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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This well-written and researched book was penned by the historian Douglas Brinkley who rode out the storm at a hotel in downtown New Orleans. It was written only a year after the storm which is an accomplishment because early to market books about disasters are usually hastily and poorly written, but not this book. The author relied on interviews with eye witnesses as well as media accounts of events. The book is generally free of political bias; the author heaps scorn on all the politicians and government agencies that deserve it. The book covers the days leading up to landfall and the week afterwards.
About one year prior to Katrina numerous state, local and government agencies participated in a simulation of a powerful hurricane slamming into New Orleans. It appears they learned nothing from the simulation. Both the state and city issued mandatory evacuation orders at the last minute. Mayor Nagin was concerned about lawsuits by the hotel industry so he delayed evacuation orders. The city had a plan to evacuate poor residents, who lacked transportation, but the busses were not in place and most of the drivers evacuated which stranded thousands in the city.

The Coast Guard recognized the potential seriousness of Katrina and had assets in place near Baton Rouge and was the first government agency to respond to the crisis. The Coast Guard, along with civilian volunteers carried out most of the rescues.

Governor Blanco ordered the Louisiana National Guard to deploy to the 19th century armory in East New Orleans which seemed like a good plan except that the armory was nine feet below sea level. The armory flooded and the Guardsmen were trapped. Only one New Orleans radio station, WWL, remained on the air during the storm and was the only source of information. Immediately after the storm, national network reporters who only saw downtown New Orleans reported that damage and flooding was light. These inaccurate reports probably contributed to the slow federal and state response to the storm.

The Superdome was opened and eventually 25,000 residents were allowed inside. All were searched and disarmed although some made it inside with small knives or tools such as hammers. Initial reports of widespread gang rapes and murders in the Dome proved incorrect. Only a few people died of natural causes in the Dome. The National Guard provided limited provisions and water to the people in the Dome. When the Superdome filled, the huge mob stranded outside walked to the Convention Center and broke in. There were credible reports of numerous rapes and murders in the Convention Center which initially had no law enforcement present.

All major levies in East New Orleans were breached and about 80% of the city flooded. The much larger levies protecting the French Quarter, Downtown, Garden District and Uptown remained intact and these neighborhoods remained dry. There was major looting of businesses near the Uptown area but the book doesn’t mention looting of residences. This may be because a significant number of residents remained in their homes in the wealthy Garden District and Uptown neighborhoods. For some reason many of the looters defecated inside the stores and it wasn’t because they couldn’t find dry land elsewhere to do their business.

Approximately 1/3 of the NOPD went AWOL during Katrina. In the week after Katrina, Houston cops would play a scavenger hunt game to see who could spot the most NOPD patrol cars during a shift. Other NOPD cops “commandeered” Cadillac Escalades from a suburban dealership and were seen driving around the city. Many NOPD cops positioned themselves on the dry western perimeter of the city to avoid having to deal with the mess in the flooded areas. Those cops that deployed to downtown or the eastern part of the city mostly drove around and did little to help residents. During the crisis the NOPD police chief had a nervous breakdown.

During the height of the storm, Mayor Nagin abandoned the city’s emergency operations center for a suite on the 27th floor of the Hyatt because he felt he would be safer there. Nagin came close to a nervous breakdown and had to be comforted by his staffers. He spent the rest of his time after the storm haranguing the Federal and State government and giving TV interviews.

Most of the rescues in East New Orleans were carried out by the Coast Guard, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and a group of volunteers from SW Louisiana known as the Cajun Navy. Medical evacuations were carried out mostly by a private company from Lafayette nicknamed the Cajun Air Force. Wildlife and Fisheries refused to coordinate efforts with the NOPD because of reports of police officers looting. There were widespread reports of snipers in East New Orleans but it was later surmised that most of the gun shots were from people trapped on their roofs trying to attract attention. Unfortunately, every time reports of gunfire emerged, the rescuers had to retreat.

The good stuff:
• As I said before, this is a well written and very interesting book that gives an account of a massive but short duration SHTF situation.
• There is a lot of factual information about what to expect in a massive regional SHTF. I think a lot of the incidents that occurred after Katrina could occur after a massive regional earthquake.

The not so great stuff:
• This book could have been 100 pages shorter and still been a very good book. Toward the end it becomes a bit repetitive.
• For some reason the author makes no mention of the illegal seizure of private weapons on Nagin’s orders. This may have taken place outside the time frame of the book but it would have been nice to learn more about the event.

Takeaways for Preppers:
• Avoid a SHTF situation if at all possible. 80% of New Orleans residents evacuated before the storm and avoided the Hell on earth that was Katrina. The people who remained mostly had no way to leave.
• Don’t expect the government to bail you out. As Katrina showed most government agencies were incompetent (FEMA) or downright criminal (NOPD).
• Don’t expect easy exit from the disaster zone. LEA may attempt to turn back refugees as they did in the Gretna bridge incident and when the National Guard blocked the interstates.
• Stay out of hospitals if you can help it. They will be overwhelmed and have few supplies and probably no power.
• Don’t enter refugee centers or camps unless you’re prepared to be disarmed. Don’t expect any supplies if you enter a government center.
• Expect widespread looting if law enforcement is absent.

This book is extremely worthwhile background reading for preppers who include massive limited duration SHTF situations such as hurricanes or earthquakes in their preps. It contains many gory details which I have left out of this review for the sake of brevity.,aps,454&sr=8-1
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