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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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A young New Orleans boy and his dog wait to be evacuated by bus. © Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos 2005



Map of the Gulf Coast of the United States

Map of the Gulf Coast of the United States. [+] Click image to enlarge.


Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina, Category 5, August 2005. Photo courtesy of Rick Kohrs/UW-SSEC
[+] Click image to enlarge.

1,800 confirmed fatalities
700 people confirmed missing
1.5 million people displaced

For hundreds of years humans have re-engineered the Mississippi River to meet the demands of urban development, commercial shipping, and farming. This has prevented the natural build-up of sediment and wetlands, which protect against the impact of storms along the Gulf Coast. Louisiana's coastline loses an estimated 25 square miles per year. Rising sea levels due to climate change make this area even more vulnerable.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. While New Orleans and areas along the Gulf Coast have made progress towards rebuilding, many of the 1.5 million people displaced have still not returned.

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