Hurricane Katrina Timeline
Thursday, August 25
Tropical Storm Katrina becomes a Category 1 hurricane and comes aground in Florida near Miami, causing nine deaths and the loss of electricity to more than a million people.
Friday, August 26
After weakening briefly to a tropical storm, Katrina gains power over the Gulf of Mexico and is upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane. At 4 p.m. the National Hurricane Center warns that Katrina will probably be a Category 4 when it makes landfall, and will probably hit the highly populated Gulf Coast region near New Orleans. The HSUS alerts its National Disaster Animal Response Team (DART).
Saturday, August 27
President Bush declares a state of emergency in Louisiana. The Louisiana SPCA closes early to complete evacuation of its animals to Houston and Baton Rouge. A press release says the shelter will reopen on Tuesday, but notes that the building on Japonica Street floods easily and “may not be ready for inhabitants immediately following the storm.”
Sunday, August 28
Katrina becomes a Category 5 hurricane. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin orders mandatory evacuations. About 80 percent of the New Orleans population has left the city; 10,000 people take refuge in the Superdome. President Bush declares a state of emergency in Mississippi.
Monday, August 29
At 7 a.m., Katrina makes landfall as a Category 4. A last-minute turn east means the storm does not hit New Orleans directly, but two flood-control levees are breached, New Orleans neighborhoods are flooded, and part of the Superdome roof is torn off. Dozens are killed in Mississippi. Half the DART team in Florida moves into the panhandle for easier deployment.
Tuesday, August 30
DART team members and Laura Bevan of The HSUS arrive in Jackson, Mississippi, where the Mississippi Animal Rescue League has established an animal-friendly shelter at the Jackson Coliseum. New Orleans is left with no power, no drinking water, and scant food supplies. Waters are rising from major levee breaches. About 80 percent of the city is now underwater.
Wednesday, August 31
Evacuations from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome start; about 20,000 people are expected to be moved to Houston. The Houston SPCA sets up to receive animals at the Astrodome. The DART teams take over the animal-friendly shelter in Jackson and begin working with the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) and the Mississippi state veterinarian to perform rescue and damage assessments south of Jackson.
Thursday, September 1
Growing violence plagues New Orleans. Red Cross workers are prevented from going to the Superdome for fear that it will draw more people back to the city for supplies and relief.
Friday, September 2
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it will take between 36 and 80 days to drain New Orleans. The Louisiana SPCA finds a temporary shelter at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. Louisiana State University establishes an animal-friendly shelter at the Parker Coliseum. HSUS DART teams in Mississippi are allowed to travel to Gulfport. They rescue 42 cats and 89 dogs from the flooded Humane Society of South Mississippi. Other teams spread out to conduct damage assessments and rescues. HSUS acquires use of the Forrest County Multi Purpose Center in Hattiesburg as a temporary animal shelter.
Saturday, September 3
The HSUS is appointed by the Mississippi state government to coordinate all rescue, feeding, and housing for hurricane animals. Damage assessment teams work through southern Mississippi to assess needs and find sites for other temporary shelters and transfer points; they set up a temporary site in Gautier, Mississippi. A call center at HSUS headquarters is established. The HSUS issues a national call for deployment by trained disaster personnel.
Sunday, September 4
The HSUS DART team in Mississippi begins to transition control of the animal-friendly shelter in Jackson to the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) run by United Animal Nations. Mississippi teams are given permission to search for and rescue animals in southeastern Mississippi. Rescue teams under the Louisiana SPCA are finally allowed into New Orleans to pick up the animals left at the Superdome; about 40 animals are rescued there.
Monday, September 5
The first HSUS Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) team arrives in the hurricane area. The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana, opens as a temporary shelter.
Tuesday, September 6
HSUS calls upon federal and state officials to assist with animal rescues.
Wednesday, September 7
The Louisiana SPCA hands over incident command of the rescue operations to HSUS DART teams. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle goes to Lamar-Dixon and ends up working there for two weeks.
Thursday, September 8
More than 1,000 animals are already being sheltered at Lamar-Dixon. Petfinder.com launches its Animal Emergency Response Network, sending thousands of evacuees all over the country to the Web in the hopes of finding their pets.
Friday, September 9
More than 20 rescue teams are working in New Orleans, 15 of them in boats.
Saturday, September 10
Rescuers bring more than 700 animals to Lamar-Dixon in a single day. The facility is overwhelmed; the property’s owners and the state authorities threaten to shut down rescues unless the facility is cleaned up and limits are set.
Sunday, September 11
The Louisiana state veterinarian allows transfers of pets to other states, and daily exports of animals begin. A flight paid for by T. Boone Pickens takes more than 120 animals to the Marin Humane Society in California.
Monday, September 12
FEMA Director Michael Brown resigns his position after intense criticism of the government’s ineffective response to Katrina.
Wednesday, September 14
5,450 pets, plus 1,000 chickens, have been rescued to date.
Friday, September 16
Lamar-Dixon reaches full capacity; rescue teams are told that if an animal is not sick or injured and is confined and out of immediate danger, they should simply provide food and water and leave the animals where they are.
Thursday, September 22
In anticipation of Hurricane Rita, many animals and most staff are evacuated from Lamar-Dixon; a skeleton crew stays behind to take care of the remaining animals. In Mississippi, out-of-state exports begin. The first airlift of 120 animals goes to the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis. HSUS RAVS teams establish a temporary animal shelter at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana.
Friday, September 23
Hurricane Rita makes landfall as a Category 3 storm.
Saturday, September 24
Many volunteers return to Lamar-Dixon and operations resume.
Friday, September 30
The HSUS turns over all new rescue operations to the Louisiana SPCA.
Wednesday, October 5
The last animals are exported from Hattiesburg.
Friday, October 7
The Hattiesburg facility is cleaned and closed.
Monday, October 10
The last animals are exported from Lamar-Dixon.
Saturday, October 15
Lamar-Dixon is cleaned and closed.
Sunday, October 16–January 1
Reunion efforts continue at The HSUS, other national organizations, and local receiving agencies around the country.