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Water Supply when Disaster Strikes: A Look Back at Hurricane Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina first struck the United States’ eastern seaboard in 2005, nobody had any idea the complete devastation she would leave in her wake as the greatest natural disaster in this nation’s history. First categorized as a tropical storm, Katrina hit New Orleans, flattening buildings, breaking levees, and flooding the city with terrifying 125 mph winds. Over 1,800 people lost their lives in the hurricane and an estimated 1 million people were displaced from their homes. But for five days in the midst of the storm, about 20,000 of these people were both sheltered and trapped inside the Louisiana Superdome, and felt the full effects of what is like to be unprepared when disaster strikes.

The Superdome was originally intended to be a backup evacuation center, and only had enough food and water storage to provide for 15,000 people for three days—a supply that had to support 20,000 people for five days. Without proper medical supplies or personnel, the city warned Superdome refugees to bring their own supplies, but what happened next was near chaos. In an effort to conserve, and with an insufficient water supply, toilets were shut off, and families often had to fight to get enough rations. John, a 44 year old New Orleans resident was in the Superdome for 5 days and said of the experience, “It was a nightmare… They weren’t giving us a lot of water. Once in a blue moon they’d bring a little shipment of water, and the water shipment would get attacked by the people. They were desperate for water. Everyone was dehydrated, and they were afraid if they didn’t get it, they’d miss out on it because there were so many people there.” (http://www.dkosopedia.com/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina_survivor_stories)

By the second day the Superdome had started to fill with floodwater, but it took four more days to completely evacuate, and with no power, and no water, sanitation was at a critical level.

Although in theory people know that water is vital for survival, it is not until we feel the effects of water deprivation that we realize how completely dependent we are on this basic resource. Both www.ready.gov, and www.cdc.gov both list water as the first essential item to have in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. Experts and government agencies all recommend that families store a minimum of one gallon per person per day for drinking, cooking, washing, and medical needs.

Nor is the need for such water storage a rare event. Every year (according to their website) the American Red Cross “responds to about 70,000 natural and man-made disasters in the U.S., ranging from fires to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents and explosions.” All this is in addition to the more commonly seen water usage restrictions, power and water outages, or even financial downturns in which food and water storage can make all the difference.

Let us never forget how lucky we are to have ready access to clean drinking water, and to prepare in case there is ever a time that we do not.

By Zane Cope

Zane Cope has real passion for problem solving, even problems as large helping each and every household prepared for disasters. Currently, Zane is the owner and President of WaterPrepared, LLC, the number one residential large-capacity water storage tank. He highly values emergency preparedness and self-reliance and has a mission to help families and individuals become water prepared. Zane resides in Utah with his wife and son.

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