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Side-By-Side: Hurricane Katrina v Hurricane Rita
2005 Hurricane Season
22 September 2005

This is an evolving timeline of events leading up to landfall for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Focus is on government actions and political decisions.
If you have additions or corrections to this Timeline, please send e-mail to uspolitics@aboutguide.com. Include the word 'timeline' in the subject and please provide substantiating links to news or government reports which confirm details.

Before Landfall

Date Hurricane Katrina Hurricane Rita
5 Days Before Landfall Wednesday 24 August 2005
    11.00 AM EDT: Katrina Named
    NOAA renames "tropical depression 12" to "tropical storm Katrina".
Monday 19 September 2005
    11.00 PM EDT: Rita Remains A Tropical Storm
    Rita remains just under hurricane strength. One forecast calls for Rita to peak in 24 hours and then weaken for the next five days.
4 Days Before Landfall Thursday 25 August 2005
    5.00 PM EDT : Katrina Upgraded to Hurricane
    NOAA issues a hurricane warning for southeast Florida coast; first instance of Katrina being referenced as a hurricane.

    6.30 PM EDT: Katrina Makes Landfall in Florida
    USA Today reports that Hurricane Katrina made landfall between Miami and Fort Lauderdale with sustained winds of 80 mph. Four people were reported killed by the storm. About 1 million Floridians without power; the major concern is flooding.

    11.00 PM EDT: Katrina Moves Across Florida; Projected to Hit Panhandle
    From NOAA ... the eye of the hurricane moves southwestward across Miami-Dade County; Katrina is a Category 1 Hurricane, the least intense. The projected path has the hurricane hitting the Florida panhandle. The government projection model breaks down regarding what might happen next; the "more reliable" model, in hindsight, falls apart. (Ellipses are quoted material):
      Beyond three days...when Katrina is forecast to be in the eastern Gulf of Mexico...the models diverge significantly...suggesting tracks which cover the coast from Mississippi eastward. The official forecast turns Katrina northward over the eastern Gulf of Mexico ahead of a strong approaching trough...on a track which is very close to the global model consensus. This forecast is rather difficult since one of the more reliable models...the GFS...shows that the cyclone barely touches the east coast of florida before moving northward....while the outstanding GFDL moves Katrina south of due west across extreme South Florida and the Keys as a very intense hurricane.
Tuesday 20 September 2005
    11.00 AM EDT: Rita Upgraded to Hurricane
    Rita becomes the ninth hurricane of the season. Pressure has dropped to 982 millibars ... winds at 85 mph ... moving at 15 mph. The projected path is south of the Florida Keys, through the strait between Florida and Cuba.

    5.00 PM EDT: Rita Upgraded to Catgory 2
    With winds at 100 mph, Rita has been upgraded to a Cat2 hurricane. Hurricane force winds extend 45 miles. Movement continues west at 15 mph.
3 Days Before Landfall Friday 26 August 2005
    11.00 AM EDT: Katrina Projected to Grow to Cat2
    NOAA reports that Hurricane Katrina is strengthening and projects that it will become a Category Two hurricane by Saturday. Hurricane force winds extend 25 miles from the eye of the storm, almost double the radius Wednesday. Projected landfall remains the Florida panhandle.

    5.00 PM EDT: Katrina Projected to Grow to Cat3
    NOAA revises its forecast, stating that Hurricane Katrina will be a major Category Three hurricane Friday or Saturday. Hurricane force winds now extend 25 miles from the center, twice the scope of the hurricane when it first made landfall. For the first time, the projected landfall is west of the Florida panhandle, just west of the Mississippi-Alabama state line.

    Government Actions:
  • Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi request "defense coordinating offices" from the Pentagon.
Wednesday 21 September 2005
    2.00 AM EDT: Rita Upgraded to Category 3
    Rita becomes the fifth "major" hurricane of the season. Warnings discontinued for the Florida Keys. Rita is moving west at 14 mph ... winds are 115 mph ... pressure at 960 millibars.

    8.00 AM EDT: Rita Upgraded to Category 4
    Rita continues to move westward at 14 mph. The 5.00 AM path predicted landfall south of Galveston, TX.

    4.00 PM CDT : Rita Upgraded to Category 5
    Over a period of 30 hours, Rita has grown from a Category 1 to a Category 5 Hurricane. With 898 millibars of pressure, Rita is the third most intense Atlantic Basin hurricane on record. This rapid growth in strength was predicted by one model on Monday. The predicted path edges closer to Galveston.

    Government Actions:
    • Evacuations ordered for Galveston and Corpus Christi, TX as well as New Orleans. US Politics Blog)
2 Days Before Landfall Saturday 27 August 2005
    4.00 AM CDT: Landfall Projection Changes to New Orleans
    NOAA declares that Hurricane Katrina is now a Category Three "major hurricane with 115 mph winds." Hurricane force winds now extend 40 miles from the center of the storm. The projected landfall is now New Orleans; yet residents went to bed thinking the hurricane would hit the Panhandle. Forecast: storm surge flooding 2-4 feet above normal tide levels.

    8.00 AM CDT: Hurricane Watch for Louisiana
    NOAA announces a hurricane watch for southeast Louisiana.

    4.00 PM CDT: Contraflow Plan
    Louisiana state police activate the state contraflow plan "allowing traffic to use both sides of Interstates 55, 59 and 10 to evacuate New Orleans to the north, east and west."

    10.00 PM CDT: Hurricane Warning for Gulf Coast
    NOAA declares a hurricane warning for the north central Gulf Coast; a hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours. Maximum sustained winds remain at 115 mph. Forecast: storm surge flooding 15-20 feet above normal tide levels and locally as high as 25 feet.

    News Reports
    • The Associated Press reports that New Orleans could become "a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins releasedŠfrom the city's legendary cemeteries."

      "The storm threatened an environmental disaster of biblical proportions , one that could leave more than 1 million people homeless," the AP says. (FactCheck.orgO

    Government Actions:
    • President Bush declares a state of emergency in Louisiana. "FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
    • Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi request additional assistance from the Pentagon. Pentagon moves headquarters of Joint Task Force Katrina to Mississippi.
    • FEMA Chief Brown tells New Orleans: "There's still time to take action now, but you must be prepared and take shelter and other emergency precautions immediately."
    • Local officials in Louisiana call for voluntary or mandatory evacuations, including New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, at 5 pm. (Times-Picayune)
    • Tulane University cancels student orientation and advises students to evacuate. (Times-Picayune)
    • National Hurricane Center head Max Mayfield calls state and local officials to impress upon them the severity of the storm. He advises New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to call a mandatory evacuation. (Seattle Times and Boston Globe)
Thursday 22 September 2005
    Hurricane Rita Downgraded to Cat 4

    Government Actions:
    • Traffic out of Houston was so bad that the Mayor urged those on high ground not to try to leave. (US Politics Blog)
1 Day Before Landfall Sunday 28 August 2005
    1.00 AM CDT: Katrina Upgraded to Cat4
    NOAA upgrades Hurricane Katrina to a Category Four hurricane, with sustained winds of 145 mph. Hurricane force winds now extend 70 miles from the eye. Forecast: storm surge flooding 15-20 feet above normal tide levels and locally as high as 25 feet.

    7.00 AM CDT: Katrina Upgraded to Cat5
    NOAA announces that Hurricane Katrina is now a "potentially catastrophic" Category Five hurricane. Southeast Louisiana remains the projected landfall, with a 29 percent probability of the eye passing within 65 nautical miles of New Orleans.

    8.00 AM CDT: Superdome Opens
    The Superdome opens as a special-needs shelter. The Regional Transit Authority deploys 10 buses equipped with a special lift to help handicapped residents get to the Superdome.

    10.00 AM CDT: NOLA: Mandatory Evacuation
    Mayor Nagin orders mandatory evacuation, the first in the history of the city. "We are facing a storm that most of us have feared. I don't want to create panic, but I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious, and it is of the highest nature." (CNN)

    10.11 AM CDT: "Devastating Damage" Projected
    NOAA's National Weather Service issues an urgent weather message enumerating the "devastating damage" expected from Hurricane Katrina. "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer... At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure... Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards."

    11.00 AM CDT: FEMA Chief Brown Arrives in Baton Rouge.

    11.31 AM CDT: President on Katrina, Iraqi Constitution
    Speaking from his ranch in Crawford, TX, President Bush speaks briefly about Katrina and mostly about the draft Iraqi Constitution:
      This morning I spoke with FEMA Undersecretary Mike Brown and emergency management teams not only at the federal level but at the state level about the -- Hurricane Katrina... We will do everything in our power to help the people in the communities affected by this storm... I urge all citizens to put their own safety and the safety of their families first by moving to safe ground.

    4.00 PM CDT: Katrina Projected to Hit As Cat5
    NOAA reports that Hurricane Katrina is now moving at 13 mph with sustained winds of 165 mph and projects landfall at Category Four or Five. Hurricane force winds now extend 105 miles from the eye of the storm, almost a factor of ten larger than when the hurricane made landfall in Florida. Forecast: storm surge flooding 18-20 feet above normal tide levels and locally as high as 28 feet.

    8.30 PM CDT - Amtrack spokesman says it offered the city room for several hundred evacuees. The mayor denies being contacted with the offer.

    Government Actions:
    • President Bush declares a state of emergency in Alabama and Mississippi and names Florida as a disaster area. He urges citizens to evacuate. The emergency declaration does not cover Jefferson Parish or New Orleans (Orleans Parish).
    • Mississippi Civil Defense Director Joe Spraggins orders a mandatory evacuation of Biloxi.
    • National Hurricane Center head Max Mayfield briefs Homeland Security and FEMA officials on the storm, including the possibility of having levees breached. (Editor & Publisher)
    • Louisiana National Guard asks FEMA for 400 buses for evacuation; they receive 100. (Boston Globe)
    • Various governors volunteer National Guard units to help Louisiana, which has 40 percent of its Guard deployed in Iraq. Blanco says "yes" to the requests. However, Washington must approve the deployment, which it could not do because Blanco had not asked Washington for the deployment. (Boston Globe)
    • Coast Guard Admiral Robert Duncan, head of the Eighth District in New Orleans, dispersed assets before the storm (not clear if it was Saturday or Sunday) and requested additional forces from the commander of the Coast Guard's Eastern Area. (Boston Globe)

    • Delta and United Airlines suspend flights. (Times-Picayune).
    • Regional Transit Authority buses ferry people to the Superdome from 12 locations around the city.
Friday 23 September 2005
    1.00 AM CDT: Rita Continues to Slow
    NOAA reports that Hurricane Rita has sustained winds of "near 140 mph" and hurricane force winds extend 80 miles from the center of the storm. Expect coastal storm surge flooding of 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels.

    Sometime Before Dawn: Evacuee Bus Explodes
    A bus carrying elderly evacuees exploded south of Dallas on Interstate 45 early Friday morning, closing the highway. News reports of deaths range from 20-25. (Reuters)

    1.00 PM CDT : Rita Downgraded to Category 3
    Hurricane Rita has been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane (CNN)

    News Reports
    • A bus full of elderly evacuees explodes south of Dallas, pre-dawn. (US Politics Blog)
    • The 9th ward of New Orleans is flooded after levee breach. (US Politics Blog)
 Related Resources
• Should We Rebuild New Orleans?
• Top Cities Hit by Hurricanes
• Katrina News Archive
 From Other Guides
• Hurricane Factoids (Miami)
• Stupid Quotes About Katrina (Political Humor)
• New Orleans Guide

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