The 2005 hurricane season caused extensive damage and induced a mass migration of approximately 1.1 million people from southern Louisiana in the United States. Current and accurate estimates of population size and demographics and an assessment of the critical needs for public services were required to guide recovery efforts. Since forecasts using pre-hurricane data may produce inaccurate estimates of the post-hurricane population, a household survey in 18 hurricane-affected parishes was conducted to provide timely and credible information on the size of these populations, their demographics and their condition. This paper describes the methods used, the challenges encountered, and the key factors for successful implementation. This post-disaster survey was unique because it identified the needs of the people in the affected parishes and quantified the number of people with these needs. Consequently, this survey established new population and health indicator baselines that otherwise would have not been available to guide the relief and recovery efforts in southern Louisiana.