Aired in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this National Geograph program does an exceptional job of detailing the disaster, both natural and man-made, that overcame the city of New Orleans. Unfortunately, it also does an extremely poor job of describing the disaster that struck south Mississippi.
In terms of natural disaster, New Orleans was actually on the weaker western side of the storm. It took a glancing rather than a direct blow from Hurricane Katrina, a fact that is never really noted by this documentary. If New Orleans "dodged the bullet" in terms of natural disaster, however, it was not so fortunate in terms of man-made disaster. The levee system, long neglected by state and federal officals, failed under the weight of water the storm piled against it. Situated below sea level, New Orleans began to fill water like a great bowl.
INSIDE HURRICANE KATRINA does an excellent job of presenting the details of both the levee failure and the chaotic local, state, and federal response, a response that effectively made a very bad situation incredibly worse. Communications failures, sloppy planning, and arrogant attitudes probably cost more lives in New Orleans than the hurricane itself; the portrait is disturbing, to say the least, and you are left with a great desire to give everyone from mayor to president a good swift kick in the pants.
As previously noted, however, INSIDE KATRINA largely fails in its consideration of the Mississippi gulf coast, which was in the northeast and strongest quadrant of the storm. Hurricane Katrina would unleash a storm surge of thirty feet that caused more than 90 percent of all shorefront structures, no matter how well built, to fail; large tracts of metropolitan districts flooded while relentless winds and hurricane-spawned tornados devastated inland areas, and hurricane force winds were felt as far inland as the state capital of Jackson.
Just as New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana endured a largely incompetent first-response from state and federal teams, so too did Mississippi, where FEMA authorities feared rioting due to their own poor planning in everything from food supplies to emergency housing (and indeed there was some rioting in inland cities, where citizens were largely unprepared for Katrina's far-reaching impact); to Mississippi's credit, however, these failures were not further complicated by the political bickering that tended to characterize events in Louisiana.
If Mississippi receives little attention from this documentary, Alabama receives still less--even though Mobile, one of the gulf's major port cities, experienced some of the worst flooding in its history. Simply put, Hurricane Katrina was too large in scope for a documentary running slightly less than two hours. The south Mississippi television station WLOX has created a similar documentary that focuses on the Mississippi coast. Titled KATRINA: SOUTH MISSISSIPPI'S STORY, the DVD includes a two-hour documentary as well as four hours of extended footage; at present, however, it is available only through WLOX itself. Those interested in hurricanes in general or Hurricane Katrina in particular would do well to seek it out as a companion to this National Geographic production.
Gary Taylor, Amazon Reviewer
And Resident of Biloxi, Mississippi
In Memory of James and Shamsi Hyre, killed in Hurricane Katrina
29 August 2005