No-Bullshit Hurricane Katrina Postmortem
March 7, 2014 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an objective history of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina (preferably in book form, but I'll take on-line sources where appropriate) if such a thing exists. Everything I've been able to find so far is pushing an agenda and I would like to find a source of real information that strips away all of the political baggage.

I'd be interested in pretty much all aspects of what happened, from the civic level to the personal.
posted by lekvar to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I do trust ProPublica based on other stories, and they've got a series (I haven't read...yet):

Law and Disorder: After Katrina, New Orleans Police Shot Frequently and Asked Few Questions
posted by blue suede stockings at 1:09 PM on March 7, 2014

The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank looks promising if you're looking for first-person perspectives.

Also: Katrina-Related Oral History Projects.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:17 PM on March 7, 2014

Five Days at Memorial chronicles what happened at Memorial Medical Center in the 5 days after the hurricane. It briefly talks about what happened at some of the other hospitals, and how they responded, as well -- but the majority is focused on uncovering whether a handful of doctors performed mercy killings (the book concludes they did) and the infrastructural weaknesses that caused the crisis at Memorial to deteriorate so much, even as other hospitals nearby fared better.
posted by lilac girl at 1:23 PM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers is the true story of a Muslim-American who was imprisoned while trying to help his neighbors post-Katrina.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:31 PM on March 7, 2014

Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared is a bipartisan Congressional report. The full report is long (700+ pages), but the executive summary is only 20 pages.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:35 PM on March 7, 2014

The Katrina-Related Oral History Projects link above includes a broken link to the oral histories of Katrina first responders conducted by my employer, the Historic New Orleans Collection. Most are not available online, but if you're in town they're available on-site.
posted by CheeseLouise at 1:55 PM on March 7, 2014

I thought The Great Deluge was excellent account of peoples thoughts at the time. Although it did get some facts wrong later editions supposedly correct that. (Mostly about the hospitals and retirement home).
Written by a historian who was there shortly after the flood it's definitely a time capsule.
posted by fshgrl at 2:18 PM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Being from Louisiana I do want to comment that the history is just plain full of political baggage from how New Orleans was evacuated to how support was handled. No matter what you read the political moment should be captured by the book. However I completely understand wanting to avoid the agendas about change.

I don't remember the title but
A professor at LSU wrote an interesting book about the first responders (the red cross set up on campus as their main base of operations) it does come from a perspective that is a little different. I'd try and link it but it is an emotional subject I try to avoid.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I realize that a purely apolitical account is probably impossible. What I'm seeing so far is great, and I guess I'd be happy with anything that doesn't lean on scapegoats, strawmen, or cheap villains.
posted by lekvar at 2:57 PM on March 7, 2014

The Path of Destruction is fairly political in its conclusions, but it explained the meteorology of hurricanes and breakdown of infrastructure incredibly well. (Especially in the first few chapters, which give an overview of historical hurricanes and explain how they're formed.) It gave me a very helpful grounding in what the physical processes were.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 3:17 PM on March 7, 2014

I'm not sure I've read a book about Katrina that doesn't have a political edge, since everything about the event was mired in politics. But, Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security is the best book I've encountered that provides a comprehensive look at what happened. Written by two Wall Street Journal reporters and thoroughly researched, I'd highly recommend.
posted by jicinabox at 4:34 PM on March 7, 2014

You might want to have a look at:

Investigation of the Performance of the
New Orleans Flood Protection Systems
in Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005

from University California Berkeley Civil Engineering Department.
posted by bukvich at 7:34 AM on March 9, 2014

Response by poster: I can't mark a "best answer" yet but thanks, everybody, for the reading material!
posted by lekvar at 3:36 PM on March 10, 2014

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