August 29th, 2013 by
A Texas Army National Guard Blackhawk deposits a 6,000 pound-plus bag of sand and gravel on-target, Sunday, September 4, 2005, as work progressed to close the breach in the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans post-Katrina.

A Texas Army National Guard Blackhawk deposits a 6,000 pound-plus bag of sand and gravel on-target, Sunday, September 4, 2005, as work progressed to close the breach in the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans post-Katrina. Credit: Alan Dooley/U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

Eight years ago today, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. The level three category hurricane unleashed upward of 10 inches of rain on the Gulf Coast with winds at speeds greater than 140 mph.

By the time the storm dissipated a day later, more than 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded, while cities, communities and ecosystems across the Southeast began to deal with the fallout from the intense winds and massive storm surges. Katrina affected millions of acres of urban and rural forest and is the most costly storm in U.S. history, causing more than $100 billion worth in damages.

Compounding matters was the arrival of a second storm, Hurricane Rita, not even a month after Katrina battered the Gulf Coast. The Washington Post described the two as contributing to “the largest single forestry disaster on record in the nation.”

Less than a year after the terrible twosome, American Forests Global ReLeaf began to help rebuild both urban and rural Gulf Coast forests.

All told, we have planted more than 139,000 trees in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida to aid in hurricane recovery efforts since 2006. Of course, an ecosystem can often take decades — or even centuries — to return to its pre-natural disaster state. [Check out our American Forests magazine feature “Recovering From Disaster” for more on how ecosystems are affected by and regenerate after natural catastrophes.] Every year, though, we are committed to chipping away at the issue, helping diverse landscapes recover from a variety of ailments — natural disasters, invasive pests, disease, climate change — but we need your continued support and help. If you’re not already, please consider becoming an American Forests member today to help us continue our mission of protecting and restoring forests.