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10 years ago today, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast and overwhelmed the levees of New Orleans.

Everyone knew it was coming. Satellite images of the storm showed it to be so wide it erased huge swaths of the region from the map entirely.

What Hurricane Katrina looked like from space. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
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New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the city. "This is going to be an unprecedented event," he said. National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks issued an apocalyptic forecast, warning that the storm would produce "human suffering incredible by modern standards.

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People all over the region braced themselves. Thousands headed to the Superdome stadium for shelter. Others fled New Orleans entirely. Many people with nowhere to go stayed where they were, hoping to ride out the storm.

Local residents outside the New Orleans Superdome on August 28, 2005. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Still, Katrina, when it came, was worse than anyone could have imagined. By the time it was over, 1,833 people would be dead. 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater.

A man walks down a flooded street in New Orleans. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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The storm flooded almost all of New Orleans.
(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi)Getty Images

It was, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune said, "catastrophic":

The front page of the August 30th edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Yet Katrina wasn't only so destructive because of its size and power. The local, state and federal response to the storm would come to be seen as one of the biggest disasters in the history of the United States. The help that was promised appeared non-existent for huge numbers of stranded people. The sight of dead bodies floating in the water became normal. The Superdome turned hellish.Thousands found themselves homeless and with nowhere to do, like internally displaced refugees from a war zone.

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For many, Katrina became a symbol of the deep-seated inequalities in American life. It was hard not to notice that poor, black people were being hit the worst. The tensions the storm laid bare found their most electric outlet in Kanye West, who flatly declared that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Bush vehemently disputed this, but still called the moment the worst of his presidency. He never recovered from his handling of the crisis.

People on Canal St. use a boat to get to higher ground as water began to fill the streets. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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10 years later, New Orleans has not fully recovered either. As people gather in New Orleans to mark the moment the levees broke, Katrina still looms large.

People bow their heads as they mark the 10th anniversary of Katrina. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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