An excellent look at Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 06/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nova's look at The Storm That Drowned a City is by and large an excellent study of Hurricane Katrina, concentrating on the storm itself and the failure of the levee systems in New Orleans. With no obvious political agenda, the documentary only touches upon the human aspect of the storm's aftermath, pointing no fingers at city, state, or federal government.
It's not as if Katrina took New Orleans completely by surprise, as the city had dodged "the big one" on a number of occasions, including the previous year. Ivan was a monster storm that changed direction at the last moment, sparing New Orleans, and everyone there must have breathed a sigh of relief. I find it hard to believe that some city officials scoffed at the dire findings from 2004's Hurricane Pam simulation of a major storm hitting the city - it's been common knowledge for decades that a powerful hurricane would flood New Orleans. It's a beautiful city, but let's face facts here: this is the last place anyone should have built a metropolis. We're talking about a bowl sitting several feet below sea level, bordered by the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchatrain, with the Gulf of Mexico within hailing distance. Expansion had robbed the city of what little protection it had from storm surges, and the outdated levee system hid a number of vulnerabilities throughout the city.
The documentary follows Katrina's path from its origins off the coast of Africa to its fateful rendezvous with the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. It offers one of the most understandable explanations for hurricanes I've ever heard - why they form, how they behave, etc. As Katrina meanders her way across Florida on her way toward New Orleans, we see the communications between parish officials and experts at the National Hurricane Center - and the precautionary actions they began taking. Days before Katrina hit, everyone knew this could be the storm everyone had been dreading for so long. Strangely enough (and fortunately), we only see or hear of Mayor Nagin once - when he calls for the mandatory evacuation of the city. This documentary really isn't about the government response- nor does it even mention all of the irresponsible reporting in the days after the storm hit.
Once Katrina has done her worst and moved on, the documentary shifts to the failures of the levee system. Having been built to withstand a Category Three hurricane, there's no wonder that all of the incoming water overtopped some of the levees. The bigger question is why some of the city's interior levees failed, since the water never rose high enough to overspill the canals there. In these areas, we see how the levees broke due primarily to water pressure. In retrospect, they can say that the underpinnings of those canals should have been put deeper into the ground when they were built, but I'm not sure how effective that would have been, as the real problem was the loose dirt foundation in areas long shut off from annual silt deposits from the Mississippi River.
The final segment looks at ways of protecting New Orleans in the future. Even when fully repaired, the levee system will still be vulnerable to Category 4 and 5 storms, meaning the city will be no better off than it was in 2005. Some more radical solutions are offered up here, however. For example, one suggestion is to allow the Mississippi to flood certain areas, as it used to, thereby building up the disappearing wetlands that used to help protect the city from storm surges. When you consider the time and money required to secure New Orleans' future, you have to wonder if it's even worth it. As devastating as Katrina was, she was not, truth be told, "the big one." Had the city been on the eastern side of the storm and had Katrina had come ashore as an even stronger storm, the Big Easy would basically be gone - and that's a possible fate that will remain over New Orleans' head for years and years to come."
C. Travis | Tennessee, USA | 10/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a well balanced movie about the storm, how it was tracked by the scientists and how the flooding of the city occured. It is a very even presentation mainly on what happened and not on who was to blame. Very interesting."
Clear and Factual
Loyd E. Eskildson | Phoenix, AZ. | 10/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD presentation, previously seen on public television, is an excellent review of an awful disaster, taking the viewer through an analysis of each stage of the storm. First was how it was formed off the African Coast and how it slowly became a disastrous force that hit New Orleans, a city unprepared and under-protected by inadequate levees. The DVD showed a 2004 training exercise for such a hurricane disaster -officials knew what could happen, but when it did, confusion reigned. There are so many mistakes and misjudgements that multiplied the sad outcome to the poorer residents of New Orleans. These people could not leave because of poor health and/or lack of transportation.
I was amazed at the filming of the storm, and how officials were shocked and emotionally wounded because they knew what would happen, and saw the awful aftermath of death and destruction and physical and mental suffering of innocents.
The hurricane's winds were overwhelming; however, the catastrophic storm surges, high waves from the hurricane that surged onto shore caused most of the deaths and were examined in great detail in this one hour documentary.
It was also pointed out that global warming seems to make hurricanes more intense and a growing threat as ocean temperatures rise.
The documentary is valuable in teaching us how many elements cause New Orleans to be a very risky place to live: The Mississippi River affects the wetlands replenishment of soil, the levees' strength and height, and New Orleans' location in a bowl-like area 6-7 feet below sea level.
New Orleans and all those who love the area have a gigantic problem to face up to. Much money and a long time span are involved in rebuilding the city in the right way. It needs 50 years to be done right, like the Delta Works in the Netherlands after the 1953 disaster. Good engineering and planning are crucial."
Not what I was expecting
Lisa Chavez | San Antonio, TX USA | 07/14/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Nova really let me down on this one. This DVD tells us a lot of what we already knew from watching the news during that time. Other documentaries surrounding this event, such as the National Geographic one, introduced new information and explanations. If you've already seen the National Geographic one, don't bother with this one. It's a shame, too. I usually like Nova..."