Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina (Natural Disaster, New Orleans Flood, Government Corruption)

Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina (Natural Disaster, New Orleans Flood, Government Corruption)

by Sandy Rosenthal
Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina (Natural Disaster, New Orleans Flood, Government Corruption)

Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina (Natural Disaster, New Orleans Flood, Government Corruption)

by Sandy Rosenthal


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The New Orleans Flood, U.S. Corruption, and Disasters

"Rosenthal employs the surgical precision of an investigative journalist and the craft of a memoirist to expose the flaws, natural and human, behind the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina." —The Eric Hoffer Award Program

2020 Nautilus Silver Winner
#1 New Release in Civil Engineering & Environmental, Urban & City Planning, Development, and Disaster Relief

In the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in U.S. history, Words Whispered in Water tells the story of one woman’s fight—against all odds—to expose a mammoth federal agency—and win.

It’s a horror story, a mystery, and David and Goliath story all in one. In 2005, the entire world watched as a major U.S. city was nearly wiped off the map. The levees ruptured and New Orleans drowned. But while newscasters attributed the New Orleans flood to “natural catastrophes” and other types of disasters, citizen investigator Sandy Rosenthal set out to expose the true culprit and compel the media and government to tell the truth. This is her story.

When the protective steel flood-walls broke, the Army Corps of Engineers—with cooperation from big media—turned the blame on natural types of disasters. In the chaotic aftermath, Rosenthal uncovers the U.S. corruption, and big media at root. Follow this New Orleans hero as she exposes the federal agency’s egregious design errors and eventually changes the narrative surrounding the New Orleans flood. In this engaging and revealing tale of man versus nature and man versus man, Words Whispered in Water proves that the power of a single individual is alive and well.

If you enjoyed books like The Johnstown Flood, Breach of Faith, or The Great Deluge, then Words Whispered in Water is your next read!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781642503272
Publisher: Mango Media
Publication date: 08/10/2020
Pages: 346
Sales rank: 1,034,696
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sandy Rosenthal is an American civic activist and founder of Levees.Org, an organization dedicated to educating the American public about levee failures and flooding in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, Rosenthal was awarded Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year from Tulane Universityfor her efforts. She is a founding member of the mentoring program Laurel Eagles. When she’s not advocating for safe levees, she’s practicing with her Mardi Gras parading group, the Divine Revelers of Terpsichore.

She currently lives in New Orleans with her two dogs, Twinkie and Cupcake.

Read an Excerpt

From Words Whispered in Water

Just before the eye passed east of New Orleans, hurricane surge entered the 17th Street Canal, the largest drainage canal in the city. Floodwalls groaned against the surge’s weight despite supporting steel pilings anchored into thick, earthen levees. The mighty 17th Street Canal could move nearly 10,000 cubic feet of water per second, enough to drain an Olympic-size swimming pool every nine seconds.

But, on this particular Monday morning (August 29, 2005), something was wrong. A section of the floodwall atop the levee had begun to tilt. The steel pilings were too short, and water was flowing into the exposed open gap. Then, the entire section of the floodwall and the levee slid sideways, unleashing a furious blast of briny water into the nearby neighborhood of homeowners.

Eighteen years earlier, the US Army Corps of Engineers had decided that driving steel pilings deeper than 16 feet was a waste of money. Originally, the design for the canal’s proposed new floodwalls had called for expensive steel pilings driven 46 feet into the ground. But the agency was behind schedule, and costs were rising. In response, the Army Corps conducted a large-scale test study to find ways to save money on steel.

Tragically, they missed a warning sign.

During the test study, when the steel pilings were subjected to a test water surge, they had tilted. No one noticed the menacing tilt because the pilings were underneath a tarp. As a result, the engineers determined that they needed to drive down the steel pilings only 16 feet instead of 46. The Army Corps used this alternate engineering rule for new floodwalls on the 17th Street Canal and several other canals across the city. The new rule saved the Army Corps a total of $100 million.

In 2000, the new floodwalls were installed. But they were destined to fail.
When they collapsed five years later — at a fraction of the water pressure they were designed to contain—hundreds died instantly and thousands more died within months. New Orleans was devastated to the tune of well over $27 billion because floodwalls were not correctly designed and built by the Army Corps.

At 7:08 p.m., EST the day after the floodwalls broke (August 30, 2005), the Army Corps went into full-time, damage-control mode. Its spokespersons told big media outlets that the hurricane storm surge was just too great. Water had flowed over the 17th Street Canal’s floodwall and caused it to collapse. Their story line over the course of the next two years would be that nature caused the destruction of New Orleans, and New Orleanians themselves were responsible for their loss and suffering due to their own stupidity (they live below sea level) and sloth (the local levee officials were lazy). The Army Corps’ primary mission had become rewriting history and duping the American people.

They almost got away with it.

Table of Contents

Major Levee Studies 15

Prologue 17

1 Goodbye, New Orleans 19

2 The Flood 37

3 The Fairy Tale 69

4 The Face of the Monster 83

5 The Force to Be Reckoned With 115

6 Figuring Out the Allies 163

7 Foiling the Ruse 205

8 Facing Off with the Army Corps 231

9 Bayoneting the Wounded 265

10 A Major Coup 269

Epilogue 303

List of Acronyms 304

Acknowledgements 306

About the Author 307

Endnotes 308

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“For years, Sandy Rosenthal has been the go-to source for any reporter seeking to understand the truth about flood protection in New Orleans: what really happened to the levees following Hurricane Katrina and the steps taken (and those that still need to happen) to protect the area and its residents. Read the inside story for yourself in this readable, engaging tale of how Rosenthal began investigating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shortly after Katrina and her efforts to hold accountable the Corps and other public officials.”

—Gary Rivlin, author of Katrina: After the Flood

“Everyone alive at the time remembers the live-on-TV horror of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly drowning of a great city, New Orleans. The ‘who, what, and why’ of the catastrophe was thereafter carefully PR managed to protect the interests of the powerful, especially the notorious Army Corps of Engineers, shifting the blame to Nature and the city itself. It took a tireless, driven citizen movement to set the record right, confronting the failures of scientists and journalists as well as the devious smears, attacks and propaganda of the powerful. Sandy Rosenthal led their fight and tells the story here. The truth of Hurricane Katrina has been terribly incomplete but is now unspun and revealed in this heroic book, Words Whispered in Water.”

—John Stauber, author of Toxic Sludge is Good for You!

“Sandy Rosenthal’s account of the founding of levees.org after the flood of New Orleans is an invaluable memoir of the making of an activist. In a world crying out for citizen action around increasingly desperate climate issues, her story is timely and instructive—and even hopeful.”
—Michael Tisserand, author of the award-winning The Kingdom of Zydeco

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