America's Great Storm
Leading through Hurricane Katrina
A first-person account of the year following the worst natural disaster in American history
When Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi on August 29, 2005, it unleashed the costliest natural disaster in American history, and the third deadliest. Haley Barbour had been Mississippi's governor for only twenty months when he assumed responsibility for guiding his pummeled, stricken state's recovery and rebuilding efforts. America's Great Storm is not only a personal memoir of his role in that recovery, but also a sifting of the many lessons he learned about leadership in a time of massive crisis.
For the book, the authors interviewed more than forty-five key people involved in helping Mississippi recover, including local, state, and federal officials as well as private citizens who played pivotal roles in the weeks and months following Katrina's landfall. In addition to covering in detail the events of September and October 2005, chapters focus on the special legislative session that allowed casinos to build on shore; the role of the recovery commission chaired by Jim Barksdale; a behind-the-scenes description of working with Congress to pass an unprecedented, multi-billion-dollar emergency disaster assistance appropriation; and the enormous roles played by volunteers in rebuilding the entire housing, transportation, and education infrastructure of South Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.
A final chapter analyzes the leadership skills and strategies Barbour employed on behalf of the people of his state, observations that will be valuable to anyone tasked with managing in a crisis.
Governor Haley Barbour's personal account of how he responded to the Hurricane Katrina disaster is a study in effective leadership. Required reading for all those interested in learning how one leader of one state can make a difference in the lives of thousands. A Mississippi and national hero.- Kenneth R. Feinberg, administrator of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and other compensation programs
Hurricane Katrina revealed the character of America's leaders in its rawest form. Too many were tragically overmatched by the great flood's force and fury. But Haley Barbour stood alone, equal to the challenge before him in a way that lifted his state and inspired a nation. On this somber anniversary, we are fortunate to get this recounting of the Mississippi governor moving through those gripping times with strength and certainty. Like Barbour himself, this story is nothing less than inspiring.- Joe Scarborough, former Florida congressman and host of MSNBC's Morning Joe
Governor Barbour has been a tremendous advocate for smart emergency management. As director of Florida's Emergency Management Division, I witnessed firsthand his commitment to putting survivors first. During the response to Katrina, he cut red tape and supported our work to get resources into the hands of those who needed them most by helping us treat Mississippi counties like Florida counties. Working across state lines helped us save lives and helped Mississippi recover from this disaster more quickly.- William Craig Fugate, former director of Florida's Emergency Management Division
Haley Barbour, the best public official to deal with Katrina, is the best at telling its story. He was a can-do leader when Mississippi needed to have one and the country needed to see one. I've often said that Haley gives the best political briefing in the country. With America's Great Storm, he shows himself just as sharp sizing up an historic disaster and how his state boldly addressed it. He's right that it did wonders for the image of Mississippi.- Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball
I'll never forget reporting from the Mississippi Gulf Coast the morning after Hurricane Katrina. It was overwhelming to see where I grew up virtually wiped away by our country's worst natural disaster. Those impacted by America's Great Storm needed food, water, shelter, and above all we needed leadership to see us through this difficult time. I'm grateful that Haley Barbour showed us and now shares with us in this book what it truly takes to be a leader, perhaps the most valuable lesson being that leadership is about focusing on the people and not the process.- Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America