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First Year Seminar - Fall 2009 - Water, water every where

The spring of 1927 was exceptionally wet in the eastern United States, with one storm dropping six to fifteen inches of rain over several hundred thousand square miles in a single day. Six days later, the levee of the Mississippi River broke at Mounds Landing, releasing a wall of water three quarters of a mile wide and over 100 feet deep into the Mississippi Delta. This single crevasse eventually flooded an area over 50 miles wide and 100 miles long and covered houses 75 miles away. In total, over 27,000 square miles were flooded, an area roughly equal to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined. Approximately 700,000 people were displaced throughout the lower Mississippi valley at tremendous human cost to those who could least afford it. Seventy-eight years later, southern Mississippi and Louisiana were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, again with devastating consequences.

In this course, we will study the circumstances surrounding both of these catastrophes and examine how the events in 1927 foreshadowed the tragedies that unfolded three quarters of a century later when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. There are several questions we will focus on during the semester:

  • What human decisions amplified the destructive power of these natural disasters?
  • What societal and economic factors not only contributed to the calamities but also shaped the nation's response to the disasters?
  • How did individuals respond during these disasters, and what was the context for their actions?
  • What are our societal and individual responsibilities to similar events in the future?

I'm really looking forward to this semester.

Last Modified: Monday, November 30, 2009, 8:54 AM
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