Over the Bahamas forms Tropical Depression 12, a swirling band of wind and rain. It picks up moisture and heat and with them, speed. As its winds reach 39 miles per hour, it becomes a tropical storm. And is given a name: Katrina. Along the coast of Florida, a hurricane warning is announced, the first of many.
TITLECARD: Thursday, August 25th
By four o’clock, Katrina grows into a category one hurricane. With eighty-mile-an-hour winds, it sideswipes through Florida just north of Miami. By midnight, over a million homes lose power. Eleven lives are lost.
TITLECARD: Friday, August 26th
Katrina hooks north into the Gulf of Mexico and quickly picks up speed and size, becoming a category 2 hurricane. Locals try to safeguard their property, while the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi declare states of emergency.
TITLECARD: Saturday, August 27th
As its winds reach one hundred and fifteen miles per hour, Katrina turns into a category 3 hurricane, with New Orleans in its sights. City officials urge those who can to evacuate. Traffic jams snarl the highways as up to eighteen thousand cars an hour try to make it out of harm’s way.
TITLECARD: Sunday, August 28th
Katrina grows into a Category Four hurricane. A few hours later, it reaches Category Five, the highest possible rating. Winds exceed one hundred and seventy five miles an hour.
All residents in New Orleans are ordered to evacuate. For those without the means to leave, the city sets up shelters. Many locals simply hunker down in their homes and prepare to weather the storm.
TITLECARD: Monday, August 29th
As dawn breaks, Katrina’s wind speeds slow back down to a Category 4 hurricane. It makes landfall at six a.m., 60 miles southeast of New Orleans.
Its hundred and forty-five mile-an-hour winds pummel the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The eye of the storm moves just east of New Orleans, but the city is not spared. New Orleans sits below sea level, surrounded by Lake Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River. High flood walls, called levees, keep the water at bay.
But by eight a.m., there are reports that a levee has broken. The waters of Lake Pontchartrain rush in. Levees in three locations are breached. Eighty percent of the city is flooded. Some neighborhoods are submerged under twenty feet of water.
As night falls, Katrina slows to a tropical storm. It heads north through Tennessee and into Kentucky.
TITLECARD: Tuesday, August 30th
The damage is immense. In Mississippi, the hurricane has crushed coastal towns. Hundreds are feared dead. New Orleans lies in shambles. It is left without power, without drinking water. Many residents are stranded on rooftops, desperate to be rescued. Bodies float in the streets. Looting breaks out. Thousands make their way to Superdome and Convention Center in hopes of being evacuated.
TITLECARD: Wednesday, August 31st
The waters stop rising, but the city is in chaos. Looting and violence are so widespread that police are forced to stop rescue operations to combat the problem.
TITLECARD: Thursday, September 1st
Conditions at the Superdome and Convention Center are increasingly unsafe. People lack food, water, and basic sanitation. There are reports of violent assaults.
All together, over 50,000 people wait for the buses that will evacuate them. For most, the buses do not come.
TITLECARD: Friday, September 2nd
The National Guard arrives in force and restores order. They bring convoys of food and water. Evacuations begin in earnest.
By the following Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers plugs major holes in the levees. Draining pumps go back in operation. And the waters subside.
The residents of the Gulf slowly return, their lives forever changed by the power of a hurricane.