Why did we disregard Katrina over Sandy?

One Devastating Natural Disaster. Two Different Realities.

Indifference and Abandonment (image courtesy of Pixabay)

At first glance, Katrina looks a lot like Sandy. Both of them are Silent killers who approach their victims slowly and cruelly. Curiously, Katrina and all her lack of piety are almost ignored, her hazardous characteristics are disregarded and Katrina washes out each and every soul on its path without mercy. On the other hand, Sandy received proper attention, even though she was just as mean and powerful as Katrina, she was an expected guest who didn’t have the opportunity to apply all her venom to her victims. Katrina and Sandy are almost equal, but the consequences of these inhospitable guests were different in numerous ways.

The Facts Behind Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy

Hurricane Katrina (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On August 2005, a category 3 hurricane called Katrina made landfall at Bay St. Louis in Mississippi. It held sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour and stretched 400 miles along Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama causing a storm surge as high as 9 meters and destroying levees and drainage canals. Katrina killed almost 2000 people, hundreds of thousands had to leave their homes and more than $100 billion dollars in damage.


Hurricane Sandy (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On November 2012, a tropical storm in the Caribbean developed to a hurricane called Sandy. On October 29 it made landfall near New Jersey and stretched along the East Cost of the United States. Due to Sandy’s storm surge, streets were flooded, trees and power lines were knocked down. Around 4.7 million people were without electricity, the subway tunnels in Lower Manhattan were flooded, and billions of dollars in property damage.



The  two hurricanes  were very similar in strength and duration. However, these two natural disasters affected different areas of the United States and the difference in attention and effort that were given to each place was alarming.

How We Responded to Katrina & Sandy

Shelter in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Hurricane Katrina caused massive damages in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. The worst impacts were seen in the city of New Orleans as the levee system was breached at multiple locations. As a result, the storm surges caused massive destruction in the poorest neighborhoods, mostly composed of low-income black communities. When the evacuation order was issued, many residents of the city remained in their houses because they could not afford to escape or were not provided the necessary assistance to do so. The death toll of the hurricane Katrina was as high as 1836 people, and there were many families left with no support and irreparable damage on their properties.

“In mud my Mississippi meandering lays my delta sorrow out”- Douglas Gilbert

Shelter in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand, the way that Sandy impacted the community was very different if compared to Katrina’s. The storm surge after Sandy occurred from Upper New York Bay to Delaware Bay. Affecting a very rich part of the United States, where a good portion of the wealth is concentrated. The population in these areas is 14 times greater than the one severely affected by hurricane Katrina. In addition to that, the median income in New Jersey’s coastal cities is roughly double that of coastal Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

The recoveries after Sandy and Katrina were very different.  After hurricane Sandy, the presidential candidates of the 2012’s election stopped their rallies to support the population of the areas affected. while after the Hurricane Katrina, the president took 4 days to go to the areas affected and speak to the population.

In a national view, the people affected by hurricane Katrina are the “have nots”. They don’t have money and power. Many communities affected live in poverty and don’t have social influence because of the lack of education and the fact that they work in low-wage jobs and don’t have access to high branches of the society. On the other hand, the populations affected by Sandy are the “haves” because they possess money and power that arise from living in an influential city in the center of the international attention and having good education and high-paid jobs that put them in a special highlight on the eyes of the government and the public opinion.

The capacity of a community to deal with natural disasters is shaped through the lens of Marxism because unfortunately, the level of importance attributed to a population relies on social boundaries. We can also reflect on how astonishing it is to acknowledge that life is valued more or less according to your social status, power and money. The inequality that appears in the context of the hurricanes reflects a social vulnerability caused by money, race and historical development of the communities and it determines how much attention they get from the media, the public opinion, and the government.

The way that the two areas recovered represents a power struggle because those in poorer areas are disregarded and left vulnerable. While in richer parts, the government and the media had a big focus. The victims of the Katrina hurricane still have their voices heard way less than those affected by Sandy because people tend to listen and turn their attention to those who hold power as opposed to the ones that are marginalized, exploited and forgotten by society.

Apply Your Knowledge:

After reading the Blog Post, what can you conclude about the assistance and the media coverage after Hurricane Matthew’s passage in Haiti and in the Bahamas? Which of these places will receive more government help? which of them will take longer to recover? why? and what determines these differences?