A look back at Katrina: Could it happen here?

Posted July 30, 2015

— This year marks a decade since the busiest hurricane season ever recorded in the nation. In 2005, there were 28 named storms. Fifteen of those were hurricanes, but none was bigger or more memorable than Katrina.

The storm first formed Aug. 23 over the Bahamas. It reached Category 1 hurricane status by the time it hit southern Florida two days later. There was some flooding before Katrina weakened and moved out into the Gulf of Mexico, where the storm regained strength.

By Aug. 28, it was a Category 5 hurricane with winds at 175 mph. On Aug. 29, the storm made landfall at the border between Louisiana and Mississippi as a Category 3 hurricane with 130 mph winds. Katrina also brought a record storm surge of 27.8 feet, which was recorded in Pass Christian, Miss. With an elevation of 13 feet, most of the town was underwater.

The Mississippi towns of Gulfport and Biloxi were hit hard by Katrina, and the storm was too much for the levees of New Orleans, which collapsed and caused flooding across the city.

People lost their homes and belongings, and many were forced to leave the area. Katrina eventually moved farther inland, but not before impacting five states and tens of thousands of lives.

More than 1,800 people died and damage estimates topped $100 billion, making it the costliest hurricane ever. According to the National Weather Service, Katrina produced 62 tornados in eight states. Perrine, Fla., received the highest rainfall total at 16 inches.

Many wonder what a storm like Katrina would do if it hit the North Carolina coast. WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner says it could look very similar to the 2005 storm or worse.

In 2011, Category 1 hurricane Irene affected Hatteras Island, taking out N.C. Highway 12 in five places with a storm surge of only 8 to 9 feet.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s SLOSH model, which was developed to show how much land would be covered by water during a hurricane, shows that a storm similar to Katrina would have a greater impact.

According to the models, a Katrina-sized storm would leave most of Hatteras Island, including the towns of Hatteras, Buxton and Frisco, under water. Farther south, a storm surge greater than 27 feet would cover Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle as well as Morehead City on the mainland. A storm of that proportion would also cover Wrightsville and Carolina beaches but would leave most of Wilmington above water since it is further inland.

“There’s no question that a storm like Katrina would change the landscape of our coast. Hopefully we’ll never have to find out what it would really look like,” said Gardner.

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  • Vera McGraw Aug 2, 2015
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    did you forget to mention AT ALL Fran - a Cat2 that did major damage thru out Central NC....many areas had no power for at least a week...THAT story would awaken all the new to NC....and I prepared....non-perishable food, pet food and needs, did laundry, dishes, cash, gas for the car. And I did work, at Duke Hosp.