Thursday 29 August 2013

Hurricane Katrina

It was eight years ago today that Anderson Cooper braved 175 mile per hour winds and driving rain to cover the third most powerful hurricane in America's history, coverage that would win him a Peabody Award. Anderson brought us images of New Orleans:  of a swirling cloud with a dot in the middle, of frothy waves crashing against the Gulf of Mexico, of bumper to bumper traffic crossing the bridge to escape Katrina's path, of boarded up buildings ready for the onslaught.

After Katrina had vented her wrath, Anderson showed us images of a plethora of palm trees peaking out from above the water line, of residents stranded on their rooftops holding signs crying for help, of rowboats making their way through water at times 20 feet deep where roads once stood.

Stranded residents courtesy

Anderson showed us the bridges snapped in two, the tossed aside vehicles, the houses crushed like tinderboxes, the trees twisted like pretzels.  He showed us debris strewn all over the city, debris that would pile 10 miles high if placed in a football field.

The anchorman held his head in his hands as he talked about all of the 1836 dead bodies and the 705 still missing.  And he brought us images of the 26,000 refugees who filled the Louisiana Superdome.  He shook his head when a certain Senator said he could do nothing to help.  While in many ways, it would be the start of celebrity status for Anderson Cooper, it would be the end of a way of life for many New Orleans residents who moved into FEMA trailers.  The CNN newsman would remain in the city for over a month, covering a story that would not go away.  Slowly, the waters receded and the clean up began.

Today, 90% of the refugees have returned to the city.  However, in the low-income Ninth Ward, only 30% have returned.  While Anderson Cooper has gone on to cover other stories, the haunting images of Hurricane Katrina will never be forgotten.  

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