Remembering Katrina: The aftermath

This blog is part of a series that reflects upon the tracking, landfall, response and long-term recovery 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Throughout each stage, Coast Guard men and women played an integral part in the immediate rescue and recovery efforts. Follow along this weekend as Coast Guard Compass remembers Katrina.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Beaty, 29, of Long Island, N.Y., looks for survivors in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Beaty was a member of an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescue crew sent from Clearwater, Fla., to assist in search and rescue efforts.  U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Beaty of Long Island, N.Y., looks for survivors in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Beaty was a member of an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescue crew sent from Clearwater, Fla., to assist in search and rescue efforts. U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi.

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall just outside of New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, it marked the beginning of one of the largest search and rescue operations the Coast Guard had ever seen.

In 2005, the city of New Orleans, half of which sits at an average of six feet below sea level, was protected by a series of levees capable of withstanding up to a category three hurricane. However, when Katrina, a strong Category 3 storm, hit the region, landfall was only the beginning.

In the weeks and months the followed Katrina, the Coast Guard kept focus on two things: rescue and recovery.

A Coast Guard Guard member looks on as a tug and barge brings approximately one thousand New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina to a safe haven near the Algiers Point ferry terminal Sept. 1, 2005. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bobby Nash.

A Coast Guard Guard member looks on as a tug and barge brings approximately one thousand New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina to a safe haven near the Algiers Point ferry terminal Sept. 1, 2005. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bobby Nash.

Just three days after landfall, more than 30 Coast Guard aviation assets had joined forces to conduct nearly 3,000 rooftop rescues. The near 24-hour rescue operations went on for many more days, with aircrews working around the clock to ensure the safety of the citizens affected by the flooding. Of more than 60,000 people needing to be rescues from rooftops and flooded homes, the Coast Guard saved more than 33,000.

But search and rescue operations were only the beginning. A week after the storm, when rescue operations began to wane, the Coast Guard’s focus began to shift towards the myriad of problems posed by the destruction of the storm.

One of these problems was the restoration of thousands of aids to navigation that once safely marked the waterways throughout the region.

Coast Guard Cutters Pamlico, Clamp, Greenbrier and two 55-foot aids to navigation boats began this waterway recovery operation on Sept. 5, 2005, just one week after Katrina made landfall.

And recovery to this region was crucial. The region impacted by Katrina hosts four of the nation’s top 10 ports and serves as the maritime economic gateway to the mid-west.

With more than 1,900, or 80 percent, of the aids below New Orleans missing or destroyed and a multitude of other debris blocking the safe navigation of the river, the task at hand seemed daunting at best.

Pictured is a salvaged vessel from a Louisiana waterway. The Katrina incident command post oversaw the removal of 1,426 vessels and 568,881 cubic yards of debris caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Pictured is a salvaged vessel from a Louisiana waterway. The Katrina incident command post oversaw the removal of 1,426 vessels and 568,881 cubic yards of debris caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

But around-the-clock hard work from these cutters and crews proved a success. They were able to reopen the river to 24-hour traffic with no restrictions in just two weeks – much faster than originally anticipated.

In the weeks that followed Katrina, the Coast Guard played an integral role in preparing the city for the road ahead. From rooftop rescues to aids to navigation recovery to pollution response, the Coast Guard remained Semper Paratus to handle anything that came their way.

It is no doubt that Katrina left the region with a long road to full recovery, but one thing is certain – the Coast Guard’s initial rescue and recovery operations helped to decrease the long-term work from other agencies and paved the way for long-term efforts.

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