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The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina--the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist Hardcover – May 18, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This serious, scientific explanation of what exactly happened in the hours-and years-leading up to Hurricane Katrina's devestation of New Orleans brings a fresh perspective to a tragedy that has generated remarkably similar news accounts over the past eight months. Van Heerden, Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, gives a passionate, rigorous account of what went wrong in New Orleans that, if admittedly non-objective, is a noble and credible call for truth and accountability Long recognized by FEMA as one of the three most likely and dangerous disasters threatening the country, the possibility of a hurricane like Katrina was ignored by corrupt politicians and discounted by residents tired of past evacuations (George, Floyd, Ivan, and Rita) that in hindsight seemed unnecessary. Technical details threaten at times to overwhelm readers interested in the human story of the storm, but van Heerden manages to navigate the narrow path that fuses scientific data with a gripping narrative worthy of a Tom Clancy thriller. Informative and emotional, Van Heerden's book sheds new light on one of the most destructive-and important-natural disasters to hit the U.S. in modern history, and is a must-read for anyone truly interested in the facts behind Hurricane Katrina.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


[An] important book. . . . [Van Heerden is] a man with a story to get out who is gradually finding a way to do it. . . . And he does it simply, commonsensically, with illustrations to clarify his points. (New Orleans Times-Picayune) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First edition (May 18, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670037818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670037810
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on June 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Van Heerden is a civil engineer and LSU professor, actively involved in New Orleans disaster planning, and a resident of the New Orleans area. He (and others) had warned about possible deadly consequences prior to Katrina, and probably dwells too much in "The Storm" on those computer models and discussions. Nonetheless, he clearly makes his point that human errors made Katrina much more serious than it could have been.

An early interesting point was that per the Stafford Act of 10/00, once the President declares a national emergency, the federal government is in charge - thus, there should not have been any question about leadership. Another important point is that FEMA staffers refused to consider emergency Army assistance in erecting tent facilities for the displaced and provision of eg. health services - possibly a major benefit.

Van Heerden states that 350 miles of levees protect New Orleans. Those along the Mississippi rise 25 feet above sea level, are 300 feet thick at the base and 100 feet thick at the top - not a source of problems. The rest, however, range from 5 to 18.5 feet above sea level, and involved canals and Lake Ponchatrain. Levee failures totaled 1,050 yards, in total.

Fortunately the La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries prepositioned 6 large and 12 smaller boats at the Jackson Barracks of the local National Guard. This enabled them to quickly begin responding after the levee breaks. The Coast Guard's help was also invaluable - rescuing an estimated 6,000 individuals.

Meanwhile, other units of government were hampered by lack of prepositioning, having to communicate by courier, poor initiative, and turf wars with each other. Airmen at a nearby Air Force base played basketball while residents across the street waited in a Jr.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Darryll W. Barksdale on July 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a former emergency management planner, I found this book to be an excellent analysis of what really went wrong in New Orleans. It is a treatise for government officials to learn what not to do and an outline of what we as citizens should demand from our government leaders. It presents very technical information and scientific analysis in a manner that even an elected official can understand. But, beyond presenting the scientific basis of why New Orleans flooded, it presents an outline of solutions that should and must be considered. It is an great testament to the fact that some issues should be above everyday politics and that some important decisions that a government may be asked to make should be based upon science and not political considerations. This is a must read for every citizen and should be a mandatory read for every elected official.

Dr. Barksdale
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Little Miss Cutey on May 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book knows his stuff. He is a scientist and co-founder and deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center. He writes about what went wrong and how these same mistakes can be avoided in the future.

It's scary because a premise of the book is the probability that this kind of hurricane WILL happen again. This is a realistic look. While the storm was inevitable, he thinks that obviously if people could have gotten out, so many lives would have been saved, but the problem itself wasn't the actually storm so much as it was the failure of the levys to stay put. In his opinion, what went wrong is mainly that all levels of government didn't believe that this was could happen, so they didn't prepare. They thought this couldn't happen in their lifetime and didn't do the right things. The people in leadership positions should have disaster experience. They should have 'been through the fire' and that that experience is essential to plan.

This is a hard going book, but it's so interesting and insightful and when you read all the details, then it gives you another point of view to think about. I really liked this and know that it's an impartial look at the actuall facts rather than placing totall blame. Let's hope the right people read this well writen book.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Keith Keller on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Katrina was the "medium one", not the "big one". For those who are not on the gulf coast, it wiped out an area about 5 miles deep by 100 miles wide. The damage was mostly to middle class suburbs, but also include alot of very wealthy beach front neighborhoods, working neighborhoods, and a poorer neighborhood (the Lower 9). I personally owned 2 houses whose slabs were 10 feet above sea level, and were 10 miles from the "normal" coast, that took 9 feet of water from the surge. There are "below sea level" areas, but Katrina's surge wiped out high ground too.

It also trashed huge sections of marsh and barrier islands.

Van Heerden has been in the forefront of hurricane science for years, and was cited in the 2002 New York Times article, and 2003 Times Picayunne series that presaged the debacle.

This book is a great read. It pulls no punches. Van Heerden kicks several bee hives in an attempt to get awareness to a level needed to attain funding of a straight forward recipe for marsh rebuilding, and protection of New Orleans.

In addition to the human costs, V.H. points out that the loss of the marsh would destroy major fisheries and birding grounds. Lose the marsh = no fish, crabs, shrimp or birds.


I would highly suggest reading The Storm along with Doug Brinkley's The Great Deluge, which covers the human interest/political side of the fiasco.

I would also suggest everyone wake up, and follow this recipe for healing America's greatest estuary.
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