Brinkley consciously limited the book to the first unthinkable week. Beginning on Saturday, August 27, when it first became clear that Katrina was going to strike again in the Gulf Coast after roughing up Florida, he traces the warnings, stories, fecklessness, and missed opportunities through the hurricane's five hours f wrath and the breaching f the levees. His account continues until the following Saturday, September 3, when buses finally reached the convention center and the Superdome to evacuate those stranded.
By combining his own experiences during the storm and its aftermath-Brinkley returned to the city to help in rescue efforts after evacuating his family to Houston-with hundreds f interviews with citizens, first responders, and government officials, Brinkley paints a picture alternately heartbreaking, heartwarming, and enraging.
The Great Deluge opens with models f excellent planning and action by the likes f the Louisiana Society for the Prevention f Cruelty to Animals (which had its 263 sheltered pets safely moved to Houston by the evening f August 27), the Entergy Corporation (which shut down its nuclear plant once Katrina became a category 3 storm), and Louisiana parish presidents (who issued mandatory evacuation orders to their residents and efficiently obtained special help for those who needed it).
Although stories such as these, along with the valiant efforts f many first responders, are welcome doses f things that went right, The Great Deluge is primarily a story f how so much went wrong. Brinkley's meticulous assembly f the facts into a detailed chronology and analysis is devastating at times to virtually everyone in an official role-from New Orleans's mayor, Ray Nagin, to Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, to the secretary f the Department f Homeland Security, Michael Chertff, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's "Brownie," to the man who gave him that nickname. And Brinkley pulls no punches: "Every time the Bush administration and the state f Louisiana hesitated, lawyered-up, and read the fine print f Homeland Security procedure, an American died prematurely," he writes.
Brinkley's extensive footnotes deepen the sense f reading a cohesive and objective take on a complicated event.
As the disaster continues to recede from the forefront f the minds f those who have that luxury and as inevitable election year finger-pointing provides ever more spin about what happened and why, The Great Deluge could hardly be a more timely, important, and effective antidote-to complacency, to poor leadership, and to the lack f accountability. To borrow a phrase: "Brinkley, you did a heckuva job."
Brinkley criticized the Bush administration for its lack f reaction during the 72 hours immediately following the hurricane, when rescue is still possible. He also criticized elected officials for caring more about what their lawyers had to say about potential lawsuits than saving those in need.
Instead, many victims were evacuated by private organizations or citizens like Jimmy. There was the Cajun Navy, a