Following Hurricane Katrina's landfall on August 29, 2005, NIST began planning for a two-phase reconnaissance to study and document damage to major buildings, infrastructure, and residential structures. In phase 1, NIST deployed a roofing expert with a team assembled by the Roofing Industry Committee on Weathering Issues (RICOWI) during the week of September 6, 2005 to study damage to roofing systems in Mississippi Gulf Coast region. NIST deployed four structural engineers in cooperation with the FEMA Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) during the week of September 26, 2005 to study damage in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region. Two NIST members of this team also inspected the breaches in the floodwalls and levees, as well as damage to major buildings, in New Orleans. These phase 1 deployments provided input that was used to plan a broader phase 2 reconnaissance to study damage in the Mississippi coastal area, New Orleans, and Southeast Texas (the area affected by Hurricane Rita). In the phase 2 reconnaissance, 26 experts from the private sector, universities, and federal agencies (including 6 from NIST) deployed during the weeks of October 10, 2005 and October 17, 2005.
The reconnaissance identified three key areas where detailed technical studies are essential: (1) to evaluate the performance of the New Orleans flood protection system and provide credible scientific and engineering information for guiding the immediate repair and future upgrade of the system; (2) to develop risk-based storm surge maps for use in flood-resistant design of structures, and (3) to evaluate and, if necessary, modify the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale's treatment of storm surge effects due to hurricanes.
Details are provided in the report, "Performance of Physical Structures in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita: A Reconnaissance Report (NIST TN 1476)."