Hurricane Katrina leads to new levee safety standards nationwide

Hurricane Katrina over US Map

August 2005Hurricane Katrina leads to new levee safety standards nationwide

Hurricane Katrina pummels the Gulf Coast of the United States for nearly a week, causing catastrophic damage from Florida to East Texas. In New Orleans, levee failure and associated flooding kills over 1,000 people and causes catastrophic damage. The long and challenging recovery sparks national attention and response.

In the aftermath, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) undergo an intensive review and overhaul of their levee safety standards, including increasing the requirements for local levee operators.

One big change that’s made is that USACE will no longer certify urban levee systems as they have done for nearly a century. Now, a certified engineer must be hired to do the evaluation to prove to FEMA that that local levees meet standards for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes affordable flood insurance available to property owners, tenants, and renters in low-lying areas with moderate to high flood risk.