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What We Learned — And What We Didn't — From Hurricane Katrina

Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina cover a portion of New Orleans Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)
Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina cover a portion of New Orleans Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

It’s been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated our country. And while many of us remember the storm as an acute moment in history, a new book is making a case that the lead-up to Katrina made its impacts inevitable. We talk about the structural issues that affected our recovery from Katrina, and what more needs to be done.


Andy Horowitz, assistant professor of history at Tulane University, specializing in modern American urban, environmental and Southern history. Author of “ Katrina: A History, 1915-2015.” ( @andydhorowitz)

Sarah M. Broom, writer. Author of “ The Yellow House.” ( @sarahmbroom)

Jarvis DeBerry,editor of the Louisiana Illuminator. Member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for The Times-Picayune’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina. ( @jarvisdeberry)

From The Reading List

Excerpt from “Katrina: A History, 1915-2015,” by Andy Horowitz

Copyright © 2020 Andy Horowitz. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.

TIME: “ Hurricane Katrina Showed Us How Spectacularly the Government Can Fail Its People. Fifteen Years Later, the Pattern Continues” — “Angela Perkins made it to the convention center in New Orleans. When she finally reached what was supposedly a shelter of last resort, nobody was there to offer help. She dropped to her knees, closed her eyes and cried, ‘Help us, please!'”

The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune: Katrina’s 15th anniversary brings a pair of books that look back through different lenses” — “When Lt. General Carl Strock, chief engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, accepted responsibility on behalf of the Corps in 2006 for the levee failures that caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it came as no surprise to many who suspected the disaster was man-made.”

The Advocate:50 years ago, Hurricane Betsy offered a foretaste of Katrina’s destruction” — “The narrative seems eerily familiar today. People had settled into their houses for the night, bracing for a powerful hurricane to blow through New Orleans. Then the floodwaters came. Lower 9th Ward resident Elizabeth Cousins Rogers stepped out of bed into knee-deep water on that night in 1965. While she and her husband scrambled to get dressed, the situation worsened rapidly, she wrote later: ‘The water became waist-deep. The bed floated. Chest of drawers quietly slumped forward; the drawers floated out. An empty garbage can from the kitchen floated by.'”

The Daily Beast: The Tragedy of Hurricane Katrina Began More Than 100 Years Ago” — “Upon moving to New Orleans after a lifetime spent in the frigid Northeast, one of the first things I noticed, amid the warmth and color and music, is that New Orleanians are talkers. This can be a surprise for a newcomer: The first time a stranger started amiably chatting with me at a bar, I assumed they were trying to sell me something. Another thing I quickly found out is that every local has a Hurricane Katrina story and they aren’t shy about sharing them.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.