The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina -- The Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist

Overview

It was a natural disaster-but magnified enormously by government's crushing incompetence in both preparation and response. The storm leveled the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but man-made problems destroyed New Orleans. The catastrophic flooding there should never have happened. Properly designed and constructed levees would have protected the city. Instead, they collapsed. Never in American history has a natural disaster been magnified so disastrously by the systemic failure of our government to protect and serve the ...
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The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina--the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist

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Overview

It was a natural disaster-but magnified enormously by government's crushing incompetence in both preparation and response. The storm leveled the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but man-made problems destroyed New Orleans. The catastrophic flooding there should never have happened. Properly designed and constructed levees would have protected the city. Instead, they collapsed. Never in American history has a natural disaster been magnified so disastrously by the systemic failure of our government to protect and serve the people. The result is the national tragedy known forevermore as simply Katrina.

The question is, what do we do now?

The story begins innocently, with yet another little disturbance in the Caribbean, the next in a summer's growing storm count. But some scientists were already fearing the worst as tropical depression 12 strengthened into a hurricane, grew still more in the Gulf of Mexico, then took deadly aim at the most vulnerable coastal region in the United States: south Louisiana and the famed "city that care forgot," New Orleans.

Among those scientists was LSU disaster specialist and hurricane researcher Ivor van Heerden. For the last decade, he had used every available megaphone to warn of this catastrophe waiting to happen. On August 29, 2005, his worst fears became reality, and the natural disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi quickly evolved into national disgrace. Soon van Heerden became perhaps the most prominent independent voice in the national media pressing the administration, FEMA, the Corps of Engineers, everyone at all levels of government to act now.

The Storm is the ultimate inside story of the Katrina tragedy. In Louisiana, van Heerden is known as a scientist who tells it like it is. He knows why the levees failed to protect New Orleans. As a former coastal restoration chief for the state, he knows why the abused wetlands surrounding the city could not protect the levees. He knew how many people would be unwilling-or unable-to evacuate and how many homes were likely to be destroyed. And he has seen with his own eyes the politics responsible over the decades for the failure to plan for this completely predictable situation. He now unites this understanding with his firsthand, behind-the-scenes reporting, including the state's official investigation into the levee failures, which he led. Van Heerden witnessed the desperation of first responders who were unable to talk with one another-and the heroism of those same responders, tirelessly working the waters of a flooded New Orleans to save thousands of lives. This is their story. It is the story of the families that escaped the flooding in Louisiana and the devastating storm surge on the Mississippi coastline-and it is told in memory of those 1,300 Americans who did not.

If the past is indeed prologue, "America's wetlands" is in terminal trouble, but they don't have to be. Van Heerden lays out the necessary course of action for building the levees and the protective wetlands that will guarantee "Cat 5" flood protection for New Orleans and the surrounding communities. Success depends only on civic will and political leadership. Van Heerden doesn't like to see science pushed to the sidelines, but that is what happened in Louisiana for decades. He is the only one to connect the dots between the bureaucrats, the politicians, the Corps of Engineers, and the tragic chain of events that culminated in the catastrophe that crippled, perhaps forever, a great American city.

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Editorial Reviews

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When Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coastline in the summer of 2005, Ivor Van Heerden already knew exactly what chaos and devastation it would bring. Countless times he and his specialist colleagues at Louisiana State University had generated computer models of how such a major storm would pulverize the region around New Orleans. In this book, he explains how such a predictable catastrophe became an unthinkable reality.
New Orleans Times-Picayune
[An] important book.... [Van Heerden is] a man with a story to get out who is gradually finding a way to do it.... And he does it simply, commonsensically, with illustrations to clarify his points.
New York Times
Disturbing
Chicago Tribune
Persuasive
Publishers Weekly
This serious, scientific explanation of what exactly happened in the hours and years leading up to Hurricane Katrina s devestation of New Orleans brings a fresh perspective to a tragedy that has generated remarkably similar news accounts over the past eight months. Van Heerden, Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, gives a passionate, rigorous account of what went wrong in New Orleans that, if admittedly non-objective, is a noble and credible call for truth and accountability Long recognized by FEMA as one of the three most likely and dangerous disasters threatening the country, the possibility of a hurricane like Katrina was ignored by corrupt politicians and discounted by residents tired of past evacuations (George, Floyd, Ivan, and Rita) that in hindsight seemed unnecessary. Technical details threaten at times to overwhelm readers interested in the human story of the storm, but van Heerden manages to navigate the narrow path that fuses scientific data with a gripping narrative worthy of a Tom Clancy thriller. Informative and emotional, Van Heerden s book sheds new light on one of the most destructive and important natural disasters to hit the U.S. in modern history, and is a must-read for anyone truly interested in the facts behind Hurricane Katrina. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670037810
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/18/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Ivor van Heerden was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is cofounder and deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center and director of the Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes. He is also associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at LSU. He holds a Ph.D. in marine sciences from LSU, where his research focused on the Atchafalaya River Delta; his ongoing research areas include disaster preparation and response, coastal geomorphology, environmental management, and habitat restoration.

Mike Bryan has written or collaborated on many books, including Cal Ripken's bestselling autobiography, The Only Way I Know, Uneasy Rider, and The Afterword, a novel.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : disaster, tragedy, failure - and hope 1
1 Storm clouds 13
2 Leave, please! 33
3 Laughed out of the room 55
4 Levees lite 73
5 The second-worst-case scenario 99
6 Into the breach 109
7 Is anyone in charge here? 137
8 Wetlands forever 153
9 The score on the corps 187
10 The investigation 211
11 Now or never 250
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