Although estimates of Hurricane Katrina’s staggering toll on the treasury are highly imprecise, costs are certain to climb to $200 billion in the coming weeks.
The final accounting could approach the more than $300bn spent in four years to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Analysts inside and outside government agree the $62 billion that Washington has spent so far was merely the first instalment of perhaps an unparalleled sum.
The government never has dealt with a disaster of this scale: 90,000 square miles of the Gulf Coast affected, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and an entire metropolitan area under water.
Members of the Louisiana congressional delegation say it could cost $100 billion just in New Orleans.
As for the overall toll, G. William Hoagland, the top budget adviser to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said: “We’re obviously over $100 billion.”