Monday, March 22, 2010

Hurricane Katrina Revisted - In His Own Words: Brian Williams

Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest hurricane, as well as one of the five deadliest, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall.

Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005 and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding there before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 storm on the morning of Monday, August 29 in southeast Louisiana. It caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge. The most severe loss of life occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland. Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks. However, the worst property damage occurred in coastal areas, such as all Mississippi beachfront towns, which were flooded over 90% in hours, as boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland, with waters reaching 6-12 miles (10-19 km) from the beach.

At least 1,836 people lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Economist and crisis consultant Randall Bell wrote: "Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Preliminary damage estimates were well in excess of $100 billion, eclipsing many times the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992."

The levee failures prompted investigations of their design and construction which belongs to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as mandated in the Flood Control Act of 1965 and into their maintenance by the local Levee Boards. There was also an investigation of the responses from federal, state and local governments, resulting in the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown, and of New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Eddie Compass. Conversely, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), National Hurricane Center (NHC) and National Weather Service (NWS) were widely commended for their actions, accurate forecasts and abundant lead time.

Four years later, thousands of displaced residents in Mississippi and Louisiana were still living in trailers. Reconstruction of each section of the southern portion of Louisiana has been addressed in the Army Corps LACPR Final Technical Report which identifies areas not to be rebuilt and areas and buildings that need to be elevated.

I tried to find a online clip of Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke" by Spike Lee. Sorry I couldn't find more than this:


  1. I can't say why, but when I woke today I had vivid flashbacks of the time I spent with my teammates in a pizzeria in New York watching Hurricane Katrina make landfall and ravage the United States. Thanks to the wonder and beauty of the internet, a single Google search got me to first the Wikipedia entry for Katrina, from which the intro to the post above comes, and then a video by NBC's Brian Williams. Dramatic stuff and still stunning to this day to realize that no matter what this country's "leaders" will tell you, one cannot rely on the government to ensure individual survival. I know that Pappillon draws readers from all over the world, and very few of you as a percentage of the total readership need to worry about catastrophic flooding as the natural disaster that could claim your life, but how hard is it to put together a basic survival plan and stockpile an emergency kit? I don't know, as I haven't done it yet myself (living 3/4 of the way up a stiff little climb makes death-by-broken-levee seem all the more preposterous), but should I?

    What does a portable generator cost at Costco? If you buy one, how much fuel should you stockpile? And where do you stockpile it? How many flashlights should a household have? And how many batteries? What's the natural disaster most likely to hit Western Pennsylvania? Mine subsidence? lol I can't see my middle-class neighbors going all "Lord of the Flies" on us and eating one another, but ... what if? Heck, this February's snow storms in Pittsburgh shut-down the city long enough that people actually died when emergency services couldn't reach them in their homes (Hazelwood man dies after 10 calls to 911 over two days -, so there is some connection to reality. Do any of you have survival plans? Stocked up your home-based armory? Eagerly awaiting the race/class/gender war? Lemme know.

    And for those too lazy to cut and paste that PG story link:

    "In his first call to 911, Curtis Mitchell sounded calm, explaining to dispatchers that his "entire stomach [was] in pain."

    By the time his longtime girlfriend made a 10th call nearly 30 hours later, she was frantic. He wasn't breathing. He was cold to the touch.

    "Oh God, oh God," Sharon Edge sobbed to dispatchers. "I've been trying to get an ambulance over here for three days."

    Paramedics arrived at their Hazelwood home as Ms. Edge tried to resuscitate the 50-year-old, but it was too late.

    "I sat up here with him, watching him die," Ms. Edge said Tuesday, after city officials apologized to her and pledged immediate changes in emergency response after Mr. Mitchell's death on Feb. 7. "They didn't do their jobs like they were supposed to."

    Snow-covered roads, poor communication and a 911 center deluged with more than double the average number of calls during last week's crippling snowstorms combined to cause Mr. Mitchell's long wait, city officials said..."

  2. Sad part about this is that it is typical self serving sort of program that implies that they did their jobs and are the force behind good. Take a look at Spike Lee's HBO program, When the Levees broke. Gives a more comprehensive picture. The legacy of this piece is said near the end when Williams says that if we don't have a debate in this country on race, poverty...etc., we will have failed. You failed guys.

  3. Jim F - I saw a mention of the Spike Lee program but couldn't find a link to a full version of it online. Is there one that you could share w/ the readers?

  4. You certainly won't find all of Spike's documentary as it is on three DVDs in four hour long segments, plus an extra 105 minute follow up video. You should be able to get it at your local library, however. That's where I got it.


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