Not only did Hurricane Katrina devastate New Orleans and surrounding towns and communities along the Gulf Coast, but the Category 5 hurricane that struck on the morning of Monday Aug. 29 washed out portions of U.S. 90 in Mississippi and spans of I-10 crossing Lake Pontchartrain, putting further strain on relief efforts along the critical roadways.
The Associated Press reported that other infrastructural problems caused by the huge storm included damage to bridges in three Mississippi coastal counties, including those linking Biloxi with Ocean Springs and the connection to Bay St. Louis.
The most obviously affected segment of I-10 in Louisiana was a water crossing; large, square segments of precast roadway were tossed from their footings by the hurricane winds and storm surge. The roadway was originally built with the precast segments made at a plant nearby, floated by barge to the footings and placed by crane.
In Alabama, AP reported flooding reached 11 ft in Mobile, matching a record set in 1917, according to the National Weather Service. A major bridge over the Mobile River partially reopened by mid-week, after being struck by a drifting oil-drilling platform that floated away from a shipyard.
At a joint press conference with Bush administration cabinet members on Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said the U.S. Department of Transportation would respond to the disaster, with the lead to be taken by a division known as the Emergency Support Function.
He said the U.S. DOT shipped more than 13.4 million liters of water, 10,000 tarps, 3.4 million lb of ice and 144 generators, along with other crucial supplies, to the affected area. Mineta said the U.S. DOT will work with state and local agencies to restore transportation infrastructure, immediately, to facilitate relief efforts.
Mineta's agency deployed teams from its Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to the region to lend assistance for recovery efforts. Mineta said the U.S. DOT also is planning to send maritime units to restore operations to the port of New Orleans.