This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It occurred just months after Google Earth was first released. Although Google Earth had existed as Keyhole Viewer prior to that, Google’s acquisition really helped to popularize it. Katrina was an early test for Google Earth’s capabilities in assisting with rescue efforts and reporting natural disasters. Within days of the disaster, Digital Globe imagery was put into image overlays by users and Google released image overlays with imagery from NOAA. Later the Digital Globe imagery was put into Google Earth’s database.
The Google Earth team was later recognized for their contributions to the hurricane relief efforts.
Two years after Katrina, there was a bit of controversy when people noticed that Google had replaced the post Katrina imagery with older higher resolution imagery from before the hurricane. Google responded to the ensuing media outcry by releasing new post Katrina imagery. At the time many Google Earth enthusiasts suggested a new feature to allow the viewing of alternative imagery sets. This was later added to Google Earth in 2009 as the now familiar and extremely useful ‘historical imagery’ feature.
So, images of a flooded New Orleans are still available in Google Earth today. In addition, the city has been given the 3D treatment, so you can have a look at some of the new flood defences built in response to Katrina.
We can also watch the construction of new defences in ‘historical imagery’:
According to this article over 100,000 houses were destroyed. However, the accompanying video says ‘damaged or destroyed’ and that 30,000 were restored. That still leaves 60,000 homes needing to be pulled down or rebuilt, which should cover a fairly large area. However, they must have been scattered in amongst undamaged houses, as we were unable to find much evidence of large scale rebuilding, except for the location shown below: