cover image Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina

Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina

Sandy Rosenthal. Mango, $19.95 trade paper (346p) ISBN 978-1-64250-327-2

Political activist Rosenthal delivers a blow-by-blow account of her fight to hold the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accountable for the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Though the Corps sought to blame the disaster on the size of the storm surge and negligence by local officials, Rosenthal writes, the fault actually lies with poorly constructed floodwalls that collapsed “at a fraction of the water pressure they were designed to contain.” Rosenthal shares stories of friends and neighbors whose homes were damaged in the storm (hers was relatively unscathed) and chronicles her growing suspicions that the media and the U.S. Army were misrepresenting the causes of the flooding. She formed a grassroots organization to push for university-based studies of the structural integrity of the levees, which revealed that the Corps of Engineers covered up problems with its floodwalls. Hurricane victims sued in federal court, and in 2009 the Corps was found liable for poor maintenance of its Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. Rosenthal dives deep into the technical details of flood control and the tactics and strategies of her campaign. This granular account reveals what it takes to hold the powerful to account. (Aug.)