New Orleans’ recovery from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 reflects a long, complex, contentious process that still is not complete. In this article, the authors explore the key factors that have supported and hindered recovery so far. Initial conditions within the city, the web of policy demands, as well as recent changes in law and procedures for the region are explored using a new model that may be applicable to other severe disasters. Any recovery, the authors conclude, must be anchored within a local context, but only with necessary administrative backing from the wider region and society. Recovery from disaster offers a rare opportunity to rebuild damaged communities into more resilient ones when energy and investment are immediately channeled into the stricken region and focused in a constructive redesign that acknowledges environmental risk. The recovery process then shifts to mitigation and reduction of risk. Hence, cities will be better prepared for the next extreme event, which will surely come.