Hurricane season brings out a lot of emotions for local New Orleans residents.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused citywide devastation after over 50 failures of the levees and floodwalls that protected the Big Easy. The breach caused flooding in 80% of New Orleans and the entire St. Bernard Parish. When the water poured in, the city was flooded with tens of billions of gallons of water. Over 100,000 homes and businesses were lost and the city was never the same.
Shortly after the city flooded, there were waves of rumors from residents who stayed behind that reported hearing explosions in the lower 9th ward before seeing the water rush in. There were so many reports that the rumor made national news. The responsibility for the design and construction of the levees belongs to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The maintenance responsibility belongs to the local levee board. After the breach, four major investigations were conducted to identify the underlying reason for the failure of the federal flood protection system.
The hysteria surrounding the levees started in the early 1920s.
During this time the government did not have as much authority over the levees. The Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 wasn’t an accident. It was a deliberate attempt to “save” New Orleans by using dynamite to blow a part of the levee system in Caernarvon, LA. The flood killed over 246 people and cost the government over $400 million in damages. This flood led to the creation of the Flood Control Act and Hebert Hoover was elected president as a result of how he handled the floods. The situation had gotten so critical that New Orleans residents took up arms and patrolled the levees to ensure that the bombing would not occur. Former President Hoover who was Chairman of Relief Services was shot at by one of the residents while he was in New Orleans scouting a good spot to bomb. Over 39 tons of dynamite were used, crops and animals were drowned and New Orleans changed forever.
The memory of this event is embedded in New Orleans culture. It confirms that if profits are in the way, one class wouldn’t mind subjecting another to inhumane conditions.
Almost every major storm following the 1920s, residents would swear that the levees were bombed by the higher class. Any Hurricane Betsy survivor would tell you that the levees were bombed. Many witnesses even claimed that they heard explosions. With the rise of social media, there have been numerous claims from people who stayed during Katrina that the levees were blown. The government released an official statement declaring that the primary cause of flooding was inadequate design and construction by the corps of engineers. Although the Times-Picayune denounced this accusation as a myth, I know people personally who haven’t heard of the 1927 breach that swears to this day that they heard an explosion.
Do you think the levees were bombed? Let us know in the comments.