Author remembers Hurricane Katrina

Staff reports

In his new memoir-cum-travelogue, "On the Hurricane Coast--Trauma, Memory and Recovery in the Land of the Eye of the Storm--A Journey" (ISBN 1453766677), Douglas Bennett Lee recounts his travels to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas before and after Hurricane Katrina, and lifelong ties through family roots. He analyzes the Gulf Coast's history as well as the lasting repercussions the disaster has had on Louisiana's survivors and their dedication to restoring their lives, and the state's diminished coastal wetlands.

Lee's personal connections to the region come from working summers on his family's farm on the Mississippi Coast, and his later experiences as a National Geographic staff writer, giving a distinctive perspective ranging from his own farm-boy youth through accounts today, from swamp frontiersmen, New Orleans' fierce urban survivors and embattled environmentalists, from Mississippi to Texas. He explores parallels with his personal recovery from alcoholism and the Gulf Coasters' recovery from natural disaster, while remaining factual and fair--journalistic standards instilled by his apprenticeship and work for National Geographic.

The storm caused nearly 2,000 deaths and the largest forced internal migration in U.S. history. New Orleans has regained only two-thirds of its population and still suffers from physical, economic and psychological damage. The ongoing erosion of Louisiana's coast undermines the Gulf of Mexico's fisheries, the most prolific in the lower 48 states, and the BP oil spill in April 2010 only worsened these hardships. Lee argues that Hurricane Katrina also threatens indigenous cultures such as Cajuns and coastal Indian tribes.

Lee blames the weak restoration process on political neglect and corruption by appointed and elected officials at every level of state, local and federal responsibility.

"This is how a city dies," Lee writes of an East Texas town, "--not overnight but over decades, after absorbing a series of body blows from which it's never given time to quite catch its breath or regain equilibrium."

The book gives an honest account developed with Lee's fervor and emotional connection to the Gulf Coast region and inhabitants. It also warns readers how easily the slow disappearance of other coastal cities in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas could occur.

"On the Hurricane Coast" is available for sale online at and other channels.

About the Author:

Douglas Lee, is a writer, filmmaker and photographer, born in Tacoma Park, Md. in 1953. He grew up in Philadelphia, the Philippine Islands, Tokyo, Kuwait and London, and attended Princeton University in 1971. After graduating Lee worked in the American West, then set sail for a nine-month voyage from New England to the West Indies and back. Subsequently, while raising soybeans on his uncle's farm in coastal Mississippi, he entered a writing competition that landed him a job at National Geographic in 1977, writing the magazine's captions and photo stories, soon graduating to articles and editing. His career has sent him all over the world, from the Alps to the Alaskan Arctic, and for more than 20 years he has called southern Africa's Kalahari Desert a second home. But he's never lost affection, and concern, for family roots sunk deep in the Gulf Coast.