Social Action Now!

An objective view to worldwide social issues

The devastating natural phenomena

The severe damage of Hurricane Katrina in some places of the United States, which was considered by The National and Atmospheric Administration as one of the most devastating natural disasters in the country; the maximum alert situation in the Italian island of Sardinia due to the deadly floods in mid November, which were caused by an unusual cyclone named Cleopatra and killed at least 17 people in the first three days as well as provoking the evacuation of thousands of people; the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, which according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs have affected to 14.12 million people until mid December.  These are just some examples of how nature can show its unpredictable character and turn against humanity. Besides being a deadly phenomena, the hurricanes may cause serious damage in terms of economy, material goods, in nature and, of course, in people.

Hurricanes are also known as tropical cyclones and thyphoons (they are named differently by scientists depending on the place the phenomena happens), and they are strong storms with winds that can reach 119 kilometers per hour or more. As Marshall Brain, Craig Freudenrich and Robert Lamb explain, during hurricane season, hundreds of storm systems spiral out from the tropical regions surrounding the equator, and between 40 and 50 of those reach hurricane levels. According to Ker Than, while the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, the thyphoon and cyclone seasons follow slightly different patterns. In the northeastern Pacific, the official season runs from May 15 to November 30. In the northwestern Pacific, typhoons are most common from late June through December. And the northern Indian Ocean sees cyclones from April to December.

Hurricanes are classified into different categories depending on their wind speed, following the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS). The lowest category would range from winds that reach 119 km/h (the minimum to be considered a hurricane) to 153 km/h and the highest one (category 5) would encompass storms with winds that go beyond 251 km/h. Hurricanes such as Katrina or Andrew would fit that group.

This video depicts accurately how hurricanes are created and their development:

Focusing on Katrina, it was formed over the Bahamas in the 23rd of August of 2005. In its first landfall, in Florida, it was a Category 1 hurricane, and in spite of causing flooding and killing two people, it was thought to be just like any other hurricane. After becoming a Category 5 storm during its journey northwards, once it landed in Mississippi and Lousiana in the 29th of August it had already weakened to a Category 3 storm. The city of New Orleans was flooded almost completely (80% of the city) causing severe damage from which it is still trying to recover. The floodings happened due to the collapse and failure of the levee system and the floodwaters did not recede for weeks. The estimated total loss is estimated to exceed $100 billion with over $34 billion in insured losses, as well as being the deadliest hurricane in the United States for nearly a hundred years, killing more than 1800 people, most of them residents in the state of Lousiana. In addition to this, US oil production was affected by 19% and consequently oil and gas prices increased. Cedric L. Richmond, who at that time was the Lousiana State Representative for District 101 stated:

“I’ll never forget Hurricane Katrina — the mix of a natural and a man-made catastrophe that resulted in the death of over 1,500 of our neighbors. Millions of folks were marked by the tragedy.”

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was also carachterized by a strong criticism towards the government’s response to this disaster. Being almost the 70% of the New Orleans citizens black, and a 25% of people and 40% of children living at or above of the poverty line, 60% of the black citizens interviewed in a poll believed that the federal government’s slow response was due to racial issues. In the same way, 63% of black citizens blamed it on the poverty.

Flooded New Orleans

Flooded New Orleans

This video illustrates how the formation and advance of Hurricane Katrina was and shows images of the damaged places during and after the hurricane.

References:

Marshall Brain, Craig Freudenrich and Robert Lamb (2011). How Hurricanes Work. Retrieved November 16, 2013 from http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/hurricane.htm

NASA (August 26, 2008). What Are Hurricanes?. Retrieved November 18, 2013 from http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/what-are-hurricanes-58.html#.Uo5DJ-KE7wp

Ker Than (November 7, 2013). What’s a Thyphoon, Anyway?. Retrieved November 20, 2013 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131107-typhoons-pacific-natural-disasters/#

Kim Ann Zimmermann (August 20, 2012). Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath. Retrieved November 27, 2013 from http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html

National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center (December 29, 2005). Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved December 2, 2013 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremeevents/specialreports/Hurricane-Katrina.pdf

CNN (September 13, 2005). Reaction to Katrina split on racial lines. Retrieved December 2, 2013 from http://edition.cnn.com/2005/US/09/12/katrina.race.poll/

Cedric L. Richmond (August 29, 2011). Remembering Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved December 5, 2013 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-cedric-l-richmond/remembering-hurricane-kat_b_940447.html

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Typhoon Haiyan. Retrieved December 19, 2013 from http://www.unocha.org/crisis/typhoonhaiyan

Sources:

Hurricane Katrina Day by Day video retrieved December 5, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbJaMWw4-2Q

Hurricanes 101 video retrieved December 5, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEPZOC6YHUc

Flooded New Orleans image retrieved December 15, 2013 from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3d/KatrinaNewOrleansFlooded_edit2.jpg

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