Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Hurricane Katrina - Oh, the Humanity!

Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Hurricane Katrina - Oh, the Humanity!

Article excerpt


In the two and a half years since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi and then proceeded northeastward inland, much has been written. Anecdotal and structured findings are reported here on topics ranging from eyewitness accounts to survey research to statistical compilations. Lessons to be learned from the disaster are suggested in some of the findings reported here and the perspective that comes with the passage of time since August 2005 seems to be continually bringing new lessons to light.


"Oh, the humanity ... This is the worst thing I've ever witnessed." Herbert Morrison's famous description of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 could, and most would say should, be used to describe the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina in 2005 . The technology that was used to record the Hindenburg disaster was, by our present standards, extremely crude; but it was state of the art at the time and his words were one of the first ever recordings of a disaster as it occurred. Morrison's words were captured live at the time, but on a separate transcription disc recorder, and were later synchronized to the newsreel film footage for projection in movie theaters (Memorable Quotes) and countless rebroadcastings on television. With Hurricane Katrina, however, technology gave us all an immediate, live, "up close and personal" view of the tragedy as it unfolded. This paper reports some of the things that have been written about Hurricane Katrina in the two and half years since it occurred.


Unless one has personally experienced the wrath of a hurricane or the power of a flood, one cannot fully understand the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina. In 1996, 1 experienced Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in North Carolina and was fascinated when the eye of each storm, in turn, passed over my home (some forty miles inland). In each case, rain beat on one side of my home and then stopped, only to be followed by a period of absolutely open skies, and then a pelting of rain on the other side of the building. I suffered no personal damage from either, but had friends who lost trees, power, etc. We were thankful that as little happened as did. We felt a comradeship that we had survived the storms and bought the t-shirts that said, "I survived Hurricane Bertha" and "I survived Hurricane Fran" and wore them as badges of honor.

Hurricane Floyd in 1999 in North Carolina was different. It was a big storm and the rain water that it brought had nowhere to go because the ground it fell upon was saturated from Hurricane Dennis some eleven days earlier. It was billed as the "Flood of the Century" for eastern North Carolina and brought devastation to the land and death to 35 North Carolinians and 57 individuals in total - the largest number in the U.S. since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. I didn't buy the t-shirt and my opinion was that I would never see anything worse than Hurricane Floyd. I now write, humbly, that I could not have been more wrong.


August 24, 2005 is the official "birth date" of Tropical Storm Katrina, though it began as a tropical depression a day earlier 175 miles southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. Katrina became a Category 1 storm on August 25, 2008 and that evening hit Hallandale Beach and North Miami Beach in Florida. Fourteen people lost their lives in Florida despite the storm never having had sustained winds greater than 80 miles per hour. Back in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina strengthened and by 7:00 a.m. on August 28, 2005, the storm reached Category 5 status with winds of 160 miles per hour. By 10:00 a.m. on that Sunday morning, Katrina reached its peak with sustained winds of 175 miles per hour (Graumann, et al., 2005).

Wind speeds were 127 miles per hour when Katrina hit Plaquemines Parish, LA just south of the community of Buras, between Grand Isle and the mouth of the Mississippi River at 6:10 a. …

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