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Woodstock Magazine

A Fascinating Exhibit - An Interactive Display Of Katrina’s Destruction

Aug 23, 2011 06:10PM ● Published by Erin Frisch

Five years after the most devastating hurricane ever to hit the United States and the massive destruction that followed, a permanent exhibition opened at the Louisiana State Museum. “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond,” a $7.5 million, 6,700 square-foot exhibit on the ground floor of the historic Presbytere in the French Quarter’s Jackson Square, tells the stories of people caught in the hurricane’s wrath. It documents their rescue, recovery, and rebuilding, and the renewal of New Orleans in a way certain to move both survivors and those who watched the events unfold on television.

When it hit southeastern Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29, 2005, the storm caused fearsome destruction. But the disaster wasn’t entirely the result of natural causes. Levees and floodwalls, the man-made barriers built to protect New Orleans from the water surrounding it, failed. Their collapse in a dozen or more locations, plus tidal surges from the low-lying eastern edge of New Orleans, flooded 80 percent of the city. By the time the waters receded and the survivors regrouped, Katrina, and then Hurricane Rita, had claimed more than 1,400 lives and caused billions of dollars worth of destruction.

Gallery One illustrates Louisiana’s history with water, from the Mississippi River’s benefits to the threats of coastal storm surges and floods. Visitors move through the Evacuation Corridor, overhearing residents’ voices weighing their options as Katrina approaches. A state-of-the-art Storm Theater shows Katrina’s full fury with moving and dramatic footage of the hurricane’s onslaught.

Gallery Two takes visitors past a leaking floodwall, into an attic, and onto the roof of a house surrounded by rising floodwaters where they can view the city surrounding them. They’ll hear a firsthand account of one St. Bernard Parish family’s rescue and view artifacts, histories, and photographs.

Throughout the galleries are compelling artifacts, including music legend Fats Domino’s baby grand piano, found in his flooded Ninth Ward house; a Coast Guard rescue basket; and seats from the heavily damaged Louisiana Superdome, where thousands of people sought refuge and rescue.

The forensics of Katrina unfold in Gallery Three where science and innovative displays come together. A large interactive table map shows the paths of Katrina and Rita plus the sequence of floods that overwhelmed the region. Through digital animation, visitors discover how the levees failed. Additional displays illustrate the realities of eroding wetlands, disaster management, engineering, and the science of predicting and tracking hurricanes and tropical weather patterns and phenomena.

Gallery Four celebrates recovery, promotes preparedness, and showcases the ingenuity of Louisianans in rebuilding their lives and communities. The gallery will be updated regularly to reflect advancements in flood protection and coastal restoration as well as new strategies for living with hurricanes.

Written by Lesley O’Malley Keyes

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