Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This dissertation presents a comprehensive analysis of the loss of life in Louisiana associated with Hurricane Katrina and the catastrophic failure of the federal hurricane protection system. While Louisiana officials attribute 1,464 deaths to this disaster, a Louisiana Katrina Victim Database compiled for this dissertation lists 1,575 victims whose death can be linked to circumstances related to the disaster. First, this dissertation presents a comprehensive assessment of the multiple hazards impacting a dynamic population within southeast Louisiana. This is followed by a comprehensive descriptive analysis of victims’ characteristics. Both of these assessments point to an important conclusion: circumstances matter in interpreting the observed trends in victims’ characteristics. Drawing inferences from the available data, three categories of circumstances of death are identified: (i) direct flood deaths, (ii) emergency circumstances deaths, and (iii) evacuation/displacement deaths. As a whole and within each category, age is the most important demographic attributes with nearly 60% of deceased victims over 65 or older. However, the role of other demographic attributes varies between different categories of circumstances, with flood victims being predominantly African-American males and evacuation/displacement deaths being predominantly Caucasian females. Deaths directly related to flood exposure constitutes one major class or category of victims. Using the available data, these victims are identified, and then merged with population data to calculate and map the direct flood fatality rate (FFR). The overall mortality among the flood exposed population for this event was approximately 1%, which is similar to findings for historical flood events. The FFR is then used as the dependent variable in a regression analysis meant to build upon previous research in modeling flood deaths. In a final step, a set of regressions examine the influence of (i) the flood hazard characteristics and (ii) the population vulnerability characteristics in determining the FFR. It was found that water depth and flow velocity explain much of variance in the observed FFR, with age and race also being significant. These results provide important insights into the deaths caused by this complex disaster along with the relationship between flood mortality and the characteristics of the flood and the affected population.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Keim, Barry