From resilience to resurgence after Katrina

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Ten years ago this week, Randall Tassin and about a dozen employees at Hydronic Technology's office in New Orleans wrapped up an ordinary Friday at work. Weather forecasters were reporting a strong storm brewing off the coast that could be headed their way, but few took it seriously at the time.

"It's so fresh in our minds. It seems like it happened yesterday," says Tassin, the executive vice president and treasurer at Hydronic, a company that sells fluid-handling equipment such as heating, piping and plumbing systems. "We left our office on a Friday, before Katrina hit. We were joking amongst ourselves, 'We'll see you Monday.' We never really worried about it too much on that Friday. The hurricane was supposed to hit Florida, and it did, and that was supposed to be the end of it."

SEE MORE: Special coverage on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

But Tassin woke up on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005, to news that New Orleans residents should start evacuating the city as Hurricane Katrina, freshly recharged after swerving into the Gulf of Mexico, barreled straight for them.

See photos of residents bracing for the storm:

26 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: Leading up to the storm
See Gallery
From resilience to resurgence after Katrina
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27: Workers board up the storefront of VooDoo Mart in the French Quarter in preparation for Hurricane Katrina August 27, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 115 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27: People wait in line while attempting to rent a car at New Orleans International Airport in preparation for Hurricane Katrina August 27, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 115 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27: Workers board up the storefront of VooDoo Mart in the French Quarter in preparation for Hurricane Katrina August 27, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 115 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Mark Kennedy covers an antique streetlamp with a tarp in the French Quarter in preparation for Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of over 115 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
BILOXI, MS - AUGUST 28: Workers at Beauvoir, the Biloxi historical home where Jefferson Davis spent the last years of his life, prepare for Hurricane Katrina to make landfall August 28, 2005 in Biloxi, Mississippi. A mandatory evacuation order went into effect this morning when Hurricane Katrina became a Category 5 storm. Katrina has sustained winds of over 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Marianne Todd/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: In this handout photo provided by the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush (foreground) takes a map from Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin during a video teleconference with federal and state emergency management organizations on Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. The storm is expected to make landfall in Louisiana in the morning of August 29. (Photo by Paul Morse/The White House via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Residents wait in line to enter the Superdome which is being used as an emergency shelter before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: A group of people have their picture taken on Bourbon Street August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Dajonay Redett, 3, sleeps as her family waits in line to enter the Superdome which is being used as an emergency shelter before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Linda Lemon stands outside the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street where she is a cook and will stay at work while the hurricaine passes August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Residents wait in line to enter the Superdome which is being used as an emergency shelter before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: People who are not are not planning to evacuate from incoming Hurricane Katrina stand on a balcony over a local pub on Bourbon Street August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Roy Marigny (L) wipes his forehead in the heat while waiting for the New Orleans Superdome to open as an emergency shelter ahead of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The storm is expected to make landfall in the morning of August 29. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: A member of the Louisiana National Guard gathers residents as they wait for the New Orleans Superdome to open as an emergency shelter ahead of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The storm is expected to make landfall in the morning of August 29. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Many people have decided not to evacuate and fill Bourbon Street in spite of the mandatory evacuation ordered by the Governor August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Hurricane specials are displayed on a boarded-up French Quarter bar ahead of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The storm is expected to make landfall in the morning of August 29. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: New Orleans residents sit in the Superdome, which is being used as an emergency shelter, before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 28: Homeless man Joseph Barnes stands in the nearly deserted French Quarter with his cat Patches before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Barnes says he was not allowed inside the Superdome shelter with Patches because pets were not allowed and was unsure where he would spend the night. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of over 115 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. Katrina killed at least seven when it moved through Miami-Dade County in Florida. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Anthony Decquin (R) and his stepson Elisha Smith spend a last few minutes playing in Lake Pontchartrain before Hurricane Katrina comes through the area Monday morning on August 28, 2005 in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina has sustained winds of 175 mph and is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast as early as August 29. A state of emergency has been declared for Louisiana as the Category 5 storm approaches. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: Matthew Gryzlo (L) of New York, Robin Raxlin (2nd -L) from Toronto, Canada , Anna Skrip (2nd-R) from Toronto and Rich Prisco (R) from New York wait out hurricane Katrina in lounge area of the W Hotel In New Orleans, Louisiana after their airline flights were cancelled 28 August 2005. Hurricane Katrina is expected to make landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana early 29 August, 2005. AFP / james NIELSEN (Photo credit should read JAMES NIELSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: Ken Falk at the National Weather Service office in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Sunday morning August 28, 2005, tracks Hurricane Katrina as it approaches New Orleans, Louisiana. Falk looks at the future direction of the category 5 hurricane as it approaches land. Falk, the Operations Officer at the Northern Louisiana center, is one of three busy meteorologists watching the progress of the powerful storm. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: A tired and worried evacuee from New Orleans, Samella Rawles calls her husband, who stayed behind in the Crescent City, after Samella and other Rawles family members left to escape Hurricane Katrina on Sunday morning August 28, 2005. The Rawles refueled in the Northern Louisiana city of Shreveport, after driving almost 10 hours to avoid Katrina. The New Orleans family plans to stay in Dallas, Texas with relatives. Thousands of southeastern Louisiana residents also packed their vehicles to drive north to escape the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: Ronnie Hecker, evacuated from New Orleans, in the very early hours of Sunday morning, August 28, 2005, with his wife Lisa and two dogs attempting to escape the approaching Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Hecker looks for the best way to get to El Dorado, Arkansas, during a stop in Shreveport, Louisiana, after driving some 10 hours to the northern Louisiana city. The couple could not find a hotel room within the Bayou State. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Heavy traffic heading west to escape the oncoming Hurricane Katrina on Interstate 10 near Lafayette, Louisiana 28 August 2005. Authorities Sunday ordered the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans as the low-lying US city braced for what could be a direct and devastating hit from Hurricane Katrina. 'I do not want to create panic. But I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious and it's of the highest nature. And that's why we take this unprecedented move,' said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, announcing the evacuation order. Hurricane Katrina, which packed winds of 250 kilometers (160 miles) per hour, was forecast to slam ashore near the flood-prone city early Monday. AFP / james NIELSEN (Photo credit should read JAMES NIELSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: David Ryckaert (R) and his wife Nathalie from Brussels, Belgium, check their email on a laptop computer in the hallway of the Best Western hotel in downtown New Orleans, Louisiana 29 August 2005. The hotel has emergency generators to power lights in the halls and stairwells. Katrina has been downgraded to a Category Three storm according to the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center.The storm's winds, which had risen 28 August to a sustained level of 280 kilometers (176 miles per hour), slowed to 200 kilometers per hour (125 miles) as it made landfall in southern Louisiana late Monday morning. AFP PHOTO/James NIELSEN (Photo credit should read JAMES NIELSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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"So I called a woman named Lisa who still works here and came to the office and we basically tried to take all the important papers," Tassin says, recalling the morning he lifted all the company's filing cabinets off the ground and onto desks, on the off chance that floodwater somehow worked its way into the building. "The storm hits, and initially we thought we'd dodged a bullet. You didn't really start hearing about the water and the flooding until late [Monday night] or the next morning."

About 1.5 million people were evacuated from New Orleans and nearby areas in Louisiana before Katrina walloped the region, submerging entire houses and sweeping up people, animals and debris in its path.

Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are thought to have remained to ride out the storm. Survivors were stranded for days on rooftops throughout New Orleans and beyond, awaiting rescue efforts that drew heavy criticism for being overdue and inadequate. More than 1,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced or chose to leave the region entirely.

"It became a life-or-death struggle for thousands who were still trapped in the cities," Mitch Landrieu, the current mayor of New Orleans, said during a speech earlier this month at the National Press Club in Washington. He recalled "survivors trapped for days with little or no help, hundreds on the rooftops, people trying to keep their heads above water, the blazing Louisiana sun, American citizens crowded in front of the Superdome and huddled masses at the convention center."

Tassin is one of thousands of regional business executives who had to figure out how to recoup his losses and stay in business once the floodwaters receded. Mold consumed water-damaged office buildings that weren't outright destroyed during the storm. And evacuees were reluctant to return, leaving local economies with a smaller pool of consumers. The combined populations of Mississippi and Louisiana declined by more than 204,000 people between 2004 and 2006. New Orleans lost more than half of its population during that same window, according to the Census Bureau. Renters, in particular, were slow to trickle back into the city, as they weren't tied down by mortgage payments and property ownership.

"If you're renting a house or renting an apartment and that gets wiped away, you have no backup plan," says David Butler, a professor of international development at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Butler in 2010 published a paper that examined Hurricane Katrina's employment impact on a handful of counties in southern Mississippi. He found that lower-income regions in which service industries such as education and tourism dominated employment were most heavily impacted by the storm. Jobs reliant on a steady stream of nearby consumers were walloped as populations fell and visits ground to a halt.

"If you've lost your job ... and you have no job and no home, you then pick up and go to a family member or go restart somewhere else," he says. "If you've been evacuated and the conditions are better in Houston or Mobile, Alabama, or somewhere further north and the conditions are better, you'd get a job there and it'd be harder to come back."

Tassin and his family spent their evacuation weekend in a Lake Charles, Louisiana, hotel about three and a half hours away from New Orleans. Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Monday, but the full extent of the storm's impact wasn't realized for several hours. When Tassin turned the television on Tuesday morning, he saw news reports that New Orleans' levees had been breached and that floodwater was engulfing his city.

"It's hard to describe. I would say it was scary. We knew, with the city being flooded, you always held out hope. You didn't know where the floodwaters went. You didn't know how much of the city was flooded yet," Tassin says. "We didn't know what was going to happen."

See photos of the Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina hit:

41 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: Ninth Ward damage
See Gallery
From resilience to resurgence after Katrina
In this Aug. 30, 2005 file photo, floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina cover the lower ninth ward, foreground, and other parts of New Orleans, a day after the storm passed through the city. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: A man holds himself on his porch in Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005 after hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana as a category 4 storm. Much of New Orleans was flooded after levies broke and water rushed into the city. (Photo by Marko Georgiev/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2002: Partially-submerged cars and houses make for a surreal sight in the flooded Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, La. Parts of the low-lying district were swallowed up by 20 feet of water when Hurricane Katrina slammed the city last week. Large swaths of New Orleans still remain under several feet of filthy water, and federal officials say it could take months to drain it. (Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2002: Lonzo Cutler, 34, who doesn't want to leave his pit bull behind, cradles the dog in front of his flooded home in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, La., as the rest of his family (in background) waits for rescuers to help them escape the barely-habitable area. As the Big Easy evacuates, already traumatized victims of Hurricane Katrina are making a choice: Head for safety or stay behind with a beloved pet. (Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: Swat police officer Cris Mandry navigates a rescue boat through a flooded alley looking for survivors in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana as a category 4 storm, forcing levies to brake and flooding much of New Orleans. (Photo by Marko Georgiev/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: An unidentified woman makes her way through a hole in the roof of a flooded house in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana as a category 4 storm, forcing levies to brake and flooding much of New Orleans. (Photo by Marko Georgiev/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: Swat police officers rescue a unidentified person from the flooded Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana as a category 4 storm, forcing levies to brake and flooding much of New Orleans. (Photo by Marko Georgiev/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: Unidentified people just rescued from the Lower Ninth Ward recuperate on the St. Cloud bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana as a category 4 storm, breaking levies and flooding much of New Orleans. (Photo by Marko Georgiev/Getty Images)
Rescuers carry flood victims in boats to a nearby interstate onramp in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, La., Monday, Sept. 5, 2005. Water is still high in the area and some rescuers have decided not bring food and water to those who are determined to stay behind because they want them to leave. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Flood victims sit on an Interstate-10 on ramp near the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, La., Monday, Sept. 5, 2005. Water is still high in the area and some rescuers have decided not to bring food and water to those who are determined to stay behind because they want them to leave. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2002: The front porch is all that remains of a lower Ninth Ward house in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Linda Rosier/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
John Ebanks sits on the porch of his home in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, La., Monday, Sept. 5, 2005. Ebanks is refusing to leave his home, despite the fact that authorities say that the water will remain in the besieged city for 3-6 months. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Stephen Smith and Terry Panquerne, rear, push a small boat and a bicycle through floodwaters in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, La., Monday, Sept. 5, 2005. The two were going through the neighborhood feeding their friends animals. Some rescuers have decided to quit taking food and water to those who have chosen to stay in an effort to force them out. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Picola Brown, a resident of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans talks with a member of the Army's 82nd Airborne after being evacuated from her flooded home on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005. The mayor has ordered all 10,000 or so residents still in this ruined city evacuated. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 04: A man walks through brackish water as he makes his way through the poor Ninth Ward neighborhood September 4, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina dealt New Orleans a devastating blow when it came ashore August 29, flooding the city and causing a death toll that officials fear will be in the thousands. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 08: Holdout Howard Gillett is reflected in a mirror on his front porch in the heavily damaged ninth ward in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina September 8, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Gillett and his family intend to stay at their home despite orders to evacuate. Authorities have said they are planning forcible evacuations of residents who refuse to leave. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The streets of New Orleans Ninth Ward are still fllooded more than a week after Hurricane Katrina caused numerous levee breaks, Friday, September 9, 2005. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 12: US Army National Guard soldiers from Oregon gather on a street corner while conducting search operations September 11, 2005 in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Rescue efforts and clean up continue in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina two weeks after the deadly storm hit. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 12: A military helicopter flies September 12, 2005 over Harold Irvin, Sr., who is staying with his son Glen after his house in New Orleans' 9th Ward was covered by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Both Irvin and his son refuse to leave their home, despite pressure from police. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 5: Paul Garrett, 56, and his neighbor's dog, Rusty, whom he rescued during Hurricane Katrina, walk the streets of the 9th ward on their way home. 'Everybody left,' said Garrett, a former longshoreman. 'I stayed.' Garrett said he stayed to help the neighborhood's elderly and sick. 'Everybody can't leave,' he said. 'I'm lookin' [sic] out for people who can't help themselves. Especially the older people. See, I'm just a 'junior citizen.' They're 'senior citizens',' he continued. 'You got a lot of people in this city who don't care for each other. I feel like we should pull together now instead of apart. It's gotten worse. It's not right,' he said. (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A tattered US flag waves on a pole in the devastated Ninth ward of New Orleans, Louisiana 21 September 2005, most of the neighborhood was flooded and destroyed by the water following Hurricane Katrina. Authorities have finished removing bodies from New Orleans flood waters, but the search for the dead goes on inside homes, Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday. The death toll from Hurricane Katrina rose above 1,000 Wednesday as 63 more bodies have been recovered in Louisiana, authorities said. AFP PHOTO/Menahem KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: A film crew documents the levee breech along the industrial canal near Arabi, Louisiana, following Hurricane Katrina's landing in New Orleans. This breech caused massive flooding and destruction of homes in the lower 9th Ward. Much of this flooding had drained by Friday, September 16, 2005. (Photo by Scott Saltzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 11: A Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) marks a building with spray paint after searching for survivors September 11, 2005 in the Ninth Ward district of New Orleans, Louisiana. Rescue efforts and clean up continue in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina fourteen days after the deadly storm hit. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 11: Two dogs run past a house marked with a note, 'Dead Body Inside' September 11, 2005 in the Ninth Ward district of New Orleans, Louisiana. Rescue efforts and clean up continue in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina fourteen days after the deadly storm hit. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 16: A mix of oil and water and sewerage still lingers in areas of the Ninth Ward on September 16, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The hurricane swept though the area 19 days ago and left much of the city under water and without power. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 16: A car is covered in mud, debris and sewerage left by Hurricane Katrina in the Ninth Ward on September 16, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The hurricane swept though the area 19 days ago and left much of the city under water and without power. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: A thick layer of mud covers the streets of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans after the water receded 18 September 2005, The area was one of the most severely damaged when hurricane Katrina hit the city three weeks ago. AFP PHOTO/Omar TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: A boat reamins in front of a house in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans 18 September 2005, The area was one of the most severely damaged when Hurricane Katrina hit the city three weeks ago. AFP PHOTO/Omar TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 23: Water flows through a breach in the repaired Inner Harbor Canal towards the Ninth Ward District September 23, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rain and wind has started to hit New Orleans as Hurricane Rita passes through the Gulf of Mexico just over three weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the region. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 23: A toilet sits in water coming from a breach in the repaired Inner Harbor Canal as water flows towards houses in the Ninth Ward District September 23, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rain and wind has started to hit New Orleans as Hurricane Rita passes through the Gulf of Mexico just over three weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the region. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Areas of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans are still flooded after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 26 September 2005. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is allowing business owners back into the Central Business District (CBD) starting 26 September 2005. The CBD was not flooded by either hurricane. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES: Local artist Jeffery Holmes looks out from the balcony of his home (center in background) of a part of his 'toxic art' exhibition on the median of the roadway in front of his home in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, 27 September 2005. The 'toxic art' consists of artworks from his home by himself and his wife, as well as everyday items from their home, all of which were ruined by the floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES: Palazzolo Simmons, 49, looks out over his home neighborhood for the first time since Hurricane Katrina in the mostly poor and black Lower Ninth Ward section of New Orleans, 02 October 2005. Simmons, who said his home was destroyed and would never come back, was riding with his neighbors from the Ninth Ward on a customized monster truck brought to the city by a private citizen from Florida to let the local population get a look in the area still unpassable to regular cars. While New Orleanians in more upscale neighborhoods are being urged to return home, their counterparts from the poorest areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina are forced to sneak past police checkpoints to see for the first time the renmants of their life. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 11: Lorriane Macell on her porch in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, Louisiana on November 11, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.(Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 21: Zadie Smith rests while cleaning her home in the heavily damaged Ninth Ward November 21, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Smith is attempting clean up her home because she says she cannot afford to pay workers to clean it. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 24: A car adorned with a toy reindeer, Christmas lights and a spray-painted 'Merry Christmas' message is seen in the heavily damaged Lower Ninth Ward December 24, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nearly four months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, the worst-hit parts of New Orleans and surrounding areas are still uninhabitable. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 24: A destroyed house is seen in the heavily damaged Lower Ninth Ward December 24, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nearly four months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, the worst-hit parts of New Orleans and surrounding areas are still uninhabitable. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 7: A home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina is seen on January 7, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The New Orleans City council has agreed to wait two more weeks before starting to tear down damaged homes as a federal judge decides if he will hear a challenge from local community activists. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 10: Keith Jackson takes a picture of the rubble surrounding the remains of his aunt's home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana on January 10, 2006. The home was destroyed when the Industrial Canal levee was breeched and floodwaters inundated the neighborhood, during Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005. (Photo by Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 20: Flood damaged homes are lit by car headlights after dark in the Lower Ninth Ward February 20, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The hurricane-ravaged Ninth Ward mostly still does not have power, and majority of the homes are uninhabitable as the city begins celebrating Mardi Gras. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The New Orleans-based Data Center estimates roughly 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded during and in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In some areas, buildings were submerged under 10 feet of water. All told, economic losses related to Katrina have been estimated at over $125 billion, as hundreds of businesses in the region went under.

"During the first 10 months after the hurricane, [New Orleans] suffered an over-the-year average loss of 95,000 jobs. At the trough of the job loss, in November 2005, employment was 105,300 below the previous year's November figure," said a 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics report detailing Katrina's effects on the New Orleans economy.

"Job losses during the fourth quarter [of 2005] were due to two factors: the destruction of the city's infrastructure, thereby eliminating places of employment; and the destruction of homes and the subsequent public-health crisis, which together forced large segments of the employed population to leave the city," the report stated.

In New Orleans alone, 134,000 housing units were damaged as a result of Katrina – about 70 percent of the city's total occupied residences. Nearby in Mississippi, another 134,000 homes and 10,000 rental units were destroyed or damaged, according to the Government Accountability Office.

"House after house after house and building after building after building for miles were destroyed," Tassin says of his city in the aftermath of Katrina. "It's amazing how much things float around when you have a flood like that. Things were just left on the street. It wasn't out of the ordinary to see a sofa just sitting in the middle of the street."

Tassin first returned to Hydronic's New Orleans office on Sept. 17, 2005. The city was still largely shut down, and National Guard troops patrolled the streets.

"The first time we came to our office, the devastation and the smell were just god-awful. I can't even describe it. ... I got to my office and got out of the car and guys with AK-47s were walking down the street," Tassin says, recalling bumping into the National Guard troops. "It was just so surreal being on the streets in New Orleans in America and the National Guard's walking around trying to keep the peace."

Tassin says the smell of mold in the building was overwhelming. A quick survey of the office was enough for him to conclude that Hydronic had lost everything its employees had left behind.

"We came in with a Bobcat and just shoved everything out of the office and onto the street ... FEMA had hired hundreds of companies to come down and stack debris in dump trucks and take them to landfills," he says.

With their New Orleans office in disrepair, Hydronic's employees didn't have a base of operations to return to after the hurricane. So they divided themselves between the company's offices in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi. Some family members stayed with the employees in the new cities, renting condos or apartments while they sorted out what to do next. Tassin's home was left untouched by the floodwaters, so his family returned home while he worked out of Shreveport.

"It was added expense, so we just tried to accommodate as much as possible," says Tassin, who made the five-hour trip from Shreveport to New Orleans every weekend to be with his family. "Two people in our company lost their houses as well, and it was even more difficult for those guys because they lost their home in addition to their business. So many people were affected."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of employed individuals in Louisiana shrank by 216,000 in September 2005 alone, the month following Katrina's landfall along the Gulf Coast. The unemployment rate in the Gulfport-Biloxi region of Mississippi jumped 19.4 percentage points in September 2005, compared with the year before. Unemployment in Pascagoula, Mississippi, meanwhile, climbed in September before peaking in October, as it ballooned 7.8 percentage points from October 2004. Unemployment in the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner metropolitan region also peaked in October, gaining 10.6 percentage points from a year prior.
Labor conditions in the New Orleans metro area had been in decline before the storm. In August 2005, before Katrina's impacts could be recorded by the Labor Department, the region's unemployment rate jumped 1.3 percentage points for the largest year-over-year gain of any major metropolitan area in the country.

Still, the hurricane's timing could not have been worse, with a recession right around the corner.

"You're looking at right before the market and the [housing] bubble burst. So you had investment coming in, but then it just stopped. You had the storm, which was Disaster 1. And you had the Great Recession as Disaster 2," Butler says. "If you're in the middle of an upswing or near the top of a business cycle, it's the worst time for a disaster to hit. Because when the disaster hits, you already have all the business investment that's going on and the capital that's out there. People are starting to pull capital back."

Tassin's firm was able to work for a few months outside of New Orleans, split between its two other offices. And as a supplier of heating and piping units, Hydronic's inventory was in high demand when the disaster was finally over and the region started to rebuild.

"The casinos in Mississippi were some of our first calls from contractors. The casinos had to figure out a way to reopen. They needed pumps and boilers, so we started feeling a little optimistic. But it was incredible how much unknown there was," Tassin says, noting how difficult it was to get the word out that Hydronic had weathered the storm and was back in business. "You didn't have people's emails like you do today. We had a guy stand by a fax machine and we were just faxing everybody that we knew, all of our factories and all of our customers, to let them know that we survived and we were in Shreveport and Jackson."



Hydronic eventually tracked down a 12-by-60-foot rental trailer that allowed employees to return and work in New Orleans. A group of eight operated out of the back of the trailer for close to a year before the company found a vacant office for sale.

"As hard as it was, as resilient as we were, at the end of the day you almost could say it became a blessing. The opportunity for business increased. Once you got back on your feet, you were able to take advantage of the opportunity, and that's what we did," Tassin says. "We were in place and were able to provide products for the rebuilding of the buildings down here in New Orleans and Mississippi. And we took great pride in the fact that we stayed here in New Orleans. We could have moved to a suburb, but we decided to stick it out."

New Orleans started to regain its footing as funds poured into the Gulf Coast region. The Data Center estimates the federal government spent $120.5 billion related to Katrina response, $75 billion of which went to emergency relief efforts. Another $6.5 billion flowed in from philanthropic giving, while insurance claims covered just under $30 billion in losses.

"The major parts of the city have been rebuilt better than ever, but there are some areas in New Orleans that are struggling to rebuild, and that's mainly neighborhoods. That's some of the poorer areas, and that's unfortunate," Tassin says. "We constantly talked amongst ourselves. 'What's this place going to look like in 10 years?' And lo and behold, here we are, 10 years later."

Now, New Orleans is one of America's fastest-growing cities since the Great Recession, though there is still work to be done. The New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner metro area's civilian labor force – meaning all people employed or actively looking for work – has yet to return to pre-Katrina levels. The area's labor force in June sat at 606,476 workers, down from June 2005's 632,352 but up from February 2006's 488,451.

"As you were doing business and trying to turn a profit, you were able to use some of that profit to help with the rebuilding," Tassin says. "You constantly had to look at the positive at what would happen with the rebuilding, because the devastation was a lot to look at every day."

Another positive sign: The unemployment rate in the New Orleans metro area sank back down to 6.1 percent in June, above the national rate of 5.3 percent but still well shy of the region's 15.9 percent unemployment peak in October 2005.

That means job opportunities have returned as the city's infrastructure has been rebuilt. And local business owners resilient enough to weather the storm have helped revitalize a regional economy that was all but wiped out only a decade ago.

"The people who were able to outlast it had to have a resilience," Tassin says. "What's amazing to me is it's been 10 years already. How time flies is pretty amazing."

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