The former governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, has died aged 76 from complications from cancer.
Ms Blanco, who was elected in 2004, was the first woman to lead the state.
Hurricane Katrina, which hit just 20 months into her tenure, was blamed for more than 1,800 deaths in the region.
Hundreds of thousands were displaced and most of New Orleans was left under water when its levee system failed. Politicians, including Ms Blanco, were criticised for their slow response.
Ms Blanco, who was a Democrat, was first elected to public office in 1984. She did not seek re-election when her term as governor ended in 2008.
Her death was confirmed by the state's current governor, John Bel Edwards, on Sunday.
On Twitter, he described her as a "trailblazer" and paid tribute to her for leading Louisiana "through one of our darkest hours".
"Kathleen loved this state and our people and was a shining example of what can be accomplished by hard work and determination," he posted.
"I hope history will remember Governor Blanco as a tireless advocate for Louisiana, who fought fiercely for our state to rebuild following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."
She is survived by her husband, five children and 13 grandchildren, local media report.