January 12, 2010 08:00 ET
Levees.org Book Review: "Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City"
NEW ORLEANS, LA--(Marketwire - January 12, 2010) - Levees.org, a New Orleans-based non-profit
formed after Hurricane Katrina with a mission of raising awareness about
the nation's levee systems, has released a third book review by its founder
Sandy Rosenthal that addresses the New Orleans flooding of August 2005.
Rosenthal provides the following commentary on the "Breach of Faith:
Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City"
(Random House, 2006):
Author Jed Horne has shown his journalistic genius in converting a mountain
of facts into an exciting page-turner. By blending real life stories with
one of the century's most memorable -- and horrific -- events, Horne is
likely responsible for assuring that the Flooding of 2005 is remembered,
and with accuracy.
Filled with details in settings before, during, and after the terrible
flooding, Horne infused these details with spirit, and at times, gentle
humor. For example, in describing what Gregory Richardson, a frightened
homeowner could see from the roof of his flooded eastern New Orleans home,
Horne wrote "...he heard a sound, the tapping and ripping sound of another
roof being breached from the inside out, and in due course the house two
doors down hatched another human..."
There are countless colorfully presented documented references that explain
not only the "what" and "why" of the flooding but also the intense
voluminous disinformation about it that pervaded the media after the fact.
We note with interest an observation in Chapter 6 about a Post-K
"...systemic disinformation campaign of putting falsehoods into the minds
of a reliable stable of...stalwarts and then making them available to the
media as talking heads." This is interesting because in a later chapter,
Horne seems to have become ensnared in that very trap which he had
In Chapter 17, Horne describes how in the mid 1980s, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers (Corps) had "fought hard for lakefront gates" but under pressure
from the local Orleans Levee Board were condemned to abandon them and build
a second rate system -- which later failed during Katrina. When Levees.org
asked about this in a February 2009 email, Horne explained he had relied on
testimony from a past Orleans Levee Board president. The footnotes to this
testimony referenced only a 2005 Los Angeles Times article, and when we
called the LA Times reporter about this particular story, he confirmed his
documentation was taken from verbal testimony.
Not only do Horne's assertions and conclusions about the floodgates lack
the necessary documentation, both are also clearly refuted by Douglas
Woolley and Leonard Shabman in the Hurricane Protection Decision
Chronology, June 2007, page 82. This is important because when the London
and 17th Street canal floodwalls failed in 2005 resulting in the drowning
deaths of over 600 people, the local New Orleans officials were frequently
blamed, without factual basis. As
put forth by Woolley/Shabman, the Corps looked at the relative costs and
merits and decided to only raise the canal walls. The Corps chose against
building floodgates, and did so without expressing any concerns.
Nonetheless, in closing, "Fine job!" to Jed Horne for his book which is a
joy to read. And precisely because this book will likely be read for
decades to come, we hope Horne considers updating Chapter 17 in future