Storms

Preventing The Next Katrina

Fifteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. Today, climate change and the slow pace of building resilient communities is hastening the arrival of the next catastrophic U.S. hurricane event. 

28.08.2020

It is difficult to convey the scale and magnitude of destruction that Hurricane Katrina wrought along the northern Gulf Coast in August 2005. Over 200 miles of coastline were devastated by a storm surge that reached 30 feet in height in some locations. Hurricane-force winds in excess of 120 mph knocked down trees and damaged buildings well over 100 miles inland, while levee and pump failures in New Orleans left the city half-underwater for weeks. Few natural disasters have had such a profound and lingering impact on a major American city. New Orleans still reportedly has about 60,000 fewer residents than in 2005, and scars of the storm are still evident in neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward.
Damages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 © Munich Re / Mark Bove
Damages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005

For the past 15 years, Katrina has reigned as the costliest insured natural catastrophe event on record (2005 US$ 60 billion), more than 2017’s Hurricanes Harvey and Irma combined. But how long will Katrina retain this title? Another hurricane that will devastate another major U.S. city is coming, it’s only a matter of when.

The “when” is coming much sooner than many expect, however, due to the confluence of several factors, including a warming climate and its impacts on tropical cyclones (TCs), limited action to make our cities and towns more resilient, and insurance coverage gaps within our communities. It is now time to make improvements before the inevitable occurs.

This article highlights the current scientific understanding of the relationship between hurricanes and climate, as well as a discussion of the three types of resilience that can help mitigate the risk from the next Katrina-like event.

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Our experts
Mark Bove
Mark Bove
Senior Research Scientist
Munich Re US
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