Sandy Rosenthal: Words Whispered in Water

CLBR returns for a special 2020 Miami Book Fair edition with Sandy Rosenthal author of Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina.


August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hits landfall near New Orleans as a Category 3 hurricane and the tragedy that unfolded was one of the defining events of the decade. Eighty-percent of the city was flooded as the levees protecting were breached. The hurricane took 1,836 lives and devastated the city as it population dropped from 454,855 to 208,852, with an economic impact to the region in excess of $150 billion.

Words Whispered in Water tells the story of the levee failure.

When steel flood-walls built with inherent engineering mistakes broke in New Orleans, the responsible party, the Army Corps of Engineers, went into full-time damage control mode. The federal agency––with cooperation from Big Media and the Engineering Establishment––spent millions bamboozling the American public. The Army Corps blamed the resulting flood devastation and death on Mother Nature and the low moral character of the city’s residents. But in the chaotic aftermath, Sandy Rosenthal uncovered evidence that the Army Corps had made egregious design mistakes in their steel flood-walls fifteen years before they buckled and failed, causing many hundreds of deaths in 2005. With no special training, she exposed the scandal and eventually changed the narrative from “natural disaster” to “federal flood-wall failure.”

. . . . Everyone relies on the Army Corps of Engineers whether they know it or not. Sixty-two percent of the American population lives in counties by flood-walls. There are Army Corps-built structures in every state of the nation. In fact, many of them are ongoing disasters including the Sacramento Central Valley region of California, the sugar-fertilizer soaked South Florida Everglades and more recently, sacred tribal lands and lakes in North Dakota.

Words Whispered in Water Publisher Notes
Sandy Rosenthal

Sandy Rosenthal (@LeveesOrg) is a New Orleans author whose debut book––Words Whispered in Water––is about how she exposed the federal government’s campaign to fool the American people about why New Orleans flooded during Hurricane Katrina.

Rosenthal founded the major non profit––with 25,000 supporters and chapters in five states––while she was evacuated for the 2005 storm.

Ever since the levee failures and flooding, Rosenthal has worked nonstop to separate the facts from the fairy tale.

For her efforts, Rosenthal has been honored with numerous awards most recently including Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year from Tulane University and Most Influential Woman from Mount Holyoke College.

When Rosenthal is not coaching others in civic activism, she plays tennis, practices yoga and dances to zydeco music. Rosenthal is founding member of the Laurel Eagles, a mentoring program and the Divine Revelers of Terpsichore, a Mardi Gras parading group.

She has three adult children: Aliisa, Mark and Stanford and two grandchildren Ellie and Brenner. She also has two small dogs named Twinkie and Cupcake.