state and local medical teams, CDC support remained crucial until normal infrastructure support began to return a week and a half later.

Within days after landfall, medical authorities established contingency treatment facilities for over 10,000 people, and plans to treat thousands more were developing. Partnerships with commercial medical suppliers, shipping companies, and support services companies insured that evolving medical needs could be met within days or even hours.

There was concern the chemical plants and refineries in the area could have released pollutants into the floodwaters. People who suffer from allergies or lung disorders, such as asthma, may have health complications due to toxic mold and airborne irritants, leading to what some health officials have dubbed, "Katrina Cough". In Gulfport, Mississippi, several hundred tons of chicken and uncooked shrimp were washed out of their containers at the nearby harbor and could have contaminated the water table. On September 6, it was reported that Escherichia coli (E. coli) had been detected at unsafe levels in the waters that flooded New Orleans. The CDC reported on September 7 that five people had died of bacterial infection from drinking water contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium from the Gulf of Mexico.

Wide outbreaks of severe infectious diseases such as cholera and dysentery were not considered likely because such illnesses are not endemic in the United States.[7]

Animal issues[edit]

A stray dog abandoned by its owners approaches a rescue worker in New Orleans. Many animals were left by their owners who could not take them to the evacuation shelters.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 8,000 animals were rescued and brought to temporary shelters set up at the Lamar-Dixon Exposition Center in Gonzales, Louisiana, or the Parker Coliseum at Louisiana State University.[8]

Most helicopter pilots and rescue boat captains refused to load pets in order to hold more people. Many families in the affected area refused to evacuate without their pets. While some field hospitals allowed pets to enter with their patients, those who were evacuated from the Superdome were not allowed to take their pets with them.[9]

One case that attracted national attention was that of Snowball, a small white dog made famous by coverage of an Associated Press reporter, who said, "When a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. 'Snowball, Snowball', he cried."[10][11] The story of "Snowball" became a centerpiece in fundraising appeals by welfare organizations and various ad-hoc websites were created by people soliciting funds to help locate Snowball and reunite him with the boy.[10]

Rescue teams were set up in the worst hit regions in response to desperate pleas from pet owners. Horses posed a particular problem, as they are easily stranded and cannot stand in water for long periods of time. Rescue agencies set up shelters and tried to find homes to adopt pets lost by their owners. Rescue centers were becoming overwhelmed in the days immediately following the hurricane. Several online resources were set up to give rescue groups, individuals, and businesses from around the country a centralized venue to publish their offers and requests for helping the animals displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Most of the 10,000 fish at the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas died because the backup power ran out after four days.[12] Most of the marine mammals and a large sea turtle survived. The Audubon Zoo lost only three animals out of a total of 1,400 due to good disaster planning and location on high ground.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in conjunction with the Louisiana SPCA and many other groups, had hundreds of staff and volunteers working in Louisiana and Mississippi. As of September 20, 2005, 6,031 animals were rescued and 400 were reunited with their owners.[13] An estimated 600,000 animals were killed or left without shelter as a result of Hurricane Katrina.[14]

Inspired by the story of Snowball,[15][16] US Representative Tom Lantos (D-California) introduced the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act to the House of Representatives which would require states seeking FEMA assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters.[17] The bill passed with an overwhelming majority on May 22, 2006.[18]

Baby names[edit]

Katrina also had a significant impact on the popularity of the name for babies. According to the Social Security Administration, Katrina, which had ranked as the 281st female baby name in 2004, dropped down to 382nd most popular name in 2006, 600th most popular name in 2007, and 815th most popular name in 2009.[19] This surprised experts in naming trends, as past major hurricanes such as Hurricane Camille in 1969 had typically increased the popularity of a name due to its greater exposure.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weaver, Jane. "Disconnected families coping with fear, stress." MSNBC. September 2, 2005.
  2. ^ Talk of the Nation. "Katrina Evacuees: Where Are They Now?." National Public Radio. October 19, 2005.
  3. ^ Press Release. "American Red Cross and Microsoft Announce New Family Linking Website KatrinaSafe.Org." Microsoft. September 27, 2005.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Singer, Audrey; Donato, Katharine M. "In Katrina's Wake, Who Will Return? Archived 2006-04-18 at the Wayback Machine" Brookings Institution. September 27, 2005.
  6. ^ Hymowitz, Kay S. "The marriage gap." Dallas Morning News. March 12, 2006.
  7. ^ Staff Writer. "After a Hurricane: Infectious Disease Archived 2006-02-15 at the Wayback Machine." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 11, 2005.
  8. ^ Press Release. "Reviewing Louisiana Animal Evacuation And Rescue Archived 2006-05-05 at the Wayback Machine." Federal Emergency Management Agency. November 1, 2005.
  9. ^ Nossiter, Adam. "Fights and gunfire break out as New Orleans descends into anarchy Archived 2005-10-28 at the Wayback Machine." The Brockville Recorder & Times. 2005.
  10. ^ a b Associated Press (6 September 2005). "Sad story of little boy and his dog grips U.S." NBC News.
  11. ^ Snowball, Snowball, the little dog who broke the nation's heart! September 7, 2005. PR Leap Business News. Accessed August 30, 2007.
  12. ^ Staff Writer. "Katrina kills most fish in New Orleans aquarium." CNN. September 9, 2005.
  13. ^ Manning, Anita. "Animal welfare groups rescue abandoned pets." USA Today. September 3, 2005.
  14. ^ 600,000 Pets Note. PETS ACT by CBS News"House Passes Pet Evacuation Bill."CBS News." May 22, 2006.
  15. ^ Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 Section 51. United States House of Representatives. September 20, 2006. Accessed August 31, 2007.
  16. ^ Kemper, Bob. May 23, 2006. Pet-loving Georgians call bill a disaster. Atlanta Journal Constitution. (Reprinted at the House of Representatives site of Congressman Lynn A. Westmoreland). Accessed August 30, 2007.
  17. ^ Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act House of Representatives website. September 2005. Accessed August 30, 2007.
  18. ^ Shays, Christopher. Animal Welfare: Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act House of Representatives website. Accessed August 30, 2007.
  19. ^ Popular baby names Social Security website, accessed May 11, 2007
  20. ^ 'Katrina' Sinks Lower on List of Popular Baby Names Since Hurricane Hit Fox News May 11, 2007

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