While New Orleans and surrounding areas have a history of devastating hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 ranks as one of the worse. This is because what started as a natural disaster was multiplied exponentially by man-made mistakes.
In October of 2007, my daughter Yael K. Miller and I had a private tour of the remaining remnants of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, a residential area washed away by man-made mistakes that took the lives of people who had been abandoned by local authorities.
At the time Yael was researching what would become her Middle Grade novel JACK STORM AND NEW ORLEANS HOODOO — the first in the proposed HURRICANE HOODOO series.
Many current media accounts are looking back at Hurricane Katrina at this 10-year milestone. One such look back is Malcolm Gladwell’s essay “Starting Over: Many Katrina victims left New Orleans for good. What can we learn from them?” in the August 24, 2015, New Yorker.
Here’s Gladwell’s description of the flooding:
Katrina blew in from the Gulf, bringing a storm surge across Lake Pontchartrain. Water squeezed through the city’s navigation canals like a fire hose through a funnel, breaching the levees and flood walls that had been built to protect the city’s low-lying neighborhoods. Pontchartrain Park and New Orleans East, where so many African-Americans had settled since the nineteen-sixties, were flooded. So were Treme and Central City. [Tulane professor Richard] Campanella pointed to two spots along the Industrial Canal, which bisects the Ninth Ward.
“The deepest floodwaters, the highest-velocity floodwaters, coming in from a two-hundred-foot-long breach right over here, and a nine-hundred-foot-long breach over here,” he said, pointing to a flood wall that ran along the canal. “So the surge came in this way, from these man-made navigation canals as well as from the lake. It’s piling up. It’s putting pressure on these walls, and overtopping the levee and pouring in. In the canal, the water was fourteen feet above where it normally is. This land right here is four feet below sea level. So you have eighteen feet of head suddenly released.”
And here is Yael’s fictional ghost Captain Bonnard in the prologue of JACK STORM AND NEW ORLEANS HOODOO describing the beginning of the flooding:
At 6:50 am water had spilled over the top of the Industrial Canal, sending water into neighborhoods including the Lower Ninth Ward, which Captain Bonnard looked down into from where he stood.
Many people in the Lowest Ninth Ward had not left the city. First, because they thought this hurricane would be like earlier ones —an excuse to have a party. Then, when the mayor of New Orleans issued a mandatory evacuation order the day before, many people in the Lower Ninth Ward didn’t have any transportation to leave the city.
And that is the saddest note of all — “many people in the Lower Ninth Ward didn’t have any transportation to leave the city.” Then when the sudden surge inundated their homes, for many there was no way out.
Photo by Jocelyn Augustino of FEMA
© 2015 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE and the romantic suspense spy thriller CIA FALL GUY, as well as books not yet published. She can be reached at email@example.com
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