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The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, And the Mississippi Gulf Coast,9780061124235

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, And the Mississippi Gulf Coast

by
ISBN13:

9780061124235

ISBN10:
0061124230
Format:
Hardcover
Pub. Date:
4/19/2006
Publisher(s):
HarperCollins Publications
List Price: $29.95

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Summary

In the span of five violent hours on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed major Gulf Coast cities and flattened 150 miles of coastline. Yet those wind-torn hours represented only the first stage of the relentless triple tragedy that Katrina brought to the entire Gulf Coast, from Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama. First came the hurricane, one of the three strongest ever to make landfall in the United States -- 150-mile- per-hour winds, with gusts measuring more than 180 miles per hour ripping buildings to pieces. Second, the storm-surge flooding, which submerged a half million homes, creating the largest domestic refugee crisis since the Civil War. Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water, as debris and sewage coursed through the streets, and whole towns in south-eastern Louisiana ceased to exist. And third, the human tragedy of government mis-management, which proved as cruel as the natural disaster itself. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, implemented an evacuation plan that favored the rich and healthy. Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisiana, dithered in the most important aspect of her job: providing leadership in a time of fear and confusion. Michael C. Brown, the FEMA director, seemed more concerned with his sartorial splendor than the specter of death and horror that was taking New Orleans into its grip. In The Great Deluge, bestselling author Douglas Brinkley, a New Orleans resident and professor of history at Tulane University, rips the story of Katrina apart and relates what the Category 3 hurricane was like from every point of view. The book finds the true heroes -- such as Coast Guard officer Jimmy Duckworth and hurricane jock Tony Zumbado. Throughout the book, Brinkley lets the Katrina survivors tell their own stories, masterly allowing them to record the nightmare that was Katrina. The Great Deluge investigates the failure of government at every level and breaks important new stories. Packed with interviews and original research, it traces the character flaws, inexperience, and ulterior motives that allowed the Katrina disaster to devastate the Gulf Coast.

Author Biography

Douglas Brinkley is professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii
1. Ignoring the Inevitable
1(36)
AUGUST 27 (Saturday)
2. Shouts and Whispers
37(34)
AUGUST 27 (Saturday)
3. Storm vs. Shoreline
71(40)
AUGUST 28 (Sunday)
4. The Winds Come to Louisiana
111(36)
AUGUST 28-29 (SundayŚMonday)
5. What Was the Mississippi Gulf Coast
147(34)
AUGUST 29 (Monday)
6. The Busted Levee Blues
181(46)
AUGUST 29 (Monday)
7. "I've Been FEMA-ed"
227(52)
AUGUST 29 (Monday)
8. Water Rising
279(52)
AUGUST 30 (Tuesday)
9. City Without Answers
331(40)
AUGUST 30 (Tuesday)
10. The Smell of Death 371(38)
AUGUST 31 (Wednesday)
11. Blindness 409(42)
Auctist 31 (Wednesday)
12. The Intense Irrationality of a Thursday 451(48)
SEPTEMBER 1 (Thursday)
13. "Ifs Our Time Now" 499(44)
SEPTEMBER 1 (Thursday)
14. The Friday Shuffle and Saturday Relief 543(54)
SEPTEMBER 2-3 (FridayŚSaturday)
15. Getaway (or X Marks the Spot) 597(28)
SEPTEMBER 3 (Saturday) and Beyond
Timeline 625(14)
Notes 639(40)
Acknowledgments 679(8)
Index 687

Excerpts

The Great Deluge
Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Chapter One

Ignoring the Inevitable

More than once, a society has been seen to give way before the wind which is let loose upon mankind; history is full of the shipwrecks of nations and empires; manners, customs, laws, religions -- and some fine day that unknown force, the hurricane, passes by and bears them all away.

-- Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

No wind was blowing when forty-four-year-old Laura Maloney arrived at the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LSPCA) on Japonica Street in New Orleans's Ninth Ward. With the exception of some storefront windows plywooded-up and Mandich's Restaurant, which was closed, August 27 was, by and large, a fairly normal Saturday morning. In a building across the street from the Industrial Canal, Maloney's LSPCA staff had lots of work to do. Hurricane Katrina -- a possible Category 5 storm -- was headed toward New Orleans and the shelter had a total population of 263 stray pets, ranging from boxers to Heinz 57 mutts and Siamese cats. All of them had to be evacuated. "Each animal got its own digital picture shots," Maloney recalled. "We made sure each pet's paperwork was in order. And we IDed each collar; we had a tracking system, in case any animal got separated from their paperwork."1

Maloney could have been a fashion model, with her long blond hair, perfect white teeth, and eyes that implied an internal kindness. The only problem was that she didn't care for high fashion; her passion was animals. Raised in Maryland, Maloney had earned her undergraduate degree at West Virginia University and her MBA at Tulane University. She had worked at the Philadelphia Zoo and New York's Central Park Zoo before landing employment at the Aquarium of the Americas near the French Quarter. She loved everything about New Orleans, except the way stray animals weren't properly cared for. Her husband, Don Maloney, also an animal enthusiast, was general curator of the Audubon Zoo, where he took care of everything from apes to zebras and every species in the alphabet in between. "Animals were a big part of our lives," she recalled. "We shared a deep appreciation for them."

Back in 1997 they had gone to the LSPCA together to adopt what Laura called "the muttiest dog we could." They succeeded in their quest. Tucked away in the back of a kennel was a black-tan German shepherd mix inflicted with chronic tics, heartworm, and a hip crack from what they assumed was an automobile accident. "She was on death row," Laura recalled. "About to be put down, so we adopted her. We named her Filé."

Maloney was hooked. She quit her job as assistant to the president of Freeport-McMoran, a huge New Orleans–based mineral exploration company, and took over the LSPCA as executive director. Many of New Orleans's nursing homes may have been a shambles, and the housing projects that populated the city in a state of ghastly disrepair, but under her tutelage, the Louisiana SPCA was run with the spic-and-span efficiency of a Swiss hospital. She wouldn't have it any other way. That Saturday morning, Maloney, dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt, and her staff created an assembly-line approach to load all the animals into a pair of climate-controlled refrigerated trucks headed for Houston's SPCA on Portway Drive. Although the two animal shelters were independent agencies, they operated under the mission statement of the 140-year-old national organization: "Compassion and mercy for those who cannot speak for themselves."2

Transporting 263 dogs and cats was no small task, but there weren't any other options. "The Louisiana SPCA," according to its own stated policy, "evacuates its shelter for Category 3 hurricanes and above."3

At 5 A.M., the National Hurricane Center (NHC) had released an update from its headquarters in Miami. Advisory Number 16 on the tropical storm named Katrina affirmed that with sustained winds of 115 mph, the disturbance had already become a Category 3 hurricane and, moreover, that "some strengthening is forecast during the next twenty-four hours."4 Katrina was still about 350 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. It had ripped through Florida as a Category 1 hurricane two days before, leaving approximately 500,000 people without power. About eighteen inches of rain had fallen. Driving winds had torn doors off houses, bent trailers like horseshoes, sent sloops surfing onto front lawns, and chewed up industrial parks, coughing out plywood and shards. There were seven reported storm-related deaths from falling trees and other mishaps. Despite the horror, Floridians were hardened to hurricanes. In 2004 alone they had been hit with four of them. The state recovered quickly from Katrina's blow, with the lightning-fast help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which trucked in water and ice, hospital supplies, and even microclips to properly tag dead bodies. But just because Florida had recovered quite quickly didn't mean that Katrina, still growing in fury, was through with the American coast. "It could be," meteorologist Christopher Sisko told the New York Times, "an extremely dangerous storm."5 According to Advisory 16, in fact, forecasters expected Katrina to turn west-northwest, toward the city of New Orleans, during the weekend.

That was enough for the Louisiana SPCA, which brooked no discussion and no debate: with the announcement that a major hurricane was on the way, the preset plan went into motion. The two trucks arrived at the Japonica Street shelter. "We reached out to them and offered our shelter for the New Orleans animals," Kathy Boulte of the Houston SPCA recalled. "They arrived in Houston and later we all watched on television while the storm grew into a Category 5."6 Laura Maloney had overseen the evacuation of her four dogs, all of the stray pets, and fifteen staff members. "If we had stayed at Japonica Street," Maloney recalled, "we'd have all been goners."7

Twenty miles to the west of New Orleans, near the town of Taft in St. Charles Parish, the Waterford 3 nuclear plant also heeded Saturday's warning. Relying on its own advance . . .

The Great Deluge
Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
. Copyright © by Douglas Brinkley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas G. Brinkley
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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