Hurricane Katrina

Find stories from WWNO, NPR and our partner stations as we explore New Orleans and the Gulf South 10 years after Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Ten years ago, actor Wendell Pierce went home for a vacation between recording seasons of the hit HBO show The Wire.

As he stepped off the plane in New Orleans, the airport was chaotic. A massive hurricane called Katrina was closing in on the city.

"I was telling my parents 'Nah, let's just ride it out. Let's just stay,' " Pierce tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I went out that Saturday night and I kind of bluffed my parents and said 'Well, if they make it a mandatory evacuation, we'll leave.'

"That Sunday morning they did, and that's when I knew it was serious."

Ten years ago this week New Orleans was under water. A decade later, people who survived the flood are still turning to art to make sense of Hurricane Katrina’s fury.

Several of the city’s major museums have acknowledged the anniversary with new exhibits, including one at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

On the morning of Aug. 28, 2005, the National Weather Service issued an urgent weather alert.

"Devastating damage expected," the message read. "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks ... Perhaps longer."

A day later, on the morning of Aug. 29 — 10 years ago Saturday — Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. By that afternoon, the storm had slowly moved on. It appeared that the worst was over.

When Hurricane Katrina burst through the levees in New Orleans 10 years ago, floodwaters instantly rendered thousands of homes uninhabitable.

At the peak of the housing crisis that followed, nearly 12,000 New Orleans residents were homeless. They lived on the streets and in ruined buildings.

Abbott Roland was one of them. After the storm, he was rescued by helicopter from his porch, slept in the Superdome with other flood victims and then moved for a time to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The "official" Hurricane Katrina bus tour is a big tourist attraction in New Orleans. But another kind of storm tour recently took off — more of a Katrina "reality" tour, documenting the last decade of the New Orleans school system.

Former President Bill Clinton closed out a week’s worth of discussions and speeches on the decade that’s passed since Hurricane Katrina. He praised the progress, then focused on problems that remain.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, is New Orleans better protected? The answer is complicated.

Historian John Barry says Louisiana’s new master plan for flood protection could help save the city, but it will cost billions of dollars and he wonders whether the political will exists to put it into place.

Barry says the plan faces several challenges, including sea level rise, due to land loss he says is caused in part by the energy industry, and the 100-year flood protection standard. He joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to talk about it.

Prayers and church bells in New Orleans marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, speaking to assembled dignitaries at a memorial to the unclaimed and unidentified among the estimated 1,800 who died in the storm, said the city had to rely on itself to get through the tragedy.

"We saved each other," Landrieu said. "New Orleans will be unbowed and unbroken."

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