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Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina pushed ashore in Louisiana, devastating the city of New Orleans and crippling an entire region. Massive storm surges overtook the city’s levees and washed away entire neighborhoods, leaving more than 1,800 dead and displacing more than 1 million more. The sum of property damages alone was more than $200 billion, with the overall damage to the regional economy totaling billions more. Making Katrina all the more tragic was the disaster’s preventability—if only those responsible for the region’s storm defenses and levees had taken action in the decades leading up to August 29, 2005.
The costs of this failure to act continue to mount. Since Katrina, repairing and upgrading the levee and flood-protection systems around New Orleans has cost the federal government $14 billion, and expenditures by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for displaced residents have run upwards of $30 billion.This article was originally published in .