For Immediate Release


Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Was Flooding of New Orleans a "Natural Disaster"?

Author of The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina -- the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist, van Heerden is featured in the new film "The Big Uneasy," a documentary by Harry Shearer that is playing tonight in theaters across the country.

Van Heerden is an adviser to the group on coastal issues; Rosenthal is founder and executive director of the group. See "NOLA residents still skeptical of levees." states: "Dr. Ivor van Heerden, the former deputy director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center, was one of several experts to presciently predict the disastrous consequences -- including catastrophic levee failure -- if a major hurricane were to hit the New Orleans area. 'Louisiana is a terminally ill patient requiring major surgery,' van Heerden told the PBS program 'Nova' in 2004.

"In the course of encouraging transformative hurricane preparation, van Heerden additionally called for the restoration of Louisiana's coastal wetlands. Decades of erosion due to oil exploration have eroded the marshes that once functioned as New Orleans' natural buffer from approaching hurricanes. Such storms feed off of open water, vast expanses of which now lie ever closer to the city. As van Heerden and others foretold, this situation proved disastrous during Katrina.

"After the hurricane, van Heerden chronicled his findings in 'The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina -- the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist' (Viking Adult, 2006; co-written with Mike Bryan). The book earned wide praise as a telling indictment of the Army Corps of Engineers, which van Heerden castigated for building shoddy levees around New Orleans and for allowing the oil companies to ravage the wetlands by digging intrusive canals. At the same time, it was criticized for perceptions of a self-serving tone and a pedantic writing style. More significantly, van Heerden's book and his ensuing outspoken statements clearly annoyed his employer, LSU. In April 2009, he was fired."


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