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The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley

The Great Deluge (edition 2006)

by Douglas Brinkley

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6001716,314 (4.07)67
Title:The Great Deluge
Authors:Douglas Brinkley
Info:HarperCollins Publishing (2006), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Non-fiction, New Orleans, Katrina, Hurricane Katrina, Douglas Brinkley, History, Historical Accounts, Louisiana History, Hurricanes, Natural Disasters, Rising Tide, High School, Non-Fiction, Ages 16+

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The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley


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Good overall perspective, but there are quite a few factual errors in the book. My guess is that Brinkley rushed to get it into print as soon as possible. ( )
  VashonJim | Sep 6, 2015 |
Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating storms in American history. Narrowly missing being a Category 5 hurricane and just skirting New Orleans to the east Katrina brought utter destruction to the Gulf Coast. The brunt of the storm's force hit the Mississippi coast where the physical effects of winds and storm surge wiped out coastal communities. The delta parishes of Southeast Louisiana were flooded. The relatively recent loss of wetlands and marshes created significantly more damage since the sponge-like absorption characteristics of the wetlands were not present to mitigate the high water.

Brinkley's account traces several themes. The city of New Orleans, despite being so patently vulnerable to hurricanes, was shockingly unprepared. No thorough plans were in place and the city administration's response strategy was mostly to ask (later, too late, to mandate) people to evacuate. Officials seemed unaware that hundreds of thousands of residents had no means with which to flee. Obvious steps to preposition resources -- food,water, rescue capability, especially transportation -- were completely absent. Most of the devastation to New Orleans was not from the storm itself but from the failure of levees along the city's major canals. The canals and their adjacent pumping stations were intended to pump away water from overflowing Lake Pontchartrain but once breached the flooding could not be restrained. New Orleans is described as a bowl floating in another full of water. As the rim of the bowl began to overflow there was nothing to stop it from filling. Brinkley says that failure to properly engineer the levees and to maintain them caused this flooding.

Brinkley points to the incompetence of many authorities and the heroism and effectiveness of a few. Mayor Ray Nagin is depicted as utterly unable to provide any degree of leadership, not even showing symbolic empathy for those impacted. Governor Blanco was overwhelmed but she got lukewarm response from the Bush administration in bringing federal resources to bear. Homeland Security secretary Chartoff did not seem to appreciate how horrific the event was and did not direct the response with the urgency that was required. President Bush likewise seemed lethargic in his leadership. Most criticism is directed toward FEMA under director Michael Brown which never got its act together to deliver on the most basic disaster response priorities. Likewise, the New Orleans Police Department was useless and often seemed hostile to the city's residents who were suffering. The descriptions of widespread looting following the storm are ugly.

Most praise is focused on the Coast Guard who heroically and without cease rescued thousands of New Orleanians trapped in their homes. Similarly, ad hoc groups of citizens carried out rescues using resources they brought to the scene or improvised on the spot.

Two principal areas of refuge are described in disturbing detail. The Superdome was sought out by tens of thousands of people to escape the high waters. Even before this event the authorities knew that it was incapable of supporting even the basic needs of people: water, sanitation and food. The air conditioning failed as the power went out and the conditions were abysmal. Even worse was the convention center where desperate people broke in to escape. Brinkley details the abhorrent situations that people were faced to endure for days. Efforts to provide transportation out of these sites stymied local, state and national authorities for days. That many people died due to lack of intervention is made clear.

Quite a lot of this history is told through the personal experiences of victims, responders, media persons and officials. One gets a very graphic picture of how awful this storm was to those who lived through it and how disorganized and incompetent was the response of entities charged with helping them. Brinkley hints that one factor in the slow response was that the majority of those affected were African-Americans who, somehow, were responsible for their plight since they didn't evacuate.

Like other works by Brinkley this book is overly long; the same points are made over and over. Nonetheless, one gets a vivid understanding of the suffering wrought by Katrina and the utterly inadequate response by most of the government jurisdictions responsible for alleviating that suffering.

My daughter and I visited New Orleans in the fall of 2014. We camped in St. Bernard Parish to the east of the city. I expected to see a lot more visible evidence of the storm even though it was nine years after. Perhaps the clean-up efforts were effective or maybe the damage just isn't visible to outside view.

Two other books on Katrina worth reading are "Five Days at Memorial" telling the disturbing story of the staff and patients stranded at that hospital, and "Zeitoun" that tells one man's story of his personal response to the storm and the injustice of the legal system that falsely accused him of looting. ( )
  stevesmits | Jun 13, 2015 |
Natural Disasters
  Lemeritus | Mar 30, 2013 |
Brinkley is a respected historian and he lives in New Orleans - two important elements that give his book credibility. Very readable book due to his writing style and to his approach of focusing on very human stories. I've traveled to New Orleans very frequently, both before and after the storm. I've heard many Katrina stories, although New Orleanians have long since moved on - especially now that Nagin is gone. They're great people down there. With all the stories i've heard, I never knew or understood the depths of suffering they experienced until I read Brinkley's book. ( )
1 vote cmaese | Feb 2, 2013 |
A heavy one to embark on, but it is well-written and exposes/highlights many truths of the day leading up to and the weeks following the biggest natural disaster in American history, Hurricane Katrina. Well documented, researched, and organized, Brinkley answers many questions people may about the Katrina and response from the city, state, and national response. This is the 2006 version; however, I know an updated 2009 version came out which may have some updated evidence, follow-up interviews, or additional information in the following years. I would keep this on my shelves for students inquiring about the events of K or for those who are working on a research project. ( )
  apandrow | Nov 14, 2012 |
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"Things are going to slide in all directions;
Won't be nothing;
Nothing you can measure anymore."
-Leonard Cohen, "The Future"
1. a. A great flood. b. A heavy downpour.
2. Something that overwhelms as if by a great flood
-American Heritage Dictionary
For the U.S. Coast Guard first responders, whose bravery was unparalleled, and Houston, Texas, whose efficient openheartedness was breathtaking
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061124230, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An account of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it left in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast documents the events and repercussions of the tragedy and its aftermath and the ongoing crisis confronting the region.

(summary from another edition)

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