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Austin Airwaves - Katrina Alternative Media Project (2005)

Jim Ellinger

Sound | 2005

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  •  A mom and son dance while the reporter announces that 93.5 KAMP-FM is at the Astrodome broadcasting to survivors in Katrina to “get the word out” and help survivors communicate with the world 
  •  Passing out radios 
  •  A mother tells how her 22-year-old son was taken from the Superdome in New Orleans to a shelter in California to the Astrodome, but she has not heard anything from him since. 
  •  Racial biases surrounding looting 
  •  Nhi, a musician who had been walking around the Astrodome entertaining the disparaged “Dome City” survivors, plays a song he wrote about Katrina on the air. Nhi was a US military site manager in Iraq and was one of the first to write a song about the hurricane. The song is called “I’m Wishing You Were Here With Me” and is dedicated to the victims of Katrina. 
  •  View inside the Astrodome 
  •  A reporter describes some of the damage from Katrina 
  •  KAMP broadcasts an evacuee's story and inspirational words on the air. He then plays a song on the guitar and sings a gospel song. 
  •  Voicing frustrations about the lack of government help 
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This home video documents the efforts of the Katrina Alternative Media Project. Dubbed “Dome City Radio,” the micro radio station from Houston Independent Media provided displaced survivors of Hurricane Katrina with continuous news and information. Evacuees staying at the Astrodome had access to the program through donated radios distributed by volunteers and members of the news team. The project was run entirely by volunteers and supported by local media, Prometheus Radio Project, and KPFT 90.1 FM. The video combines audio of KAMP broadcasts with footage of press talking with evacuees about their experiences. The film is a raw, candid display of the emotions and deep worries that the survivors faced in the wake of Katrina, including separated families, lost children, suspended lives.
Hurricane Katrina was one the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in US history. The storm first struck the Atlantic Coast of Florida as a minor hurricane on August 25, 2005. The storm rapidly intensified over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, growing from a Category 3 to a Category 5 hurricane in just nine hours. The greater New Orleans area received a direct hit on August 29. Storm surges proved too powerful for the ailing levee and floodwall system surrounding the city and neighboring parishes, with multiple breaches causing major flooding across the central Gulf Coast region. Eighty percent of New Orleans was submerged. Residents in affected areas who did not previously evacuate found themselves trapped in their homes without food, water, or electricity. Many did not survive. At least 1,836 people died in the hurricane and subsequent flooding. More than a million more people were displaced, creating one of the largest diasporas in US history. Many evacuees came to Houston. Some 60,000 stayed in the Astrodome until the threat of Hurricane Rita forced them to relocate once again. 
The engineering failure of the levee system and the delayed government response made local, state, and federal officials the subject of intense public criticism following the storm, raising questions about not only emergency management policy but also institutional race and class discrimination.