House to become replica of flood-damaged home after Katrina
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In a dynamic before-and-after project, a nonprofit organization has partially restored a home ravaged by a catastrophic rush of floodwater when a New Orleans levee failed 13 years ago during Hurricane Katrina, re-creating two rooms to look like a typical home might have appeared the day before the storm — right down to the newspaper on the coffee table with the headline “KATRINA TAKES AIM.”
Next up for 4918 Warrington Drive: Artists will use theatrical set-design techniques to re-create those rooms once more — this time making them look, again, as though they’ve been hit by a disaster.
“Obviously, everything in this room is going to be upended, pushed over. Even the piano,” mixed media artist Aaron Angelo said, gesturing toward a baby grand piano — one of numerous items of furniture donated to Levees.org for the project.
Water marks, spatters of black mold, books swollen by weeks in the water — all are expected to be elements of the life-sized diorama Angelo and theatrical set designer Ken Conner will stage. The rooms are at the front of the house and will be visible to visitors through the windows. Plaques on the brick columns outside the one-story house will explain the scene.
The project is among the latest efforts of Levees.org, a nonprofit founded by New Orleans resident Sandy Rosenthal and her then-teenage son shortly after the disaster. The group’s focus is educating the public that the catastrophe in the city was caused by failure of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ poorly designed and constructed floodwalls atop levees along drainage canals and a major navigation waterway.
“This is the worst civil engineering disaster in the history of the country,” Rosenthal said Wednesday during a news conference where plans for the house were outlined and media were allowed in for a close-up look at the exhibit.
On one side of the house a two-story brick home remains boarded up; on the other is a vacant lot, next to which sits a small park — another Levees.org project — with a garden of ornamental plants, a brick walkway that outlines part of the foundation of a house that once stood there and an open-air shelter lined with photos of Katrina’s aftermath and explanations of the levee failures.
About 40 feet (12 meters) behind it all is the earthen levee topped by a repaired floodwall that obscures the London Avenue Canal. The spot is far from the typical tourist attractions, such as the French Quarter, the Audubon Zoo or the Mississippi Riverfront. But it has its share of visitors, locals and tourists alike, Rosenthal said.
“People want to understand,” Rosenthal said. “They come here to learn about what happened.”