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UPDATE: The permanent and special exhibits at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum are open to the public. Our Research Room will open starting December 13, 2021 on a limited basis and by appointment only. We will continue to respond to written requests for records at gwbush.library@nara.gov. Please check the Library and Museum's website for updates on our operating hours and status.

Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States. An estimated 1,833 people died in the hurricane and the flooding that followed. Millions of people were left homeless along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina caused approximately $161 billion in damage, and is the costliest hurricane on record.

On August 23, 2005, a tropical depression formed over the Bahamas, and became Tropical Storm Katrina on August 24, 2005. The storm made landfall in Florida on August 25 as a Category 1 hurricane, then moved into the Gulf of Mexico where it intensified into a Category 5. When it made landfall in southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina was classified as a Category 3, with recorded wind speeds of 140 miles per hour. The hurricane then tracked east and devastated communities in Alabama and Mississippi.

New Orleans experienced wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour and extensive flooding after levees in the city were breached by flood waters. By August 31, 2005, 80% of the city of New Orleans was underwater.

President George W. Bush gave a speech from the White House on August 31, 2005, in which he described relief efforts. On September 2, 2005, the President visited affected areas in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The recovery would take years, President George W. Bush noted in his August 31 speech. However, he also emphasized that he believed recovery was possible:

The folks on the Gulf Coast are going to need the help of this country for a long time. This is going to be a difficult road. The challenges that we face on the ground are unprecedented. But there's no doubt in my mind we're going to succeed. Right now the days seem awfully dark for those affected -- I understand that. But I'm confident that, with time, you can get your life back in order, new communities will flourish, the great city of New Orleans will be back on its feet, and America will be a stronger place for it.

At the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August 2008, near the end of President George W. Bush’s second term, relief efforts were ongoing. At that time, the federal government had committed more than $126 billion to Gulf Coast rebuilding, and had appropriated $12.85 billion to repair and rebuild the New Orleans levees. The Department of Education provided $2 billion in grants to schools.

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American flag damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
A United States flag that was damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September 2005 and retired from Henry Oil Refinery in Erath, Louisiana. A member of the Utah National Guard who assisted with the recovery donated the flag. The donor stated, "a few of us military personnel, with the assistance of a few great refinery employees, performed a retirement ceremony of the flag while playing taps on our phone and hoisting a new flag we had purchased at one of the open stores nearby. It was a moving ceremony and one I still remember over a decade later. Natural disaster can befall anyone, but our American spirit rebuilds immediately after." (2018.30.2)

 

Resources

The following resources, some of which are from the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, provide further information about Hurricane Katrina. 

Archival Research Guide

For a more complete guide of the archival records that are open for research, please download the Archival Research Guide:

Material at the George W. Bush Presidential Library Pertaining to Hurricane Katrina

Additional Resources