Hurricane Katrina Timeline

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Among the worst natural disasters in U.S. history

by Shmuel Ross
Aug. 25–28 Aug. 29–30 Aug. 31–Sept. 1 Sept. 2–6 Sept. 8–13

Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005
  • Tropical Storm Katrina becomes a Category 1 hurricane and hits South Florida, killing about a dozen people and leaving 1.5 million homes without power.
Friday, Aug. 26
  • Katrina passes into the Gulf of Mexico and aims at Louisiana and Mississippi, becoming a Category 2 hurricane.
  • Louisiana governor Katherine Blanco declares a state of emergency.
Saturday, Aug. 27
  • Katrina is upgraded to Category 3.
  • At Blanco's request, President Bush declares a federal state of emergency for Louisiana, and gives FEMA authority to provide aid.
  • Mayor Ray Nagin calls for a voluntary evacuation of New Orleans. The head of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield, urges him to make the evacuation mandatory.
Sunday, Aug. 28
  • Katrina is declared a Category 5 storm, the highest rating. The National Weather Service issues a warning for New Orleans, warning that once the storm hits, "most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks... perhaps longer."
  • Nagin orders a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.
  • Traffic out of New Orleans slows drastically, due to increased volume.
  • Buses, trains, and most airlines have stopped service to and from the area.
  • 10,000 residents take refuge in the Superdome, the largest of ten "shelters of last resort."
  • Bush declares a state of emergency for Mississippi and Alabama, and declares Florida a federal disaster area.
Monday, Aug. 29
  • 6 a.m.: Katrina, now a Category 4 hurricane, makes landfall on the Louisiana coast.
  • 11 a.m.: Katrina makes a second landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border as a Category 3 storm.
  • Levees in New Orleans are breached, flooding parts of the city. Power is lost.
  • Holes are ripped in the roof of the Superdome.
  • Dozens are reported dead in Mississippi.
  • Bush declares a major disaster in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and declares that "I want the folks there on the Gulf Coast to know... When the storm passes, the federal government has got assets and resources that we'll be deploying to help you."
  • Blanco asks Bush for "everything you've got," without specifying what that means.
  • FEMA director Michael Brown asks Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff for 1,000 personnel, giving them two days to arrive, while urging out-of-town rescue departments to stay away unless asked to assist.
  • About 3,500 National Guard troops help New Orleans's 1,500 police officers with rescue operations.
  • Gulf Coast refineries shut down.
  • Terry Ebbert, New Orleans's director of homeland security, says that "Everybody who had a way or wanted to get out of the way of this storm was able to. For some that didn't, it was their last night on this earth."
Tuesday, Aug. 30
  • Attempts to plug a two-block-wide breach in a levee at the 17th Street Canal fail.
  • 80% of the city is flooded.
  • With a general lack of food and water, and with law enforcement occupied with rescue missions, looting becomes widespread.
  • Over 12,000 people are in the increasingly uninhabitable Superdome. "It’s imperative that we get them out," Blanco says. "The situation is degenerating rapidly."
  • There is no official death toll. Says Nagin, "Rescue workers are not even dealing with dead bodies. They're just pushing them to the side."
  • Chertoff designates Katrina an Incident of National Significance, and gives Brown authority to manage the crisis.
  • Bush ends his vacation early.
Wednesday, Aug. 31
  • Looting and violence in New Orleans intensifies.
  • In the Superdome, now holding over 20,000 with no working toilets, no air-conditioning, and insufficient food and water, there are reports of deaths and rapes.
  • Additional thousands are stranded in New Orleans, including 3,000 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center without any food or drink, as Blanco and Nagin order a total evacuation.
  • Blanco asks Bush for 40,000 federal troops; military assistance had not been specified in her previous requests for aid.
  • The first buses leave the Superdome, carrying passengers to the Astrodome in Houston.
  • New Orleans police abandon search efforts to attempt to control the violence.
  • Chertoff declares that the Department of Homeland Security is "extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy."
Thursday, Sept. 1
  • Bush says on Good Morning America that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
  • In a radio interview, Chertoff dismisses reports of the thousands at the convention center.
  • In a later interview on Nightline, Brown says the federal government learned about the center that day. Ted Koppel asks, "Don't you guys watch television?"
  • State officials prevent the Red Cross from entering New Orleans with food and water, so as not to get in the way of military operations.
  • Nagin lashes out at the federal government's response: "Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city.... Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here."
  • 7,400 National Guard troops help evacuate the Superdome.
  • FEMA has now rescued 350 people; the Coast Guard, 2,900.
  • The Department of Defense begins assembling active-duty troops.
  • Bush asks Congress for $10.5 billion in relief funds.
Friday, Sept. 2
  • The National Guard secures the Convention Center, and brings food and water.
  • Blanco issues an executive order, allowing out-of-state doctors not licensed in Louisiana to provide emergency treatment.
  • Bush flies to Alabama and praises Brown, saying "you're doing a heck of a job."
  • After walking through Biloxi, Miss., Bush calls the damage "worse than imaginable." He grants that "I am satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with all the results."
  • Bush flies to New Orleans, surveys the damage, and speaks to Blanco and Nagin.
  • Sen. Landrieu, Gov. Blanco, and Mayor Nagin meet with Pres. Bush on Air Force One.
  • In a memorandum to Blanco, Bush proposes that she request that the local police and National Guard be put under federal control, to streamline the chain of command and unify operations.
  • The Coast Guard has rescued 4,000 people in New Orleans.
  • On NBC's Concert for Hurricane Relief fundraiser, singer Kanye West alleges that the slow federal response is due to racism, saying "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
Saturday, Sept. 3
  • Blanco refuses to give up control of the state's National Guard troops; 12,000 are now on active duty.
  • According to the military, 42,000 people have been evacuated from New Orleans.
Sunday, Sept. 4
  • The Superdome has been fully evacuated.
Monday, Sept. 5
  • The Coast Guard claims to have rescued more than 18,000 people.
  • Former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton tour the Astrodome in Houston, as part of their fundraising efforts. Barbara Bush, the former president's wife and current president's mother, created a public relations furor when she commented that "so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this—this is working very well for them."
Tuesday, Sept. 6
  • Nagin orders a forced evacuation of New Orleans.
Thursday, Sept. 8
  • TIME Magazine reports that Brown's resume may have exaggerated his qualifications.
Friday, Sept. 9
  • Brown is removed from directing Katrina relief efforts, although he remains head of FEMA. He is replaced by Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, chief of staff of the Coast Guard.
Monday, Sept. 12
  • Brown resigns as director of FEMA. His temporary replacement is R. David Paulson, the head of FEMA's preparedness division.
  • Water levels in New Orleans drop considerably.
Tuesday, Sept. 13
  • "To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," says Bush.
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