National Weather Service, Mobile-Pensacola

Extremely Powerful Hurricane Katrina leaves a Historic Mark on the Northern Gulf Coast

A Killer Hurricane Our Country Will Never Forget –

 

As Katrina set new minimum central pressure records while approaching the north central Gulf Coast on Sunday,
Link to Coastal Aerial Photos 28 August 2005, the storm finally made the dreaded and final northward turn as it moved toward southeastern Louisiana. Katrina was a large storm with a distinct eye. Earlier that day, Katrina reached a minimum central pressure of 902mb (at the peak), ranking 4th lowest on record for all Atlantic Basin hurricanes. Hurricanes Rita and Wilma (2005) later fell to lower minimum central pressures that year.

The storm had clearly become a killer having intensified to a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The central pressure at landfall was 920mb, which ranked 3rd lowest on record for US-landfalling storms behind Camille (909mb) and the Labor Day Hurricane that struck the Florida Keys in 1935 (892mb).

The storm continued moving north-northeast and made a second landfall over Hancock County, Mississippi (near the mouth of the Pearl River). Katrina was one of the strongest storms to impact the US Coast during the last 100 years and will likely stand as our nation’s costliest natural disaster to date. With sustained winds of 140mph (strong Category 4) during landfall and possessing a minimum central pressure of 920mb at landfall, Katrina caused hundreds of deaths, prolonged human suffering, and widespread devastation along portions of the US Gulf Coast.

 

There have been only 3 storms with stronger sustained winds when they made landfall in the US:

- Labor Day Hurricane (Florida Keys): September 2, 1935, Category 5, 892mb
- Hurricane Camille (Mississippi): August 17, 1969, Category 5, 909mb
- Hurricane Andrew (Southeast Florida): August 24, 1992, Category 5, 922mb

The record for the highest wind speed at landfall belongs to Hurricane Camille (1969), which produced wind gusts of over 200mph and an estimated sustained wind speed of 190mph at landfall. In Katrina, landfall wind speeds at Grand Isle, Louisiana were approximately 140mph with a central pressure of 920mb - 3rd lowest on record for a landfalling Atlantic storm in the US. Information courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

 

After the storm continued plowing inland into Mississippi during the afternoon of August 29th, Katrina left a wake of devastation that will never be forgotten. The loss of life and property damage was heightened by breaks in the levees that separate New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain. At least 80% of New Orleans was under flood waters on August 31st. Americans watched in awe as thousands were stranded on roof tops and US Coast Guard helicopter rescues were performed.

 

 Photo courtesy of NCDC


 Although much will be written on the effects associated with this storm, this document will remain focused on Hurricane Katrina's impacts over inland southeastern Mississippi, southwestern Alabama and the extreme northwestern Florida Panhandle. Below are some of the regional impacts...
Jump to - Storm Surge, Wind, Rainfall, Animations, Imagery, or Additional Information sections.

 

STORM SURGE

Known for its killer storm surge, Katrina’s highest surge values were found in a zone from just east of the eye near Bay St. Louis, MS east to the northern reaches of Mobile Bay. The Mobile State Docks measured the highest storm surge value of 11.45 feet, while the lowest was 4.1 feet in Santa Rosa Sound, FL. It is known that the storm surge was as high as 12-14 feet range in Bayou La Batre, AL and likely closer to 20 feet immediately along the Mississippi-Alabama border.

Many homes were completely engulfed by Katrina’s surge in Bayou La Batre. The surge in Mobile Bay led to inundation of downtown Mobile causing the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The Mobile State Docks surge value of 11.45 feet was extremely close to being the highest value ever recorded (previous record of 11.60 feet on July 5, 1916). The exact location and degree of accuracy of the 1916 record surge value is unknown.

No lives were lost due to storm surge in Mobile and Baldwin Counties (AL). Long lead warning times were given by the NWS Offices in Mobile, AL and New Orleans, LA as to how high the surge would be. As early as two days before landfall, the NWS Office in Mobile issued a Hurricane Local Statement (at 725pm) that foretold of the historic storm surge values that would be associated with Hurricane Katrina. Of specific mention was storm surge values of 8-12 feet well east of Katrina's center. Subsequent Hurricane Local Statements continued to provide updated and detailed information regarding the storm surge.

Storm Surge Map depicting a portion of storm surge data.

 

Table 1 - Observed storm surge data
Note: Highest tides occurred August 29, 2005

Tide Gage
Time (UTC)
Highest Tide (MSL)
Mobile State Docks (MBRA1)
1848
11.45
USS Alabama (estimated)
 
12.00
Dauphin Island (DAUA1)
1645
6.63
Dauphin Island (DPIA1)
1542
6.23
Perdido Pass (PPSA1)
1336
5.81
Pensacola (PENF1)
 
5.37
Destin (EPSF1)
1336
4.52
Santa Rosa Sound (FWLF1)
1654
4.10


WIND

Katrina’s maximum landfalling windspeeds near Grand Isle, LA were approximately 140mph. As Katrina moved further north and made its second landfall along the Mississippi-Louisiana border, the NWS WSR-88D Doppler Radar in Mobile (KMOB) measured winds as high as 132mph between 3,000 and 4,000 feet above ground level in the morning. It is estimated that 80-90% (approximately 104-119mph) of the latter maximum wind speed value reached the ground.

Tree damage in Stone County, MS was very similar to what Hurricane Ivan produced in Atmore and Brewton, AL.

In this velocity loop (759am - 859am CDT) you can see the eye of the storm (large white circle) is southwest of the region of maximum surface wind speeds. These measurements are for the winds flowing toward the KMOB WSR-88D Doppler Radar.
(Color scale where the next highest velocity values begin: gray = 104mph; brown = 109mph; dark blue = 114mph; cyan = 117mph; green >127 mph)

 

Table 2 - Sustained Winds and Maximum Wind Gusts
Note: Wind data occurred August 29, 2005

Location
Sustained Wind (knots)
Peak Wind Gust (knots)
Time of Gust (UTC)
Mobile Regional Airport (KMOB)
57
72
1608
Brookley Field (KBFM)
58
73
1501
Destin (KDTS)
30
44
1727
Pensacola Airport (KPNS)
49
60
1451
Crestview (KCEW)
30
38
1842
Evergreen (KGZH)
32
42
2118
Eglin AFB (KVPS)
33
46
1709
Mary Esther (KHRT)
38
52
1521
Pensacola Naval Air Station (KNPA)
49
62
1812
Eglin AFB (6 miles west of Mary Esther)
51
60
1452
Dauphin Island (DPIA1)
64
89
1542
Pensacola (WEAR-TV)
 
50
 
Mobile Bay (USS Alabama)
 
90
 
Holley Middle School, FL
 
40
 
Destin Middle School, FL
 
37
 
Wright Elementary School, FL
 
39
 
Semmes
 
57
 


RAINFALL

KMOB WSR-88D Radar shows the greatest rainfall amounts occurred east of Katrina’s eye and very close to the coast. A general 5-10 inches of rain fell with isolated amounts exceeding 12 inches. Rainbands extending well east of Katrina’s eye brought isolated rainfall totals of between 3-5 inches over portions of extreme northwest Florida. In general, significantly lighter rainfall amounts (< 2 inches) fell east of a Camden, AL to Evergreen, AL to Navarre, FL line.

August 24-30 Rainfall Map for the Southeast during Katrina.

 

Table 3 - 48 hour total rainfall (inches) ending at 1159pm on August 29, 2005

Location
48 hour rainfall (inch) totals
Mobile Regional Airport (KMOB)
3.80
Thomasville
3.17
Semmes
5.70
Pensacola (WEAR-TV)
3.06
Daphne
4.97
Philpot, FL
7.80
Milton
4.50
Molino
5.00
Oak Grove
6.00
6 hour total for Mobile Regional Airport (KMOB) - 1.43 inches ending at 1359 UTC on August 29


Animations

Animated Radar Imagery
Animated Satellite Imagery
Colorized IR Satellite Loop
Regional Satellite Loop
HURSAT-AVHRR Satellite Imagery

 

Imagery

High Water Mark Collection for Alabama
NOAA Coastal Aerial Photos

Pre- and Post-Katrina 3D Topography: Dauphin Island, AL

Before and After Photos: Dauphin Island, AL
USGS Post-Storm Photos (zoom in for details)

NOAA Hurricane Hunter Imagery INSIDE Katrina
NOAA Photo Library of Katrina

LOCAL Damage Photos (Coming Soon!):

     Coden / Bayou La Batre

     Dauphin Island

     Dog River
     Stone County, MS

 

More Information (Technical Papers and Assessments)

NWS Service Assessment everything you want or need to know!
NCDC Technical Report

NHC Advisory Archive

NWS Post-Tropical Cyclone Reports - Katrina
     NWS Mobile, AL

     NWS New Orleans, LA


NCDC Special Report - Katrina

NHC Tropical Cyclone Report - Katrina

NWS Katrina Local Write-Ups and Webpages:
     NWS New Orleans
     NWS Jackson
     NWS Birmingham
     NWS Huntsville

    
NWS Memphis
     NWS Shreveport

     NWS Nashville

 


Acknowledgements: Page created by Jeffrey Medlin (former SOO, now MIC), Ray Ball (ITO) and Gary Beeler (former WCM) with contributions from members of the NWS Mobile staff.

LAST UPDATED: June 2015


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