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tv   A Hurricane Called Betsy  CSPAN  October 15, 2015 10:00pm-10:31pm EDT

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explorations in black leadership project. that's sunday, october 25th, at 10:00 a.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. a signature feature of book tv is our all-day coverage of book fairs and festivals from across the country. with top nonfiction authors. here's our schedule beginning this weekend. we're live from austin for the texas book festival. and the following weekend we're live in the nation's heartland for the wisconsin book festival in madison. at the end of the month we'll be in nashville for the southern festival of books. at the start of november we're back on the east coast for the boston book festival. in the middle of the month it's the louisiana book festival in baton rouge. at the end of november we're live for the 18th year in a row from florida for the miami book fair international. and the national book awards from new york city. just some of the fairs and festivals this fall on c-span2's
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book tv. each week, american history tv's "reel america" brings you archival films that help provide context to today's public affairs issues. 50 years ago on september 9th, 1965, hurricane betsy made landfall at grand isle, louisiana, near new orleans. it was a category 4 storm with winds up to 155 miles per hour. a hurricane called betsy is a 30-minute defense department film documenting billion-dollar betsy, the first storm in u.s. history to cause over $1 billion in damage. a storm surge of over ten feet led to breached levees, the flooding of 164,000 homes, and 76 deaths. similar to hurricane katrina in 2005, many residents had to wait for rescue on rooftops and relief shelters were overwhelmed.
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>> four, three, two, one, ignition -- liftoff. on our way. >> say again, jimboy 5? >> stage 2. >> the air was fair at cape kennedy. lacy clouds and a warm august 5. gemini v took off for space when there was no weather at all. the only problem, a leaky fuel cell threatened to cut their short flight at the star. it didn't. but out in the atlantic something else was brewing, a rising breath of wind soon to be known as betsy.
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dawn. august 27. at florida and island bases, navy, weather bureau, and air force planes are warming up to their daily task. 180 miles overhead, gemini v is whirling around the world, its sixth day of orbit. the astronauts are still alone in space but not quite alone. from the first day on, they've been sharing the sky with pyros weather satellites, circling endlessly, checking their pi clicking their pictures back to earth. and mid morning on the 27th, both tyros 10 and the navy weather plane make a discovery. >> tropical depression at 13 degrees north latitude -- >> the astronauts see it next. same day. >> okay. do you have any sort of a report over that tropical depression?
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>> we passed right over it. it is a rather large storm with plenty of activity. we could see air to ground lightning in the daytime. it does have an eye. >> that's the name of that, betsy in case you haven't been told about it. >> a hurricane's born and christened betsy. and in two places the news spells trouble. the national hurricane center in miami, where chief forecaster gordon dunn is checking first reports. and houston control for the spaceflight, scheduled to splash down sunday right in the path of the storm. first victim of betsy, gemini v. its eight-day flight is cut one orbit short. cooper and conrad splash down safely into a sunny sea.
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for a week, betsy wanders north toward the bahamas. in nassau, american tourists are pouring off the "yarmouth castle" sightseeing, shopping. in the churches only a few bother to give thanks that another hurricane's passed them by. as betsy swings by safely to the east, heading north toward cape hatteras. florida relaxes too. the start of labor day weekend. a time for sea and sun. but for the weather bureau and the hurricane hunters it's no holiday at all. in ten days now, betsy's already traveled 2,000 miles. past barbados and the grenadines, the windward and leeward islands. skirting cuba, puerto rico, the bahamas. now 300 miles north she runs into westerly trade winds. does a lazy done-de-loop.
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then stalls. still north and west toward hatteras, new jersey, or new england. but bad news wherever it hits. by now it's packing 1 125-mile-an-hour winds, swirling around an enormous eye. suddenly, on sunday night, betsy runs head-on into a high pressure ridge, turns into a yang 60 hurricane. traveling south and coming fast back toward the bahamas. monday night. the wall cloud rips over the out islands and into nassau, grinding and tearing at the town for nearly 15 hours. then it turns toward the mainland. hurricane flags are flying now from key west to cape kennedy. >> beginning 0700 hours this morning -- >> in miami, the county civil
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defense emergency operating center, designed to direct government services in either natural disaster or enemy attack, all forces have been on emergency alert since early labor day morning. >> small craft warning. winds may reach hurricane force and squalls by early tuesday evening. all vessels in the area should seek safe harbor. >> for the first time in local history, weather bureau warns key biscayne and miami beach will be under water. residents are advised to get out now. >> all groceries now stored in lumberyards closed for the holiday are urged to reopen so the public can lay in emergency and board sag plies. >> if you're boarding up use strong lumber and nails securely. remove coconuts from nearby palm trees.
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>> along the gold coast, hotel swimming pools are suddenly deserted as advance winds begin to come in. on the beaches youngsters are finding the best surfing since hurricane carol. fair winds for the skateboard sailors too. not so good for last-minute shoppers. by nightfall, winds have turned to driving rains. at miami international airport, normally one of the busiest in the world, the last bird of passage has flown. workers are still tying down traffic lights, making other last-minute preparations. >> all storm shelters, repeat, all storm shelters are now open. if you feel that your home is insecure, then go to your
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nearest red cross emergency shelter. >> gale-force winds are striking now from palm beach to the tip of the keys. in the six counties of southern florida, more than 18,000 people are crowded into the red cross shelters just waiting for it to happen. >> betsy is here. gusts now topping 100 miles per hour. tide three feet above normal in the greater miami area. escape routes will be cut off shortly. >> unidentified female reported electrocuted by fallen power line. emergency squad, 1721 northwest 17th place, family now reports water swirling around. >> in the luxury hotels along miami beach, water's already
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pouring over the welcome mats. >> our mobile unit just reported fish swimming down collins avenue. fish and eels swimming right down the main drag of miami beach. >> marathon, can you advise state road 5 is passable south of the key har go area? last word i had -- >> a long night for civil defense. now all the dull, quiet things done over the years, the prehurricane drills, the planning and preparation for any kind of disaster, the coordinated efforts of all the government and voluntary agencies, are finally paying off. >> roof blown off a house, there are injuries. seven hotels on the beach badly damaged. >> betsy, with her hurricane winds, is on the mainland.
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she is also on key largo. >> at dawn, the eye of the hurricane crosses key largo heading west. hurricane winds will continue for hours. and so will calls for help. >> flooding in the parkway area, you need some amphibious ducks. are there any injuries involved? only evacuation. >> southwest 10th avenue and third, four families marooned. >> as betsy blows by florida, she leaves her mark behind. damage, around $140 million, several dead, 4,000 homes wrecked or flooded out. plus smaller losses. on riviera beach a bigger
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whale's been grounded. a freighter driving in blindly through the night. the "yarmouth castle's" been a little lucki ier. put back safely into miami the next morning. she'll sail another day. the hurricane roars on, still hunting for land. and 900 miles of coastline ahead to choose from. all the way to texas, where the astronauts are safely home, but beginning to wonder if they're being followed. but early wednesday morning -- >> hurricane betsy is taking a more northwesterly turn and is now heading directly for the louisiana coast. >> new orleans weather bureau picks it up now and warnings go out from the civil defense capital at baton rouge. >> -- flying coastal areas should be evacuated early today before escape routes are cut off by rising waters. >> offshore oil rigs are abandoned.
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ships set into port. cars come streaming true that the delta. 250,000 refugees, many of them heading for new orleans. for new orleans itself, there's literally no place to go. it's surrounded by river, lake, and swampland. so the town boards up and battens down in the shelter of its levees. already its civil defense emergency operating center is manned by nearly 200 people, representing all the city's emergency services. near dusk, mayor victor sciro comes down the stairs to hear disturbing news. >> be advised extremely dangerous betsy is headed towards new orleans. lake pontchartrain -- strong northerly winds force water to sea walls -- >> chief, we're expecting 12 feet of water in this area. over the lakeland.
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>> charlie ertman, the city civil defense director. >> -- we get in shallow water -- >> what about our preparations in this area? >> now, i would suggest this. that we move, evacuate these people, from this parish line to the rigalees -- >> lake pontchartrain, the huge, shallow, treacherous lake lying just north of new orleans. if the eye passes east of the city, the hurricane's counter clockwise winds would scop the lake clear over a levee. the mayor's warning goes out. >> now, we are providing buses. if you look out on the west end boulevard, pontchartrain boulevard -- >> in one place particularly, the news strikes home. the barrioff home on windgate drive a few blocks south of the lakefront. for nearly six years gene barrioff has been half-paralyzed by polio, dividing his days and nights by an iron lung and a
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rocking bed, both needed nearly every minute of the day to keep the breath of life in his body. if hurricane winds knock out the power lines the equipment will stop. or if water starts pouring over the levee tell have no chance of escape. >> let me talk to henry a minute. >> mrs. barrioffs is calling her pros for help. >> i have don't have some way of getting gene to the hospital this afternoon and i was wondering if maybe you and one of the other boys could help. no, as soon as possible. i'll be okay as soon as he gets home from work but i want you to hurry up now because it's important. >> other distress calls are beginning to pour into the emergency operating centers. >> -- >> nurses any available report to 2000 tulane avenue. we are providing buses. >> all right, we'll try to get
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you 50 gallons. >> you mean your wife's having a baby right now? can't you get her to a hospital? no, no, hold on, we'll get a doctor on the line. >> the doctor's rodney john, city health director. being called on to tell a frightened young father how to deliver his very first baby, without training or forceps -- or fainting. too late, under rising winds. the phone line's already gone dead. time growing short. on windgate drive, mona barrioff is getting her husband ready for the trip to the hospital. out of the bed and into the wheel chair. getting him dressed and worrying over what's keeping her brothers. when will they get off work and get here? finally, time to go. out toward the door.
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and then good-byes to cindy, the baby of the family. his sons and his wife. to escape the flood, they'll all be going to a sister's apartment in another, safer part of town. the jgentilly section in the southeast quarter of new orleans. gene is heading for charity hospital. now betsy roars down on her third swinging town, closing up bourbon street tighter than an 8:00 curfew. unpredictable to the very last she veers again. the 9:30 weather bulletin says
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the eye may pass west of the city, instead of east. a last-minute reprieve for the lakefront area, probably bad news somewhere else. >> -- fallen trees, you'll have to handle the road, no one else can reach you. >> have you heard anything about that woman in labor? have you heard anything about that woman in labor? >> no, sir. >> have you heard -- >> no word yet. but bad news elsewhere. as the hurricane comes sweeping up the delta. >> i don't know how we're going to stay on this live. >> all right, just tell us what the situation is right now. >> the eye of this thing, on the greater part of it, must be right here, right now. wind continues to blow. i'm telling you, she's a-blowing and she's a-shaking. >> at 11:46, all power fails at the new orleans weather bureau and the wind gauge blows off the
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roof. falling trees are knocking out telephone lines all over town. but not till dr. john finally gets the word he's been waiting for. >> dr. john, that woman you were worried about has had the baby and both are doing well. >> fine. >> by midnight, betsy's overwhelming the city. gusts are reaching 150 miles an hour. and all the church bells in town are tolling wildly in the wind. baton rouge is next in line. >> wind in the baton rouge area are increasing in velocity to hurricane force with winds of near 100 miles per hour by 1:30 a.m. -- >> in the state emergency operating center, governor john mac kitten and his staff, disaster coordinator leon gary, and civil defense director marshall ka bell, are working with red cross, public health, and salvation army.
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the welfare groups and national guard. emergency calls are pouring in from all over the state. including one from national guard headquarters at new orleans. >> baton rouge. >> flooding now at jackson barracks. >> you're kidding. >> no one's kidding. bet betsy's bringing in danger from a totally unexpected quarter. her winds are pushing a 16-foot wall of water out of lake bourne on the gulf. the greatest tidal surge in louisiana history. sweeping over the delta, plaquemines parish, st. bernard, topping the highest levees, roaring across the industrial canal into the southeast section of new orleans. no one knows the full size of the disaster yet. in betsy's wake there's only darkness, confusion, and death. daybreak. and devastation.
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and the church bells are quiet now. hurricane winds have done their worst. the tidal surge has topped them. >> fatality list is as follows. 25-year-old mrs. joann mayu. her body was found in the franklin avenue ditch. she was swept away by floodwaters in the flooded area -- >> people are still being pulled off roofs and out of the water. another small dunkirk. >> i saw just a big wave coming right at the house. it looked like a tunnel was in the house. >> my brother-in-law paul, the same boy got the last call through and he screamed, tell them to get out, the levee broke. >> we came down the apartment, it was flooded to the second floor. and then lifted us into the boat. the water was coming that high.
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>> another 25,000 refugees to swamp already overcrowded shelters. >> st. bernard held its own, by golly. >> well, you seem pretty happy. >> i got my four precious things out, my children. >> you ever seen anything like this before? >> never have seen anything like this before, no, sir, i hope i never see it again. >> it's that bad. >> hard. >> my mid-afternoon, the presidential plane is on its way from washington. swinging out over the gulf then up the delta, flying low, following betsy's trail of destruction. grand isle where the hurricane first made landfall, nothing left. up the mississippi, houses swept five miles from their front doorsteps.
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levees strewn with battered ships and barges. more than 450 beached or sunk. and missing near baton rouge, somewhere on the river bottom in mississippi mud, barge mtc 602, laden with 600 tons of deadly liquid chlorine. enough to produce more poison gas than both sides used in all of world war i. and much more than enough to wipe out baton rouge. at 5:00, air force one lands in new orleans bringing the president, his aides, and leaders of the louisiana congressional delegation to survey the damage, see what needs to be done. in one old grade school near the industrial canal, not meant for use as a shelter at all, they find 3,000 refugees from the flood and only four young volunteers on hand to help.
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>> how much training have you had for this type of work? >> about 15 minutes, i guess. >> the president declares louisiana and florida both disaster areas, tells the office of emergency planning to coordinate federal assistance. more than 1,200,000 people from nearly every agency of the national government will be involved. down the delta, roads are flooded out. 2,500 national guardsmen come in by river steam tore begin rescue to begin rescue operations. coast guard helicopters are flying more than 2,000 missions. the military choppers are matching them. red cross is flying in staff from all over the country. and with them, to help in this overwhelming task, come hundreds of health and welfare workers on loan from other states and cities, the other voluntary agencies. >> captain ward of the salvation
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army has placed an urgent request for clothing of any kind, especially children's clothing, blankets, diapers, food, and money to purchase clothing. a refugee city is being created at the algiers navy facility. more than 12,000 people will be bedded down, fed, and cared for at the algiers naval station by nightfall. >> the army is providing provisions, bedding and latrines. the red cross is providing the transportation for these evacuees. >> officials of plaquemines parish all persons entering the parish by boat must stop for typhoid shots. typhoid shots are necessary due to a large amount of dead animal in the area. charity hospital is in dire need of blood. blood donors can give any time at charity hospital from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the clinics will be closed and there will be no visiting hours at charity hospital -- >> no visitors and no word at all to tell gene barrioff if his
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family's even alive. in the gentilly section, the water is down, the water is still up slapping at doorsills. for three straight days the whole barrioff clan has been marooned in a small apartment. short on food and short on room. eight adults and 14 little monsters with nothing else to do with their time. >> children! >> but relief in sight. >> hurricane betsy's finally blown herself out, down to rainstorm intensity now, heading northeast through tennessee into new york. i hope it has enough rain when it gets to new york to help them alleviate their water shortage. >> and finally, the pumps are taking effect. in gentilly, at least, the water level is falling. for the first time in four days it's possible for mona barrioff to get out, call charity
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hospital. >> honey, it's mona. >> after all the worry, the family's safe and coming home tomorrow. so life begins again. people starting all over. >> just how bad is it with you? >> well, i tell you. we're down but we're not out. >> you're not out. >> right. >> what happened to you personally? what about your family? everybody get out? >> they're all safe. we'll live to rebuild. we will rebuild. >> you don't think this will
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knock you out? >> no, indeed. we're going to build the levees higher and have a community. >> how do you feel about it? >> always did want to redecorate. >> a man who dealt with a dozen major disasters said it. >> there isn't a city in the world that could handle anything as big as this alone. it's just overwhelming. >> there isn't a city in the world that may not face the same sort of thing someday. major disaster in one form or another and have to be organized to meet it. using resources from many public and private agencies. and at new orleans city hall they're working around the clock. civil government in emergency meeting the needs of its people, fighting a thousand problems at once. welfare assistance for victims of the flood. locating medical supplies. arranging to fly in a sift defense emergency hospital unit. answering emergency calls for food, water, sanitation equipment. for trucks and ducks to handle relief operations. the endless job of cleanup, fume
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investigation, inspection. at the civil defense office, the coordinating point for this kind of planning, the lights burn late. and endless string of coffee cups and still no sleep in sight. betsy's final bill won't be in for months. the chlorine barge near baton rouge will take $1 million to raise. corps of engineers supervising the sat vage job. army, red cross, and civil defense evacuating the sick and aged in case anything goes wrong and gas starts sweeping the city. the others can take care of themselves, and they do. on november 10th, two months to the day since the hurricane hit, they bail out of town in a hurry. but 602 will rise again. and so will louisiana.
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and betsy, long gone. after 16 days and 3,000 miles, bristling out through the woods of northern louisiana, arkansas, tennessee, to die next day in a simple whirl of dust. the danger over at last. till the next one comes along. american history tv on c-sp3


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