August 2005: Meteorologists and storm watchers were closely tracking Hurricane Katrina as it touched the U.S state of Florida and moved into the Gulf of Mexico. The slow Category 1 storm started picking up speed and soon developed into a Category 3.
On the early morning of August 29, 2005, the storm touched land. The coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were battered by heavy rains, winds and ocean waves.
Hurricane Katrina killed 2000 people and more than one million were forced out of their homes as rising waters swallowed neighborhoods.
Remembering That Fateful Day
New Orleans, the city that was hit the hardest by the storm, lies below sea level. Its neighborhoods are protected from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain by a system of levees and canals. Levees (also known as dikes in the Netherlands) are walls that keep water out; the city's canals drain rain and flood water from the city into the lake.
The force of the storm caused the weak canal walls to collapse and 80 percent of the city came under water - especially the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the poorer districts. Scenes of people being rescued from rooftops and by boats, homes inundated and precious lives swept away shocked the nation. Even though the residents of New Orleans had been warned and asked to evacuate, many chose to stay. They had trusted the levees in the past and were hoping to ride out the storm.
In the aftermath of the storm, help poured in. Houston, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia took in the most refugees - many of the 250,000 evacuees who went to Houston were housed in the Astrodome stadium. Katrina came to be known as the most destructive storm to hit the United States.
Rebuilding New Orleans
Now, ten years later, the city known for its unique architecture, jazz music, Cajun cuisine, and famous carnivals is alive once again.
Newer and stronger levees and canal systems have been built by the government to protect New Orleans. Many displaced families have returned to their neighborhoods, though some have chosen to make their homes in the cities they settled in after the disaster.
In the aftermath of the storm, the U.S Federal Government was criticized for its slow response. In 2006, Congress passed an act to reorganize FEMA - the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve communication and evacuation plans in times of disasters. The city of New Orleans has also improved its warning system.
U.S President Barack Obama, and ex-Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush toured the neighborhoods on the 10th anniversary of Katrina. Residents in the entire affected Gulf coast region marked the day with remembrance ceremonies. It was not only a reminder of the power of nature but also the power of the human soul to recover and rebuild.