Hurricane Katrina and Her Legends

Copyright (c) 2008, Laura Wright.

It was the worst storm in our national history. What can we learn from the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina?

Hurricane Katrina hit the United States towards the end of August in 2005. The category 5 hurricane was the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history. There were over $108 billion dollars in damage and over 1,800 dead. The Gulf Coast was in shambles, with New Orleans being the hardest hit. The devastation reached along several states, most notably in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The storm also brought a plethora of falsehoods, misinformation and urban legends. Photos were circulated via email of the “storm’s approach,” but most were nothing more than photos of regular storms. The link below will take you to them.

Some of the rumors were fairly harmless. One such rumor was that Mike Brown was Joe Allbaugh’s roommate during their college years. They were friends, but didn’t dorm together.

There were also rumors that former President Bush detained, or ordered, a group of firefighters to have a photo-op with him instead of helping hurricane victims. This is another urban myth. The infamous picture was taken on September 2, but the firefighters weren’t sent to Louisiana until September 5.

There were also a variety of Photoshopped pictures circulated the internet after Katrina. One example is the pictures depicting former President George W. Bush and his father fishing in the flooded streets of New Orleans as flood victims struggle in the background. As you probably have already guessed, the photo was a fraud.

Other infamous photographs sent through the email also show a massive crocodile the bed of a truck. This was called the Giant New Orleans Crocodile. It’s not a fake, but the information is misleading. The 16-foot-long crocodile was captured in the Republic of the Congo, in 2003. It has also been called an alligator in other emails.

Another urban legend that circulated was that former Vice President Al Gore airlifted 140 hurricane victims to safety. This is mostly accurate. Mr. Gore’s son was in an automobile accident some time before and was treated by Dr. David Kline of Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Kline, a neurosurgeon, alerted Mr. Gore to the dire situation at the hospital. Mr. Gore arranged the move and he partially paid for it. A total of 270 patients were evacuated by airlift between September 3rd and 4th. The first group of patients went to Knoxville, Tennessee. The second group traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Not to miss an opportunity, the rumor-mill also stated giant, man-eating great white sharks were swimming in the flooded areas of New Orleans. They were eating hurricane victims. Some of these reports also stated alligators were also eating hurricane victims.

This is only partially true. One very small shark was witnessed swimming in a flooded area.

Other rumors revolved around child molesters and convicts escaping jails during the evacuations. Some accounts went to imply that murderers were everywhere because they’d fled during the storm. No evidence was found to substantiate the alarm from the claim.

Many environmentally minded individuals were alarmed by the famed “toxic soup,” or the contaminated floodwater, that covered New Orleans. There were rumors that the toxicity would endure for years and the areas affected would be uninhabitable for even longer.

This was proven to be false. The flood waters were contaminated with filth, but not nearly as toxic as believed.

The last urban legend was that God “punished” New Orleans for being a wicked city. Some state it was some connection with, “Southern Decadence Day,” while others reported it was supposed to be connected with the practice of voodoo. Regardless of the details, allegations such as these are only to be expected. Since the dawn of time, man has blamed wars, national disasters and major tragedies on the deities. It’s remarkable that such an ancient statement made today draws any attention whatsoever.

This horrible time in America’s history offers much insight into what steps we can take, as a nation, to ensure such death and devastation doesn’t occur again.

Storm Pictures:


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