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Storm That Drowned a City

Program Overview


NOVA reconstructs Hurricane Katrina's development and destruction and investigates causes of the flooding in New Orleans.

The program:

  • reviews a computer model of a Category 3 hurricane that was shown to state and federal officials one year before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

  • explains how hurricanes form and build in strength.

  • presents how forecasters at NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami determine a storm's intensity and track.

  • relates how U.S. Air Force personnel fly into a hurricane to gather information about a storm's wind direction, wind speed, pressure, humidity, and temperature.

  • tracks Hurricane Katrina from its inception as a tropical storm to its Category 4 hurricane rating when it struck New Orleans.

  • states how New Orleans—which is below sea level and sandwiched between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain—has traditionally relied on a system of pumps, canals, and levees to keep water out of the city.

  • shows how Louisiana's wetlands, which can help reduce the impact of a storm surge, are being destroyed.

  • interviews residents who did not evacuate and reports on what happened when the storm hit.

  • notes that of the four major breaches in the city's flood defenses—two on the canal that flooded the Lower Ninth Ward and two in the northern part of the city—the northern breaches caused the most flooding.

  • reviews how officials worked to repair the broken levees and to coordinate rescue efforts amid the turmoil that followed the storm.

  • indicates that the northern breaches occurred because the flood walls failed to do the job for which they were designed.

  • reveals that while hurricane frequency is cyclical, hurricane intensity seems to be increasing, possibly due to warmer sea surface temperatures brought on by global warming.

  • explores whether or how New Orleans should be rebuilt, and whether residents will return to the city.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Storm That Drowned a City