Bestselling historian Douglas Brinkley, a professor at Tulane University, lived through the destruction of Hurricane Katrina with his fellow New Orleans residents, and now in The Great Deluge he has written one of the first complete accounts of that harrowing week, which sorts out the bewildering events of the storm and its aftermath, telling the stories of unsung heroes and incompetent officials alike. Get a sample of his story--and clarify your own memories--by looking through the detailed timeline he has put together of the preparation, the hurricane, and the response to one of the worst disasters in American history.
"I have no doubt that New Orleans will recover, in time, from Hurricane Katrina. But America as a nation will never get over what happened." --Douglas Brinkley
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 was 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 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 southeastern Louisiana ceased to exist.
And third, the human tragedy of government mismanagement, 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, tended to details but 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, who oversaw the quick-thinking, lifesaving rescue efforts during the crucial first days of the crisis. And Tony Zumbado, the hurricane jock, who, in his role as an NBC videographer, first broke the stories of the anarchy at the convention center and the deaths at Memorial Hospital.
Throughout the book, Brinkley lets the Katrina survivors tell their own stories, masterfully allowing them to record the nightmare that was Katrina. The Great Deluge investigates the failure of government at each 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 turn the Gulf Coast into a scene from a war movie or a third-world documentary.