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A Year Of Katrina

A Year Of Katrina: “In Their Own Words”

The end of Monday’s NBC Nightly News included gripping memories of Katrina from “the men and women of NBC News,” in their own words. Click play to view the video.

Correspondent Don Teague said: “The most powerful thing I experienced in person was at the freeway interchange where they were bringing survivors… Within two days, there were 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 people all huddling together waiting to be rescued again. As we left the neighborhood they were mad that we were leaving. I couldn’t say help was on the way. I couldn’t say we’ll be right back. And I don’t think I have ever felt more helpless than that moment.”  

A Year Of Katrina: New Orleans Is “Still Broken,” Gibson Says

katrinaaug282.jpg   katrinaaug283.jpg

ABC’s Charles Gibson anchored World News from New Orleans Monday.

“We have come to the city of New Orleans tonight because one year ago at this very hour, this city was bracing for Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “Bracing for what would become the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. An area along the Gulf Coast the size of Great Britain would be ravaged, and a great American city would be left underwater and essentially broken. It’s still broken a year later. Many are determined it will be put back together, but there’s very little direction on how that will be done or when.”

> Earlier today: He reported from Charity Hospital…

A Year Of Katrina: Monday Notes

> An NBC News special on Katrina will air tonight at 8pm…

> Tonight on FNC’s On The Record: Greta Van Susteren takes a chopper ride over New Orleans and talks to hometown boy Terry Bradshaw

> Anderson Cooper blogs a series of cliches: “We must never forget what happened here. We must never allow others to simply rewrite the history of this storm. We must remember by honoring the dead and telling the stories of the living…”

> “You should note the top-notch work already being done,” an e-mailer wrote Sunday night. “Check out Byron Pitts w/ Ray Nagin on 60 Minutes and Chris Bury on accused doctors and nurses at Memorial Hospital last week on Nightline…”

> Over the weekend, the Fox News Watch panel asked: Should the media apologize for inaccurate reporting during the hurricane?…

A Year Of Katrina: “We Were Witnesses”


Viewers didn’t know it at the time, and most still don’t.

But NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams — whose on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Katrina helped earn NBC a Peabody Award — fell “terribly ill” in the days following the storm.

On Tuesday, Aug. 30, “we did a broadcast from the I-10 overpass,” Williams recalls. “I thought I could stand up, and I got very weak. They started pumping me with fluids and made me sit down on an equipment box for the broadcast.”

In an interview with TVNewser last week, Williams was clearly uncomfortable discussing the illness.

“The only problem I have with it being public… is that I am the last person people should be thinking about,” he says. “I was surrounded by such depravity, watching people try to survive with such great quiet dignity, that I have a real problem with any attention [directed toward me].”

Williams never revealed his illness to viewers. “It was a very closely held thing,” he says. “My only motive was, I didn’t want anybody talking about it.”

His illness never made news. (TV Week came closest on Sept. 5, mentioning that two NBC employees had fallen ill.) But author Douglas Brinkley caught wind of Williams’ condition and described it in his book, The Great Deluge.

Williams “fell terribly ill from dysentery on Tuesday,” Brinkley wrote. “He possibly contracted the disease by ingesting water containing bacteria, while doing a Today show appearance. He was standing next to flood water, sipping distilled Kentwood Water, when he noticed a trickle of brown on the side of the plastic bottle. A few drops of the sewage water had accidentally gotten into his mouth.”

When asked about his sickness, Williams seemed eager to change the subject. His reasoning was clear: “People were dying around me. The last person in my thoughts was myself.”

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A Year Of Katrina: For Fox’s Steve Harrigan, Memories Of 2 Landfalls & The Aftermath


“Call him Hurricane Harrigan,” Tim Cuprisin declared 52 weeks ago. That nickname for Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan was heard in the halls of FNC as Katrina washed ashore last August, first in Florida and then in Mississippi. Harrigan was on the scene for both landfalls.

In a recent interview, Harrigan’s trademark to-the-point demeanor was evident. His description of Katrina’s landfall in Florida? “It blew us around a bit.”

After that, Harrigan had a day to head home, “empty one bag and pack another.” Then he flew to Panama City and drove to Gulfport.

“Unbelievable” was the first word he used to describe the Gulf Coast landfall.

“It was like a scene in the Wizard of Oz where you see stuff that doesn’t ordinarily fly through the air, fly through the air,” he recalled.

Katrina was a storm in three acts: Small hurricane, huge storm, and the aftermath. In the first and second acts, Harrigan earned his “Hurricane” nickname.

He’s characteristically blunt about it: “The reporter stands out there and people like to see the reporter get blown around.”

He says there’s an adrenaline rush involved: “You’re just standing there, with a mic. It’s a very simple thing. You’re just trying to stand up and keep talking.”

At the height of the storm, for a few minutes, the hurricane correspondent “has control of the network,” Harrigan added. “No one is going to take you off the air at that point.”

But eventually there’s the third act, the aftermath. As Harrigan made his way to New Orleans, he saw a war zone unfold before his eyes.

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A Year Of Katrina: Williams Says “Huge Parts Of The City Are Unchanged”

williamsaug27.jpgNBC’s Brian Williams blogs from New Orleans:

“This visit, more than any over the past 12 months, feels strange. Huge portions of the city are unchanged. Renewal is evident but episodic and spotty. Sunday we found a car in the massive multi-level parking garage at the Superdome — that has been there, locked and abandoned, for the past year. It is the very least of this city’s worries. But it is a perfect example of the scope of the problem. How will anyone ever find the owner? Who will remove it? What becomes of it?” More…

A Year Of Katrina: We Saw It Coming

We all knew it was coming.

Hurricane Katrina battered Florida before it began a deadly march across the Gulf Coast. As a category one hurricane, Katrina dumped a tremendous amount of rain on Florida.

Bryan Norcross, the director of meteorology for WFOR-TV in Miami and a CBS News hurricane analyst, anchored coverage of the storm.

“The big legacy of Katrina, for us, was the flooding in the southern end of Miami Dade county,” he recalls.

Before the storm even crossed the peninsula, Norcross was appearing on CBS News programs and warning coastal residents that Katrina could be a big one.

“There’s some possibility here that this is going to be a stronger storm by the time it gets to the coast,” he said on Aug. 24.

He had a similar message on the 25th: “Expect it to restrengthen, and it could — it could — be another hurricane for the Panhandle.”

By the 26th, he was mentioning Hurricane Camille and warning of a potential category 4 storm. And by the 27th, he was telling CBS viewers that a “devastating hurricane event” was coming.

Looking back, the news was coming through loud and clear.

“No one in a position of authority was, or certainly should have been, even mildly surprised,” Norcross says now.

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A Year Of Katrina: “A Situation That Even Our Most Experienced People Haven’t Experienced”

An internal CNN memo on August 28, 2005:

  FROM: Peter Dykstra, CNN executive producer, Science/Tech, Weather

DATE: Sunday, August 28

SUBJECT: A couple of thoughts for the planning call

We need to look ahead for planning for the next week in covering this — serious problems and lethal flood threats all the way up to Buffalo, NY.

Hurricane Hugo took down 100-foot pine trees a hundred miles inland, splitting trees in half and causing many deaths. Hurricane-force winds for Katrina are projected 150 miles inland.

Hurricane Camille killed 256 people — about half on the coastline from the worst storm surge in history, but about half inland — 100 alone in Virginia and Tennessee.

In the worst case, much of New Orleans cold be uninhabitable — health situations similar to the tsunami — floating debris, contaminated standing water and more.

Also, I know we are all thinking about this, but we are sending people into a situation that even our most experienced people haven’t experienced.

Please make sure that all on-air people, crews and support staff hear it over and over again. This is simply the biggest risk we have faced of a very dangerous situation.

Let’s also please stress to people that they need to expect that cell phones will be nearly useless if Cat 4 or 5 winds take the cell towers down.


A Year Of Katrina: We Can’t Move On

“A piece of America was cut out and was decimated” this time last year. “I think it’s unconscionable that any of us can move on from it so quickly.”

That’s what CNN anchor Anderson Cooper says. In this Hollywood Reporter piece about the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he recalls “something a local doctor told him a couple days after the storm hit.”

“He said to me, ‘Shame on you and shame on me (speaking of himself) if we just move on and forget what we’ve seen, forget what’s happened here.’ That’s stayed in my mind. Personally, I feel I made a commitment to try to get answers and continue to focus and not just move on and forget it. It’s so easy in cable news to move on to the next thing, and shame on any of us if we let that happen.”

A Year Of Katrina: Williams & Bush Tues.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams “will have the exclusive interview with President George W. Bush from New Orleans,” the network announced over the weekend. “The interview will air on Nightly News on Tuesday, August 29.” It will also appear on all NBC platforms.

This isn’t the first time Williams and Bush have met in New Orleans. Their last interview was on April 27…