Thursday, August 26, 2010

Katrina: Five Years Later

I experienced Katrina most vividly through the stalwart reporting of Dan Verbeck, Entercom radio station KMBZ's fabulous street reporter who retired in 2008 (though not completely; he can now be heard on public radio station KCUR.) He was lent to WWL, Entercom's station in NOLA to do reporting and help man the critical radio station during the disaster. He would report in to KMBZ by phone as part of his days in NOLA, giving us in Kansas City a very inside view of what New Orleans was like in those days.

As you remember, Katrina hit New Orleans Monday, August 29th 2005 with its wind and rain, towards the evening hours. Mr. Verbeck reported on what the wind sounded like, and what it felt like as the hurricane passed by. As morning came the next day, Tuesday, Mr. Verbeck came on and was the first to report that the city was flooding from the broken levies. I still remember the tone of his voice as he reported the flooding, the water inundating everything in the lowest parts of New Orleans. He was the one that reinforced for me the fact that if the levies had held up, Katrina would be remembered for the way it devastated the Mississippi coast, rather than what happened in New Orleans. He reported on the initially only sparsely flooded streets in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and then, as official and unofficial reports of levy breaks and flooding waters came into the radio station, came on to let the world know that the bowl of NOLA would be filled with water.

Aaron Barnhart interviewed Mr. Verbeck shortly after the hurricane. Here's a link to his blog entry, which includes a link to the MP3 of the interview. It is "must listen" stuff, the stuff of history. As were the original reports--I do hope they have been preserved somewhere--I believe those reports were some of the best reporting I heard or saw from New Orleans in those difficult days.

Image: photo of Mr. Verbeck, from a google search.


peedee said...

Its wild how fast the time has gone by. It feels like it was just a couple of years ago. I'm sure its all been preserved somewhere. I would hope too.

The Anniversary of Andrew just past yesterday I think. Like 18 years. Wow 18 years!! WTH have I done in the last 18 years. Its daunting.

the observer said...

Yes, in 1992. Time flies when you are having fun! I remember the pictures that came out of Andrew and some of the stories. Hurricanes may not be as fierce as tornadoes but they last much much longer.

I suspect, even though I just know you from your blog, that you did lots since 1992! ;-)

Thanks for commenting
The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Thanks for posting on this very interesting subject. It was terrible, what happened, and oh, no one was ready. All my friends were displaced. One was living in a trailer on the Texas border for months. They came back and tried to be part of the revivial of the city--really hard. Another set lived in Houston or camped in Breaux Bridge.

It was huge and awful. Such things can bring out the best in some people.

Thanks again,
Ann T.

Bob G. said...

Between You and ANN, I have some of the best commentary on Katrina that I've heard of in YEARS...

And yes, after FIVE years, there is little change to the massive damage incurred by the city.

Sure, the French Quarter is looking better, but neighborhoods are STILL looking like war zones. And the population is about a THIRD of what it used to be.

Curiously eniough, a show on DISCOVERY CHANNEL (The Colony) takes place in a (cordoned-off) TEN BLOCK area of the ravished scene from Katrina.
AT least the reality show gives us a look into how things have NOT changed...if you peer past the premise of the show and view the area itself.

And how little is (still) said about Mississippi...where the hurricane REALLY hit.

Excellent post.

Have a great weekend.

the observer said...

Dear Ann T:

Katrina holds a lot of lessons for those willing to learn, from emergency managers to sociologists. My biggest hope is that we are learning from the storm. My biggest prayer is that those who are affected have at the very least been able to move on and resume life. At the most, perhaps used the storm to propel them into a fresh start--an optimist's view. Thank you for reading and here's hoping you are having a paper free weekend!

The Observer

the observer said...

Bob G:
I cannot imagine what it is like rattling around with one third the people in the city! New Orleans and Kansas City metro areas are roughly the same in square miles (about 320), and population. We would rattle around mightily with only a million in the metro.

I just looked at's photo blog--they showed buildings that are abandoned to this day--including apartments and a hospital. NOLA is not what it was, not by a long shot.

And yes, Mississippi is terribly underreported. Those people must go "humph" on their bad days!

I just have "Peasant Vision" at my house, so I might have to look for this program on line!

Thanks for commenting and hope you are having a good weekend