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City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina [Hardcover]

Jenni Bergal , Sara Shipley Hiles , Frank Koughan

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Book Description

June 1 2007
Foreword by Dan Rather

Hurricane Katrina was a stunning example of complete civic breakdown. Beginning on August 29, 2005, the world watched in horror as--despite all the warnings and studies--every system that might have protected New Orleans failed. Levees and canals buckled, pouring more than 100 billion gallons of floodwater into the city. Botched communications crippled rescue operations. Buses that might have evacuated thousands never came. Hospitals lost power, and patients lay suffering in darkness and stifling heat. At least 1,400 Louisianans died in Hurricane Katrina, more than half of them from New Orleans, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced, many still wondering if they will ever be able to return. How could all of this have happened in twenty-first-century America? And could it all happen again?

To answer these questions, the Center for Public Integrity commissioned seven seasoned journalists to travel to New Orleans and investigate the storm's aftermath. In City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina, they present their findings. The stellar roster of contributors includes Pulitzer Prize-winner John McQuaid, whose earlier work predicted the failure of the levees and the impending disaster; longtime Boston Globe newsman Curtis Wilkie, a French Quarter resident for nearly fifteen years; and Katy Reckdahl, an award-winning freelance journalist who gave birth to her son in a New Orleans hospital the day before Katrina hit.

They and the rest of the investigative team interviewed homeowners and health officials, first responders and politicians, and evacuees and other ordinary citizens to explore the storm from numerous angles, including health care, social services, housing and insurance, and emergency preparedness. They also identify the political, social, geographical, and technological factors that compounded the tragedy.

Comprehensive and balanced, City Adrift provides not only an assessment of what went wrong in the Big Easy during and following Hurricane Katrina, but also, more importantly, a road map of what must be done to ensure that such a devastating tragedy is never repeated.

184 pages, 29 Halftones, 6 x 9

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This objective investigation conducted by seven outstanding journalists is an overwhelming indictment of the failure on the part of government and nongovernment agencies to respond to both the threat and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sara Shipley Hiles, a journalist on environmental issues, explores the natural and man-made environmental factors that contributed to the catastrophe; she further explains the negative impact of the Bush administration's downsizing, in 2004, of a Louisiana coastal restoration plan. Jim Morris details how an eviscerated Federal Emergency Management Agency, despite adequate warning, tragically failed to evacuate the population. Another piece by Curtis Wilkie details the heritage of corrupt state and local politics that led to a civic breakdown and an immobilized judicial system. According to this very disheartening examination, New Orleans, despite federal promises, is now less able to withstand a hurricane than it was in 2005. Graphic black-and-white photos throughout are a haunting reminder of the television images of a helpless and dying American city that horrified the country in 2005. This excellent exposé of corruption and incompetence, conducted under the auspices of the Center for Public Integrity (a nonpartisan organization that sponsors investigative journalism) should lead to calls for future accountability.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything Went Wrong Sept. 1 2007
By doomsdayer520 - Published on
Many books about the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe are starting to appear, with many different views of who is to blame for the despicable government response to the disaster. This short book from the Center for Public Integrity consists of a series of in-depth investigative reports conforming to the organization's philosophies of nonpartisanship and government transparency. Therefore, some readers may be disappointed by this book's lack of muckraking or calls for accountability from certain politicians. But on the other hand, this series of reports does benefit greatly from its wide-ranging focus and its spirit of investigating the systematic failures that caused *everything* to go wrong in New Orleans. There is certainly coverage of the various levels of ineptitude within the federal government, though the reader is also rewarded with highly illuminating looks at the failures within state and local government, the health care establishment, the insurance industry, charitable organizations, and the regional housing market. We also learn about the unique and longstanding cultural and political trends in New Orleans that made the city likely to collapse in the face of disaster and which are unlikely to improve the lives of victims in the foreseeable future. This book shows that there is plenty of blame to go around for the Katrina catastrophe, and that official denials and buck-passing are likely to continue amongst many different levels and branches of government. Track down this volume for in-depth investigations in which the facts speak for themselves - disturbingly. [~doomsdayer520~]
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why it happened and will happen again Jan. 1 2008
By K. J. Nuzum - Published on
"Everything that happened in Katrina was preventable, and everything that happened was predictable." This sobering assessment from a former FEMA employee could be the theme of this compilation of journalist investigative reports into the myriad failings of local, state, and federal governments as well as social services, insurance companies, and health care.
An excellent unbiased assessment of what went wrong and a sad prediction that little will change in the institutions and people that would prevent a reoccurrence of such a calamity.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 12 2014
By jeff murray - Published on
5.0 out of 5 stars great book ! Jan. 6 2014
By Mustafa - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love the book and the details.I feel as If I am actually there while everything took place!! Very detailed! excellent!
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and concise look at Katrina and its aftermath Nov. 5 2012
By Luke Killion - Published on
"City Adrift" is a compilation work done by several authors about the 2005 flood in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina. This book is a bit on the short side at 125 pages (including a few numbered picture sections), but is a very informative take on the cause and effect that left a large American city in ruins. Even though this book utilizes a different author for each chapter (8 in all), the flow is totally uninterrupted; it reads like a single writer created this project. Published in 2007, this was one of the first works released after the storm. Many issues within the city of New Orleans are still unresolved, so the material might not include some of the biggest societal changes caused by Katrina. The city is in a massive period of flux; nothing seems totally certain, making the title of this book resonate on multiple levels.

With such a controversial event, it was inevitably politicized. Many New Orleans residents became furious at the lack of emergency preparedness and poor response by FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency. "City Adrift" definitely comes down on the side of the victims, many of whom are black and impoverished. The result of Katrina exposed unpleasant realities about the class structure of our society and in particular the decay of a major urban center. The writing here says as much about New Orleans as a city as it does the costliest natural disaster in recent history. Many of the issues which plague the city are relevant to other areas of population density also vulnerable to disaster, both manmade and natural. Hurricane Sandy unearthed many of the problems that came to the forefront with Katrina, among them the debate over global warming and who will foot the bill for the thousands of victims losing land and family.

One of the major factors in both these storms is its preventability. In the age in which we live, security is no longer a response to destruction but rather a prevention of it entirely. This can be tricky, and it involves the concept of "big government" accountability. People desire security for their private property, but this often necessitates higher taxes and strong Federal Agencies. FEMA was supposedly a much stronger entity in the 1990's, compared to its later version after folding into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. The first topic this book delves into is the prediction of a storm like Katrina and the devastating effect it would have on New Orleans. Many experts saw it coming but were powerless to stop it due to erosion of coastal wetlands, from natural causes and construction, as well as a levee system which was inadequate and poorly maintained by city and Federal bodies. The breach of these walls cost the city billions in damage and 1400 lives.

There is a lot of interest for students engineering and environmental planning, but the human aspect gives the strongest and most lasting impression. There are numerous first person testimonials, some from average citizens of New Orleans, as well as health care professionals and Federal employees. The section on Louisiana politics was my favorite; the unique nature of the state and its French ancestry made for a special culture, the birthplace of jazz and hotbed of corruption. This is very relevant considering the lack of coordination between local, state and federal branches which produced a massive and fatal failure. The future of the city is also in doubt. The housing authority and FEMA contractors have slated many victims' properties to be demolished at a total loss without insurance coverage even to policy holders. The victims' plight is bravely portrayed in HBO's series "Treme", dramatizing local musicians, cops and lawyers who attempt to rebuild their lives in the years right after Katrina.

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