Environmental Effects of Hurricane Katrina

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Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast on August 29, but first touched down in Florida a few days earlier. In Florida the storm was only a Category 1 and caused minimal damage to people and the environment. However, the well documented damage caused in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana was one of the greatest natural disasters to ever strike the United States. While much of the Gulf Coast was adversely affected by the hurricane, the majority of damage to human life and the environment was in and around New Orleans. While the hurricane was only a Category 3 when it touched down it caused the destruction of levees in New Orleans. When the levees broke water rushed into the city causing unprecedented amounts of damage. The initial flooding destroyed residential neighborhoods as well as businesses. The debris caused from this destruction, as well as the stagnant water in the city, would pose tremendous health risks in the coming days and weeks.

Initially there were numerous reports of people getting strange rashes on the parts of their skin that came into contact with toxic water. The toxins in the water are suspected to have come from the wide spread debris. It is well known that there were many oil refineries in the Gulf Coast, and when they were destroyed they leaked oil and other harmful chemicals into the water. In addition, plants in the area that refined chemicals and produced other materials hazardous to the environment were destroyed and their contents were released into the water. One nurse working for the Red Cross was quoted as saying, "We observed in our tour of hard-hit areas that as the floodwater has receded, and the toxin-laced sediment and residue has dried, dust begins to swirl with wind or disturbance. This fine, toxic dust presents a serious risk to citizens if inhaled." This toxic dust which is now covering the city and surrounding areas can potentially pose severe risks to human and animal health, as well as damage...
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