“New Orleans escapes worst”
In hindsight, those words extending across the top of the Aug. 30, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette seem bizarre.
Archival front pages the day of and days after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall nearly 10 years ago highlight not only the breadth of impact a Gulf Coast storm can have — a sharp rise in U.S. gas prices was feared, as one story said, because about 30 percent of oil and gas consumed in the U.S. passes through the region — but how quickly that coverage can change.
Debates have raged over whether the destruction of New Orleans was a man-made or natural disaster. The first stories from national news agencies, some of which were printed in our pages, focused on the devastation not of New Orleans, but neighboring Mississippi. On Aug. 30, The New York Times reported on dozens of deaths in Harrison County.
Only a handful in Louisiana.
That changed after the dozens of levees intended to protect below-sea-level New Orleans broke — after the storm passed.
“Failing levees and pumps allowed surging waters to flood more than 80 percent of [New Orleans],” a Los Angeles Times story said. And the “scope of the catastrophe caught the city by surprise,” the New York Times reported.
Thousands were stranded in the Superdome, the nearly 80,000-seat stadium that was left without power and surrounded by feet of water in the days after the storm.
At the time, 2004’s Hurricane Ivan was still fresh in the minds of Western Pennsylvanians, though forecasters predicted only remnants of heavy rain and winds from Katrina. That didn’t stop communities from taking precautionary steps. Sand bags were made available in Carnegie, and equipment was dispersed “throughout Shaler for a quicker response, if necessary.”
A Post-Gazette story (left) detailed Gov. Ed Rendell’s plan for the state to send hundreds of National Guard personnel to the Gulf Coast in the storm’s aftermath. Members of the Pittsburgh-based Pennsylvania Region 13 Disaster Medical Assistance Team went to Biloxi, while a team from Erie was shipped to New Orleans. Another reporter chronicled how area charities, businesses and residents dispatched help (below).
Another change on the fly: Our “Great Beginnings” back-to-school series, which was usually reserved for a prominent position atop the front page, was relegated 10 years ago to the bottom — or on some days, off the front page completely.