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Hurricane Katrina: Perceptions of the affected

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The storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on August 29, 2005, caused catastrophic damage along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Levees separating Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans were breached, ultimately flooding about 80% of the city. Additionally, major wind damage was reported as far as 200 miles inland. Katrina is now considered the deadliest and costliest hurricane in the U.S. in over 80 years. In all, more than 1,400 people were killed and damages are estimated to have exceeded more than $75 billion.


Images of despair and suffering haunted the American public as news reports from New Orleans were beamed into living rooms all over the country and internationally. Media reports and subsequent inquiries of the rescue and relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have been critical of the failures of the official infrastructure, and identified gaps that need to be addressed before the onset of the next hurricane season. Yet relatively little systematic attention has been focused on the perceptions of those who were affected by Hurricane Katrina, probing the range of services that were actually delivered and noting specific needs that remained unmet.

In an ongoing series of studies aiming to systematically gauge relief effectiveness by assessing the perceptions and needs of those affected by natural disasters, Fritz Institute commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a rigorous assessment of people affected by Hurricane Katrina. We were particularlyinterested in the perceptions of people about the help that they received in the first 48 hours and the first 30 days after the storm hit, as the intent of this study was to identify the performance of the system of relief delivery in order to better prepare for the disasters of the future. The questions used were adapted from a broader database of questions developed by Fritz Institute in 2005 to study the perceptions of those affected by the Asian Tsunami 48 hours, sixty days and nine months after the disaster. The lessons learned from the hurricane-affected are critical in creating the strategic infrastructure for the future, incorporating valuable insight from the ground that is rarely leveraged in preparing for disasters.

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