Esch’s daddy knows that a hurricane is coming and that it’s going to be a big one, but on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where hurricanes blow through every year, it’s hard for his family to get excited about this one. They don’t know it will be a category 5 storm named Katrina. With their Mama dead for seven years, fourteen-year-old Esch and her two older brothers, Randall and Skeetah, have to watch over their youngest brother, Junior, while their largely absent father drinks and mourns. Randall has his eye on a basketball scholarship as a one-way ticket out of town, and Skeetah is busy helping his pit bull, China, give birth to her first litter a potential goldmine, if the puppies live long enough to be sold.
But Esch is weighed down by her own problems. She is in love with Manny, an older boy who sleeps with her but won’t look her in the eye. Esch finds out that she is pregnant, and when she finally tells Manny, he turns on her and her brothers. After Daddy has a terrible accident while trying to fix his truck and as the hurricane makes landfall, Esch and her siblings have to pull together to get their ramshackle house ready. When Katrina finally hits, it is worse than anyone could have imagined. Skeetah, who has guessed Esch’s secret, must choose between saving his beloved dogs and helping his family not all of them can make it out of the storm alive.