Photographer Kathy Anderson was working in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. After following the mayor's evacuation order, she turned around and headed back in to photograph for the The Times-Picayune, where she worked. “It was not until I flew over the city in a Blackhawk helicopter that I realized the magnitude of the situation. It was not a contained area — it was miles and miles of water and sheer devastation,” she told us last week. “While looking through the lens, I was watching an entire city drown.”
On Tuesday, August 23, 2005, a tropical storm formed over the Bahamas. Two days later, it made landfall in Florida. By Sunday Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi declared states of emergency. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin signed a mandatory evacuation order for all 480,000 residents — the first in the city’s history. Then, the levees broke. On Monday, 80% of the city was flooded, with some areas covered by as much as 20 feet of water.
"Katrina was the eighth hurricane I had covered for the Tampa Bay Times,” says photographer Willie J. Allen Jr., who drove out to cover the storm. “It stands out because of the extent of the devastation to people in the region. None of the other storms was like Katrina.”
Despite the evacuation order, as many as 100,000 people remained in the city. Some had fled to the Superdome or other shelters, while others remained trapped on the roofs of their houses, awaiting rescue. Reports of violence and looting begin to emerge — along with criticism about the adequacy and speed of the response. 1,833 people would die in the hurricane's wake.
Now, a decade has passed, but Katrina remains one of the deadliest and costliest natural disasters in our history. We asked four photographers who shot the aftermath of the devastation to look back on the end of the summer 2005 and share some of their most affecting images from the disaster.