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The Great Deluge

The Great Deluge

Written by Douglas Brinkley

Narrated by Kyf Brewer


The Great Deluge

Written by Douglas Brinkley

Narrated by Kyf Brewer

ratings:
4/5 (19 ratings)
Length:
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 13, 2006
ISBN:
9780061209345
Format:
Audiobook

Description

In the span of five violent hours on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed major Gulf Coast cities and flattened 150 miles of coastline. Yet those wind-torn hours represented only the first stage of the relentless triple tragedy that Katrina brought to the entire Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama.

First was the hurricane, one of the three strongest ever to make landfall in the United States -- 150 mile per hour winds, with gusts measuring more than 180 miles per hour ripping buildings to pieces. Second, the storm-surge flooding, which submerged a half million homes, creating the largest refugee crisis since the Civil War. Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water, and whole towns in southeastern Louisiana ceased to exist. And third, the human tragedy of government mismanagement, which proved as cruel as the natural disaster itself.

In The Great Deluge, bestselling author Douglas Brinkley, a New Orleans resident and professor of history at Tulane University, rips the story of Katrina apart and relates what the category 3 hurricane was like from every point of view, while recognizing the true heroes.

Throughout the book, Brinkley lets the Katrina survivors tell their own stories, masterfully allowing them to record the nightmare that was Katrina. The Great Deluge investigates the failure of government at each level and breaks important new stories. Packed with interviews and original research, it traces the character flaws, inexperience, and ulterior motives that allowed the Katrina disaster to turn the Gulf Coast into a scene from a war movie or a third-world documentary.

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 13, 2006
ISBN:
9780061209345
Format:
Audiobook


About the author

Douglas Brinkley is the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University, a CNN Presidential Historian, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.  In the world of public history, he serves on boards, at museums, at colleges, and for historical societies. The Chicago Tribune dubbed him “America’s New Past Master.” The New-York Historical Society has chosen Brinkley as its official U.S. Presidential Historian. His recent book Cronkite won the Sperber Prize, while The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He was awarded a Grammy for Presidential Suite and is the recipient of seven honorary doctorates in American studies. His two-volume, annotated Nixon Tapes recently won the Arthur S. Link–Warren F. Kuehl Prize. He is a member of the Century Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children.  www.douglasbrinkley.com

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What people think about The Great Deluge

4.2
19 ratings / 13 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    This is a realistic, nonpartisan description of a disaster. Much of the disaster could have been mitigated, and a better plan for providing relief. Brinkley has done an excellent job laying the foundation for this epic mess and the total government ineptitude short and long term reponses.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    I am not a fan of Douglas Brinkley for some probably petty reasons but I did enjoy this book. I've wanted to read it for years so was glad to finally have a chance.
  • (4/5)
    I wouldn't call it delicious irony, but it's pretty ironic that we're bracing for a hurricane to hit the East Coast and I've just finished Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge, a recounting of the horrors following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (today being just a few days shy of the six year anniversary of the event). Visiting New Orleans just this past month prompted my interest in the subject, where swaths of still-unoccupied or still-damaged row houses dominate the landscape in sections of the Treme, Marigny, and other neighborhoods.Covering a week-long period that involves days before and after the Hurricane's landfall, Brinkley documents the ineptitude of government officials and inability of government institutions to take charge that led to the "federally-induced disaster" as locals have taken to describing it. The void of responsibility was filled by the man-on-the-street who took it upon themselves to help out those in need, with a myriad of examples provided by Brinkley. Told in a style that deftly balances finger-pointing with a recounting of compassionate deeds, Brinkley has written an immensely important contribution to the literature of natural and government-induced disasters.
  • (5/5)
    This is a compelling and seemingly even-handed retelling of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting aftermath and response. The stories of individuals are used to illuminate and emphasize points that the author makes about the horror of the situation and the plight caused by not only the storm but also the failure of the levees and the inability of all levels of the government to react quickly and decisively. There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to government ineptitude and the author assigns it where it is due. However, he also points out some of the successes that weren't originally brought to light in the initial media coverage. This book will make you angry all over again about the way that this unprecedented natural and man-made disaster was handled but it also allows you to celebrate the way that individuals stepped up to help out their fellow man. This book should be required reading for anyone who is working in the government and disaster relief agencies so that mistakes that we made with the Hurricane Katrina response will never be made again.
  • (4/5)
    Could not put it down. An accurate record of a shameful time in US history.
  • (5/5)
    This is an outstanding book documenting what happened in New Orleans and surrounds after Hurrican Katrina. The author, Douglas Brinkley is a historian at Tulane.
  • (4/5)
    Aside from political or military histories, the bulk of my non-fiction reading is about topics that were – for one reason or another – neglected in the course of my formal education. Reading a thick tome on Katrina only a few years after we all witnessed it (either personally or via live media) seemed like an excellent opportunity to gain some insight into the accuracy (or lack thereof) of contemporaneous accounts of a major historical event. The result? Kind of mixed bag.The anecdotal stories of suffering, bravery, loss, neglect and foolishness are interesting and important. They add color and emotion to the enormity of the disaster; they personalize the story of Katrina without becoming maudlin or sentimental. On the other hand, they tend to tell us little more than we already know (or suspect) about the anguish that attends all disasters. Furthermore, most of us watched these horrors unfold on our televisions and therefore are not surprised to learn that they did, in fact, happen.The most enlightening aspects of The Great Deluge focus on the specifics of infrastructure, government personnel, the political environment, and the chains of causation within the human community (as opposed to the weather) that exacerbated the after-effects of the storm. Even so, the abovementioned anecdotes of personal loss tend to push these more germane aspects too far into the margins of the story. Personally, I could have benefited from a more thorough explanation of the missions, goals and operating procedures of the different governmental agencies - so that I would have a clearer picture of where such agencies failed or succeeded, and why. (This kind of detail was laid out nicely with respect to the canal system, the levees, and the reasons for their failures.) The focus on individual personalities, while fascinating and appropriately infuriating, tended, again, to obscure the larger issues of bureaucratic failure.Otherwise, it's a well written and engaging book that maintains its credibility throughout; never did I feel that the author was venting personal grudges or animosities - or engaging in overwrought emotionalism at the expense of historical accuracy. It moves quickly and refrains (somewhat self-consciously at times) from getting mired for too long in pedantic detail.
  • (5/5)
    It's interesting that most of the ratings on this book were high, yet two of the comments shown below were so negative. I am reading it now, and can hardly believe I am reading the book they describe. I think Brinkley did a wonderful job of putting a catastrophe into chronological order, communicating what it was like to be there from scores of viewpoints, and making some value judgments about what happened. I happily gave it five stars. I hope that lessons for the future will be taken from this book, and other studies of the disaster that was Katrina.
  • (2/5)
    An invaluable collection of oral histories; a deeply flawed history
  • (3/5)
    Interesting to read, but he (or his editor) made many grammatical errors. I had questions about his sources and thought that he needed to "triangulate" his research a bit more. Feels like he wrote the book too quickly -- and didn't take the time to verify, verify, verify.