Hurricane Katrina struck an area dense with industry, causing numerous releases of petroleum and hazardous materials. This study integrates information from a number of sources to describe the frequency, causes, and effects of these releases in order to inform analysis of risk from future hurricanes. Over 200 onshore releases of hazardous chemicals, petroleum, or natural gas were reported. Storm surge was responsible for the majority of petroleum releases and failure of storage tanks was the most common mechanism of release. Of the smaller number of hazardous chemical releases reported, many were associated with flaring from plant startup, shutdown, or process upset. In areas impacted by storm surge, 10% of the facilities within the Risk Management Plan (RMP) and Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) databases and 28% of SIC 1311 facilities experienced accidental releases. In areas subject only to hurricane strength winds, a lower fraction (1% of RMP and TRI and 10% of SIC 1311 facilities) experienced a release while 1% of all facility types reported a release in areas that experienced tropical storm strength winds. Of industrial facilities surveyed, more experienced indirect disruptions such as displacement of workers, loss of electricity and communication systems, and difficulty acquiring supplies and contractors for operations or reconstruction (55%), than experienced releases. To reduce the risk of hazardous material releases and speed the return to normal operations under these difficult conditions, greater attention should be devoted to risk-based facility design and improved prevention and response planning.
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