January 12, 2010 08:00 ET Book Review: "Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City"

NEW ORLEANS, LA--(Marketwire - January 12, 2010) -, 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 described.

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 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 editions.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Sandy Rosenthal
    Executive Director
    (504) 722-8172
    Email Contact