Actually I hope there is not much devastation left to see...
February 22, 2010 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to New Orleans for 4 days this spring and I am fascinated by Hurricane Katrina. What should I read before I go and what should I do while in New Orleans?

I see that Gray Line has tours, but is there really anything left to see so many years later? Is one tour better than the others? Are they generally worth the time and money?

I would also like a reading list of books and articles on the hurricane and its aftermath. I am currently reading Zeitoun, what other books should I read?

Are there any great works of journalism I must read (preferably available online)?
posted by 2bucksplus to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina--the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist by Ivor Van Heerden, who was co-founder and deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center. I have read this book and it's very good for understanding how and why the flood happened.
posted by neuron at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2010

Best answer: is there really anything left to see so many years later?

To answer that: yes, meaning that there is still nothing (but the rare abandoned set of front steps leading to what used to be a house) in vast swaths of the Lower 9th. I was in New Orleans a little over a year ago (Fall 2008), and honestly, in certain areas it looked like Katrina had happened that year. The 9th Ward was the worst, obviously, but even in Lakeview there were plenty of abandoned houses with visible watermarks, stuff like that. I'd imagine many are still there.

I can't remember the name of the tour I took, but I'm sure that any of the ones that go through the affected areas will give you a sense of what happened and is still happening. Our tour guide was a dyed-in-the-wool Yat whose own house in middle-class Lakeview had been seriously damaged; he was able to speak pretty candidly about what the storm was like and how he and his family dealt with the aftermath. I'd recommend looking for a small tour, if that's what you end up doing, so you can have an in-depth conversation with your guide.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:20 PM on February 22, 2010

You might be interested in this documentary: Trouble the Water.
posted by mattbucher at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another good book: 1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose.
posted by mattbucher at 12:25 PM on February 22, 2010

How about spending some time volunteering? You'll get the disaster tour you want, and you'll get to make a positive difference to people who still very much need it. I volunteered with Common Ground a few years back, and it was immensely rewarding.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really, really loved the graphic novel A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2010

Best answer: I'm headed to NOLA in April and will take a bike tour through lots of neighborhoods, including several affected by Katrina. The guy who runs the tours also has some book recommendations.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You must read the Times-Picayune's series on Land Loss: Last Chance. The storms are more destructive than in the past because our regional hurricane protection, the gulfward wetlands, have been sacrificed for the shipping and the oil and gas industries.

here is a link to the series. I apologise for the crappy design of

here is a land-loss flash presentation.

here is a similar presentation of the flooding from the storm.

I highly recommend Richard Campanella's books on New Orleans, the people of New Orleans, the most recent storm and its aftermath. Each one is a tome! In order of excellence and relevance:

Bienville's Dilemma

Geographies of New Orleans

Time and Place in New Orleans

And come help us replant Wetlands outside of the city, they are our protection. I won't name my own company, but the St Bernard Wetlands Foundation has many thousands of cypress saplings to plant.

I'll also abstain from giving you more political or scientific things to read, but please ask if you are so inclined.
posted by eustatic at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley
posted by bookmammal at 12:58 PM on February 22, 2010

Seconding The NewWazoo. A friend of mine is just returning today from a weeks' stay volunteering in St. Bernard's Parish -- it's part of the NOLA metropolitan area, but because it wasn't the French Quarter it didn't get as much attention. Which is a shame -- because every single one of the structures in St. Bernard Parish was destroyed. (If you want to volunteer, try the St. Bernard Project, which exclusively works in that area.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:59 PM on February 22, 2010

I would also include Mike Tidwell's Bayou Farewell on your reading list, since it hasn't been mentioned yet.

Since you asked for online journalism, Here is a review for the book in Mother Jones.
posted by eustatic at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2010

A strong, strong second on Bayou Farewell. It's not Katrina specific - it was published not long before Katrina - but it comes with fantastic environmental and cultural background. There is plenty of ominous foreshadowing elucidating all of the things that could be done to make the effects of a big hurricane worse and things that could go seriously wrong during a big hurricane (and did).
posted by whatzit at 1:14 PM on February 22, 2010

I also suggest that you take a little time and venture over to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was absolutely devastated as well. There are still areas of just slab upon slab in Bay St Louis, for example. The Gulf Coast is less than 2 hours drive out of New Orleans. Speaking for Mississippi peeps, we got just an entsy bit fed up with the focus on New Orleans when so many died or lost everything in Mississippi.
posted by thebrokedown at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2010

Go back to the MeFi posts. I was riveted by Katrina at the time, and MeFi was an amazing resource. Many links will be dead, but many will be fascinating.
posted by theora55 at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2010

If you want some perspective on the rescuers, one of my coast guard helicopter friends have forced me to watch The Guardian a few times. The main character is a swimmer, and it's really more about his divorce than about being a rescue swimmer.

Some of the pilots were shot at. Most of them flew wayyy more than was safe.

They all tell me they were 'just doing their jobs,' but tyat it was stressful.
NOLA has a coast guard air rescue station, so two of my friends de were living in the city at the time, and they were so happy to see the saints win, even though they're stationed in other places now.

If this angle interests you, there are books about the coast guard. I don't know any titles but I can ask the guys what they suggest.
posted by bilabial at 2:03 PM on February 22, 2010

The Adventures of Hurricane Grrl is a first-person account of being in N.O. during and after the storm.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2010

Seconding the Great Deluge. Great book.
posted by fshgrl at 6:29 PM on February 22, 2010

I read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers last month, and it was incredible. I live in New Orleans, have since before Katrina, and it was a fascinating read. Highly recommend.
posted by pyjammy at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2010

Oops. Guess I should have read your question more clearly! Sorry 'bout that!
posted by pyjammy at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2010

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