August 3, 2010
Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.
Ted Jackson/The Times-Picayune.  

5 Years Ago in News History: Hurricane Katrina

Five years ago on Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast, setting off one of the worst disasters in U.S. history.

Katrina formed over the Bahamas and traveled north, striking the Gulf Coast with wind speeds of approximately 127 miles per hour.

Katrina toppled levees surrounding the New Orleans area, resulting in extensive flooding. When the storm finally ended, 80 percent of the city was submerged in water. In some places, the water was more than 20-feet deep.

The human toll of Katrina was devastating: More than 1,800 people died; more than 1 million were displaced.

Twenty four-hour news coverage allowed TV viewers across the United States and throughout the world to watch the continuing destruction and suffering. Media in the Gulf region worked around the clock to report breaking news of the disaster, despite personal losses suffered by journalists and flood damage to TV studios and newsrooms. The Sun Herald of Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans’s Times-Picayune never missed a single edition.

The loss of land-based and cellular communication prevented many people from receiving the help they needed. News agencies proved to be valuable intermediaries between the stranded and aid providers. Field reporters revealed the locations of hurricane victims by satellite. State agencies coordinated rescue plans based on news reports.

Viewers saw flood victims pleading for help from their rooftops. They saw evacuees packed into the New Orleans Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and heard accounts — some later found to be inaccurate — of the unbearable living conditions. The news also exposed persistent racial and economic inequalities that existed
in New Orleans.

To commemorate the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its place in news history, the Newseum will open “Covering Katrina,” an exhibit that highlights the extraordinary risks journalists took to cover one of the nation’s most destructive hurricanes.

Covering Katrina” opens Aug. 27, 2010, and will run through September 2011.

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