Katrina: The Debris

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Credit Dirty Coast

As the 10th hurricane season begins since the landfall of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, 89.9 WWNO — New Orleans Public Radio is launching a new weekly podcast and radio feature: Katrina: The Debris, stories about what was left behind by the storm and the floods that followed.

Combining archival material with new interviews and long-format feature stories, Katrina: The Debris aims to pick up some of the narrative threads of the storm, and follow them into the present and future.

Each week producers loosely explore a theme: groceries, maps, music, weather, charity, faith, cooking, family. Using archived sound, new interviews, original reporting, dramatic readings, and occasional special guest stars like Wendell Pierce and David Byrne, WWNO picks up pieces of this lingering Katrina debris.

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Katrina: The Debris // The R Word: Resilience

Aug 24, 2015
Undeterred by the devastation, second line clubs returned to New Orleans a few months after the flood, determined to uphold the city's cultural traditions. This photo is of the 2009 Prince of Wales second line parade.
Jason Saul

Well, we’ve made it. Almost. It’s been a long, hot summer and this is our last episode as we come up on the tenth anniversary of Katrina.

The city is abuzz with journalists and experts and NGOs and politicians. We thought we’d use this last bit of The Debris to explore a word they’re all using to talk about New Orleans: resilience.

Katrina: The Debris // Newcomers

Aug 17, 2015
Jesse Hardman

Lots of people who visit New Orleans today are surprised to find the city in such good shape. The rebuilding effort has been long, arduous, and largely successful in most areas (with a few notable exceptions, like the Lower 9th Ward).

New Orleans would not be where it is today without the students, church groups, retirees, professional organizations and lone good souls who gave their time and energy to rebuilding. At least a million people, by one count, and likely many millions. Newcomers poured into the city after the storm, and many became new New Orleanians.

Katrina: The Debris // The Debris

Aug 10, 2015
After being picked up from the curb, 'Katrina refrigerators' were hauled to landfills, stripped of rotted food and chemicals, and the metal and plastic were recycled.
Alice Welch / USDA

This week on Katrina: The Debris, we're exploring the actual debris — the stuff left behind when the winds died down and the floodwaters receded.

Katrina changed our relationship with that "stuff" — the tangible things that make up our modern lives. Some things became much more important, while so much else became just trash to be left on the curb for pickup.

Elizabeth Mahoney, St. Bernard resident and peer counselor.
Brett Anderson

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed is most visible in pictures of ruined houses and people’s destroyed possessions lying out on city streets. But there’s unseen damage that runs even deeper: the collective emotional trauma experienced by the thousands of people who lived through it.

Katrina: The Debris // Missing

Jul 27, 2015
Alexandra Garreton

According to numbers from the US Census and the IRS, 236,970 people left Louisiana between the summer of 2005 and the summer of 2006, mostly because of Hurricane Katrina.

Census details can’t tell who is a former resident returning and who’s new, but as of last year, the state had only recovered about 100,000 people, less than half of those who left. Whether it's abandoned houses or empty chairs at the dinner table, New Orleans is rebuilding around a conspicuous absence.

This week on The Debris, stories of people and things missing from, and just missing, New Orleans.

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