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Hurricane Katrina Photographs August 30, 2005

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center have surveyed the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the barrier islands, barrier shoreline, and the Mississippi River Delta along the Louisiana coastline.

Louisiana Louisiana Barrier IslandsOn August 30, the day after Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast, USGS research wildlife biologist Tommy Michot and USGS geographer Chris Wells conducted a post-hurricane flight to photograph and assess damage from Raccoon Island to the Isles Dernieres, just east of the important oil port, Port Fourchon. They continued to the mouth of the Mississippi River Delta by Grand Isle, then Venice, up along the Chandeleur Islands, and finally back west over the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain to natural and wildlife areas around Fort Pike, Slidell, and then Mandeville.

Their primary focus was the impacts on the ecosystems, such as fish kills, the destruction of rookeries, and the endangerment of seagrass beds that provide habitats for fish, birds, and shellfish.

In addition to addressing these biological concerns, Michot and Wells also witnessed the destruction of many human structures. For example, on Grand Isle, a recreational area for sport fisheries, almost everything was damaged: several homes and camps were completely obliterated, debris was scattered across the island, and several cars and boats were displaced. The town of Venice, just west of the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, was completely flooded and suffered similar damage, leaving boats, lumber and dead vegetation washed up against the levee.

Some of the most dramatic impacts of Hurricane Katrina were seen along the Chandeleur Islands, the first line of defense from tropical storm damage for the coast of Louisiana. The land mass has been reduced by approximately 50 percent. The Chandeleur lighthouse is no longer visible and has most likely toppled with its remains now submerged in the flooded water.

The Chandeleur Island chain has been hit by five storms in the past eight years. In 1998 it endured the effects of Hurricane Georges. In 2002 it suffered further damage from both Tropical Storm Isadore and Hurricane Lili. In 2004 it was battered by Hurricane Ivan, and it has been struck hard once again by Hurricane Katrina.

Michot and other scientists have collected images of the impact and recovery of the islands after each of these storms and found that after every major storm hit, the depth of erosion was greater and the land’s recovery time was longer. Before Hurricane Katrina there was some land recovery from the damage caused by last year’s Hurricane Ivan; that restored landmass has once again been destroyed.

The Chandeleur Islands not only protect important habitats for wildlife, but they also act as barriers which help dampen the impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms on Louisiana’s coast.

The National Park Service has requested images of Jean Lafitte Natural Historical Park and Preserve, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked for images from Pearl River. On September 1, 2005, Michot and Wells plan to fly again to provide additional photographs. Continue to check back at this site for updates and further information.

Chandeleur Islands, LA


Former Location of the Chandeleur Lighthouse
Chandeleur lighthouse
Current northern extent of Chandeleur Island chain, 3.25 NM south of the former location of the Chandeleur lighthouse.


Air Force Radio Tower
Air Force radio tower located near the former northern tip of the Chandeleur Island chain. The Chandeleur lighthouse formerly stood just to the left of this tower but is now gone.


Redfish Point
Redfish Point
Middle of Chandeleur Island main chain, looking from north to south. Redfish Point, on the longest peninsula, is visible in background, center of photo. New Harbor Island to the right.


Redfish Point
Redfish Point looking from west to east. Note seagrass beds in the foreground.


Redfish Point
Southern part of Chandeleur Island main chain from Redfish Point looking south.


Monkey Bayou
Chandeleur Island Monkey Bayou
Current southern tip of Chandeleur Island main chain, looking northward from Monkey Bayou in the foreground. Note the dark brown wrack, wave deposited dead vegetation and debris, on right.

Breton Island
Breton Island

Curlew Island
Curlew Island

Gosier Island

New Harbor
New Harbor

North Island
North IslandNorth Island

Venice, LA
Venice VeniceVeniceVenice
Venice is the southernmost permanently inhabited area on the Louisiana coast and is situated within a ring levee on the Mississippi. The levee was ineffective during Hurricane Katrina. The entire town was flooded, oil field vessels and barges were strewn haphazardly, and huge deposits of wrack were left on both sides of the ring levee on the west side of town. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services headquarters for Delta National Wildlife Refuge appeared to be structurally sound, although the first floor was damaged. A newly constructed tool shed was crushed by a massive barge-crane, which apparently floated on top of the building.

Grand Isle, LA
Grand IsleGrand IsleGrand IsleGrand Isle

Grand Terre
Grand TerreGrand Terre

Isles Dernieres
Isles DernieresIsles Dernieres
The central Isles Dernieres were minimally impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Old Oyster Bay
Old Oyster BayOld Oyster Bay
Scientists from the USGS maintain permanent research sites in coastal Louisiana and elsewhere. Two important sites are at Old Oyster Bayou and at Bay Junop. Neither site appeared to have any impact from the storm.

Raccoon Island
Raccoon IslandRaccoon IslandRaccoon IslandRaccoon Island

Imagery from the 1950s to 2003 at Raccoon Island has been mapped by NWRC geographers. The mapping has been conducted to assess changes in habitat and island conformation. The post-Katrina photography here indicates minor changes due to the hurricane. Some sand behind the breakwaters was repositioned or eroded, and there was some minor overwash on the western end of the island. Nestling pelicans were still present on the nests, but we also a few bodies of birds beneath the mangroves.

Timbaliers Timbaliers
The Timbalier islands were increasingly affected from west to east. Overwash fans and erosion were very apparent on the eastern islands.

The Rigolets
Rigollettes Rigollettes

The area from east of the Rigoletes to Mandeville-Covington was in the direct path of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina. Many islands and islets were partially or completely scraped-clean of vegetation. The human impact is stark, compelling, and terrible. Many shoreline and near-shore homes were shattered leaving streaks of debris-- formerly homes and businesses-- spread into the marsh and forming vast wrack fields along the shoreline or drifting in Lake Pontchartrain.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Big Branch Headquarters looked nearly unaffected.



Return to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Special Feature
Photographs from the NWRC Rescue Effort
Before and After Photographs

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