On the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast of the United States, from Texas to Alabama, in what would become the worst natural disaster in American history. The hurricane’s unprecedented and catastrophic path of destruction would ultimately kill over 1,800 people, cause more than $81 billion in property damages, and leave 80% of New Orleans under water.
In advance of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency forwarded 100 graphics depicting the locations of key infrastructures – hospitals, police stations, highways, schools, etc. – for the counties in the path of Hurricane Katrina. The graphics provided first reponders with a common operational picture of key facilities.
After the hurricane struck, NGA developed the first comprehensive overview of the damage, including providing the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the first clear satellite image of downtown New Orleans from a U.S. commercial satellite. In addition, working closely with commercial vendors, NGA provided all its unclassified imagery holdings to the general public online. Throughout the recovery and relief efforts, NGA created hundreds of intelligence products per day.
According to the U.S. Government report, “The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned,” that was delivered to President George W. Bush, “NGA assessments were multi-dimensional, timely, relevant, and continuous… The imagery activities of NGA were essential to the restoration of critical infrastructure.”