Storm Expert Captures the Fury of Katrina on Film

Veteran storm photographer Martin Lisius battled fierce winds, catastrophic flooding and other obstacles to capture the fury of Hurricane Katrina on film as the historic storm made landfall on the US coast last month. Lisius shoots for StormStock, the world’s largest storm footage library. He founded the library in 1993, and serves as Prairie Pictures president. Lisius acknowledges the uniqueness of Katrina. “It was plain to me the day before Katrina made landfall in the Gulf that it had potential to become the costliest storm in US history,” he said. “It has since captured that title.”

Lisius and his team of photographers positioned themselves at locations along the coast, including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Highlights include a high water rescue attempt, storm surge sweeping off the Gulf, and structures failing in the powerful winds. Lisius was accompanied by photographer Brandon Jennings, and recorded dramatic images of Katrina on 35mm motion picture film and HD video. “We were able to capture the usual things like horizontal rain, trees bending over and debris flying through the air and scraping across the ground,” he said. “But the most amazing scene we encountered was in Moss Point, Mississippi where we came upon a parking lot that was flooding with storm surge and covering cars. People were stranded inside the hotel there and staring down from the upper floors when a high water rescue team arrived. The team, from the local fire department, battled winds gusting to 110 mph to search each vehicle.  It made for some very powerful imagery.” Another StormStock shooter videotaped an unusual scene when he came upon people gathering coins from a beach in Biloxi, Mississippi, moments after a damaged casino had dumped them onto the sand below.

Despite the team’s success, Katrina brings an unusual darkness not felt before. “Katrina was an impressive storm from a scientific point of view,” Lisius said. “Unfortunately, there is an exceptional level of human suffering associated with Katrina unlike any other US storm since the Galveston, Texas hurricane of 1900. I thought that event, which killed 8000 people, would not be duplicated again considering our modern ability to forecast, track and effectively evacuate for dangerous storms like Katrina. We did well on forecasting and tracking, but failed to effectively evacuate. That’s unacceptable” he said.

The StormStock team photographs weather footage for licensed use in film and television productions. Sample clips can be viewed on-line at