8 Years Ago Today

Courtesy of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Hurricane Katrina: Courtesy of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster that some have described as biblical in scale and unprecedented as a human tragedy.

“The Storm,” as the locals call it, was the most destructive natural disaster in American history, laying waste to 90,000 square miles of land, an area the size of the United Kingdom.

Before The Storm

As the sheer size of Hurricane Katrina became clear, the National Weather Service’s New Orleans/Baton Rouge office issued an ominously worded emergency alert predicting that many areas throughout the Gulf Coast would be “uninhabitable for weeks” after “devastating damage” caused by Katrina.

Contraflow lane reversal, voluntary, and mandatory evacuations were issued for coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  Approximately 1.2 million residents of the Gulf Coast heeded the evacuation orders, after hearing the following cryptic message, and fled their homes.

During The Storm

After making a brief initial landfall over Southeastern Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina made its final landfall near Louisiana/Mississippi state line, passing over the cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Mississippi.

The Storm featured winds in excess of 120 mph and churned up a powerful 27-foot storm surge, which penetrated 6 miles inland, and in some areas up to 12 miles, along bays and rivers; killing close to 300 people and causing billions of dollars in damage to bridges, barges, boats, piers, houses and cars.  Thousands were left homeless, destitute, and entombed in mud.

Extreme weather photographers Mike Tice and Jim Reed captured harrowing video footage as the storm surge slammed in Gulfport, Mississippi and ripped through their hotel.

After The Storm

While the coastal Mississippi communities of Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, D’Iberville, Gulfport, Pass Christian, and Waveland Mississippi where completely washed off the map because of the massive storm surge, New Orleans was overwhelmed by flooding.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff described the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as “probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes,” in the country’s history, referring to the hurricane itself plus the flooding of New Orleans.

Katrina’s storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans, submerging eighty percent of the city.  The levee breaches and the subsequent flooding were responsible for killing over 700 people.

Survivors and evacuees reported seeing dead bodies lying in city streets and floating in flooded sections of the city well into October. The advanced state of decomposition of many corpses hindered efforts by coroners to identify many of the dead.

In the days following Katrina, residents in New Orleans who “rode out the storm,” resorted to looting stores in search of food, water, and medical supplies.  While others took advantage of the situation to loot non-essential items like televisions and tennis shoes.

All told, more than 1,833 people died.  The results were tragic loss of life and human suffering on a massive scale, and an undermining of confidence in our governments’ ability to plan, prepare for, and respond to national catastrophes.


50th Anniversary Of The March On Washington

On the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, we’d like to honor and acknowledge Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient, Mr. Bayard Rustin, the man behind the man, the man behind the march, and the man behind the movement.

Bayard Rustin2
Image: WorldChannel.org

Who Is Mr. Bayard Rustin You Ask?

A master strategist and tireless activist, Bayard Rustin is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement, and helped mold Martin Luther King, Jr. into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence.  Despite these achievements, Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. – Bayard Rustin Film Project

BROTHER OUTSIDER (Official Trailer)

On August, 8th 2013, President Barack Obama named Bayard Rustin a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”

To learn more about the life and times for Bayard Rustin, please check out the award winning feature documentary film BROTHER OUTSIDER.

When Oil and Corexit Mix

How toxic is the oil dispersant Corexit when mixed with oil?

Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion
Courtesy: US Coast Guard

In the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Catastrophe and the subsequent use of 2 million gallons of the oil dispersant Corexit to disperse an estimated 250-300 million gallons of oil, we find ourselves asking this question almost everyday.

Three and a half years after the largest human-caused environmental disaster in history, remediation and restoration efforts have helped to remove the most obvious signs of the disaster and returned the most affected coastal communities to near pre-spill conditions.

But Gulf Coast residents now face an even more ominous health care crisis, as untold numbers of people – cleanup workers, divers, beach comers, residents, children, etc. – have been made ill from exposure to a mix of oil, methane, Corexit, and from inhaling aerosolized oil fumes from the in-situ oil burns (oil burned in contained areas on the surface of the water).

Since 2010, the Storm Surge team has interviewed scores of people who claim to suffer from acute illnesses ranging from rashes, upper respiratory infections, severe asthma, skin infections, blisters in between their fingers and arms on their legs and their feet, and blood in their urine, to heart palpitations, kidney and liver damage, migraines, memory loss and reduced IQ, after they came into contact with oil and Corexit.

We continue to remain perplexed as to the reasons why the American mainstream media fails to cover this problem.

Last week, 60 Minutes Australia published the following two-part investigative report on the use of Corexit to disperse oil, both here in the United States and in Australia.

Crude Solution – Part 1

Crude Solution – Part 2

Meanwhile, BP is reportedly spending over $5 million a week on a nation-wide marketing, advertising, and public relations campaign to convince people across the country that the Gulf of Mexico is safe to swim in, the seafood is safe to eat, the environment is being restored to pristine order, and how great a company BP is to work for.

ADDICTIVE: BP Oil Spill Song

Traveling throughout out the Gulf Coast over the last three and a half years to record stories of unbending human resilience in the face of forces to powerful to comprehend, namely Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Catastrophe, has been an amazing experience.

Music, as it relates to coping with an recovering from these disasters, is taking on a greater role in the Storm Surge narrative.

Recently, we connected with Shamarr Allen, Dee-1, Paul Sanchez, and Bennie Pete to hear them express their feelings about the Gulf oil disaster through an addictive earwig called “Sorry Aint Enough No More.” We hope you enjoy the riff.