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Hurricane Katrina Led to Largest Ever Red Cross Relief Response

A large crowd of people quickly filled the Astrodome

A large crowd of people quickly filled the Astrodome when the Katrina evacuees arrived. Red Cross photo by Daniel Cima.

Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that the unthinkable can happen at any time – be prepared.

Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and the American Red Cross launched a disaster response larger than ever seen before. To this day nothing has reached the magnitude of the Red Cross Hurricane Katrina relief operation.

Katrina’s fury caused the loss of more than 1,800 lives. The storm left behind more than $81 billion in destruction and damaged or destroyed as many as 350,000 residences from Texas to Florida.

The Katrina relief effort was the first time a disaster forced the evacuation of an entire metropolitan area and saw survivors dispersed to every state. More than 245,000 Red Cross disaster workers assisted millions of people with shelter, food, money to get back on their feet, emotional support and other basic needs. The Red Cross:

  • Provided more than 3.8 million overnight stays in shelters in 31 states – seven times higher than any other disaster up to that time.
  • Served almost 68 million meals and snacks – four times more than what the Red Cross had ever provided during past relief efforts.
  • For the first time, served a million meals in a single day.
  • Provided emergency financial assistance to 1.4 million families – nearly 20 times more than any record prior to Katrina.
  • You can see some of the faces and stories of the Red Cross Katrina relief response here.

    HELP CONTINUED AFTER THE STORM Katrina left behind such devastation, survivors needed help and support for years to come. The Red Cross set up the Hurricane Recovery Program to restore and improve the lives of the people who had suffered unimaginable losses during the hurricanes of 2005. This help was available not only in the immediate vicinity of the storms, but also to evacuees still living in distant cities.

    Working with everyone from individuals and groups to faith-based and civic organizations and many others, the program focused on several areas: assisting survivors to make good recovery plans and keeping them informed about all the resources available to them; health and mental health services to help people recover and cope with their loss; behavioral health programs to help vulnerable individuals and communities and making sure survivors, case managers and partners had effective and timely information to help in the recovery.

    IMPORTANT TO BE PREPARED Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that the unthinkable can happen at any time and it is important to know what to do when an emergency occurs. The Red Cross teaches people across the country how to be prepared, along with lifesaving skills such as first aid and CPR.

    Each person needs to be ready when disaster strikes. Households need to plan how they will deal with disasters that occur in their neighborhood, how they will stay informed and what they will do if they are separated during the emergency.

    The Red Cross asks everyone to make their disaster plans now to ensure their household is ready should an emergency happen. Information about what individuals, schools and businesses can do to be prepared is available on this web site. There is even a special program - The Pillowcase Project - to teach children about personal and family preparedness.

    The Red Cross has people, systems and plans in place to respond to disasters. But the government and organizations like the Red Cross can’t do it all. On this tenth anniversary of Katrina, visit the preparedness information available here and make sure you and your loved ones are ready should disaster affect your community.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.