NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page

NOAA ISSUES SERVICE ASSESSMENT REPORT ON HURRICANE KATRINA
Evaluation Highlights Agency Successes & Recommends Improvements

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina taken at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Aug. 29, 2006, after making landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast.July 3, 2006 The NOAA National Weather Service released an internal evaluation of its operations during Hurricane Katrina. Service assessments are done routinely following major weather events and include input from government agencies, emergency managers, media and the public. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Katrina taken at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Aug. 29, 2006, after making landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.)

The NOAA National Hurricane Center consistently projected for more than two days in advance that Katrina would strike southeast Louisiana as a "major" hurricane and later issued hurricane watches and warnings with lead times of 44 and 32 hours, respectively—an extra eight hours beyond when such alerts are typically issued.

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina showing the NOAA National Weather Service five-day forecast (dark blue) issued Friday, August 26, 2005, and the storm’s actual track (light blue)."The accurate forecasts provided for extended warning times," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service. "Our ability to identify where a major hurricane would hit the Gulf Coast was among the actions that saved countless lives." (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Katrina showing the NOAA National Weather Service five-day forecast (dark blue) issued Friday, August 26, 2005, and the storm’s actual track (light blue). The satellite image was taken at 11:45 a.m. EDT on Aug. 28, 2005. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.)

Katrina first crossed the U.S. coast as a Category 1 hurricane near the border of Broward and Miami-Dade counties in Florida on August 25. Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 125 mph during its second landfall in Buras, La., on August 29, and soon thereafter made its final landfall near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Service assessments are a valuable contribution to the ongoing efforts to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of NOAA National Weather Service products and services. "The Hurricane Katrina assessment highlights the best practices while recommending improvements that will allow the National Weather Service to better serve the American public in effort to protect life and property," added Johnson.

Thirteen "best practices" were identified in the Katrina assessment, among them:

  • Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center, contacting the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, the mayor of New Orleans and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to emphasize the severity of Katrina.
  • The NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Slidell, La., which serves New Orleans, issuing vividly worded statements that explicitly described the impending catastrophic damage expected from Katrina.
  • Deploying incident meteorologists to Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina to fill gaps in the weather observation network created by the hurricane.

Recommendations also were cited in the assessment and are currently being addressed by the NOAA National Weather Service. They include:

  • Provide all appropriate weather forecast offices with standard hurricane impact statement templates, similar to those issued by the forecast office in Slidell, La.
  • Evaluate current telecommunications networks for potential single points of failure and developing alternate networks to better support field office backup operations.
  • Establish alternative communications systems for field offices to communicate with other NOAA National Weather Service offices and emergency officials.

The full NOAA Hurricane Katrina Assessment may be found online.

NOAA National Weather Service office in Slidell, La., which serves New Orleans, issued a statement that explicitly described the impending catastrophic damage expected from Katrina. Here is the original statement issued the day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. This is known as an “inland hurricane warning.”
WWUS74 KLIX 281550
NPWLIX

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...

.HURRICANE KATRINA...A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING...BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR HURRICANE FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE...ARE CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.

ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTURE OUTSIDE!

In 2007, NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Hurricane Katrina Assessment

NOAA Hurricane Katrina Satellite Images

NOAA Hurricanes Portal

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext 142