Katrina, New Orleans and Levees / by kevin murray

Most people are well aware of the disaster that struck New Orleans in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina, a category 3 storm made landfall, but most media outlets were deceptive or outright wrong as to where Katrina made its biggest impact, its category 3 impact, which was not New Orleans, but east of New Orleans, and on the Mississippi gulf coast.  It was primarily the Mississippi gulf coast, not New Orleans that suffered the true category 3 damages of the Katrina hurricane.  In actuality, Katrina first made landfall near Boras, Louisiana, before traveling north and making landfall again at the Louisiana/Mississippi border.  Hurricane Katrina did not directly hit New Orleans, yet within 24 hours, New Orleans began to flood. Why?


The answer to that question was studied and evaluated by several different groups and agencies, including ce.berkeley.edu, a group made up of researchers and professional engineers from academic institutions, private sector entities, and government agencies, with extensive forensic experience and knowledge.  Their report states succinctly that "the flood system surrounding New Orleans was pervasively flawed."  Further that, "the flood protection system was characterized by embedded flaws and inadequacies.  This is a result of a dysfunctional organizational system that created it."  The conclusion is obvious that although Hurricane Katrina was an enabler of the flooding that inundated New Orleans, it was also a manmade disaster that could have and should have been prevented had monies and engineering allocated to the maintenance of levees within New Orleans been properly administered.


This means that rather than looking at Hurricane Katrina and the loss of lives, property, and the flooding of New Orleans as an "Act of God" which was not preventable, we would be far better served to see it for what it really was, a disaster because of man's inability to take the steps and to appropriate the engineering and knowhow to fix or to design the levees to take care of the situation ahead of time.  The basic problem that New Orleans has, is that a significant portion of the city, lies below sea level, consequently it doesn't take a genius to understand that water, storm water, flood water, any type of water in excess is a significant problem that needs to be addressed ahead of time.


Consequently, the only real things that prevent New Orleans from flooding or being susceptible to flooding are levees which hold the waters back in conjunction with the needed ability to pump water out from the city when excessive water gets into it.  In both of these cases, New Orleans was unprepared or inadequately prepared, yet it had all the time in the world to prepare, so that on a fundamental level New Orleans and its disastrous flooding along with its aftermath of 2005, was a preventable catastrophe with tragically real human death and property damages.


New Orleans is the lesson that America must learn from.  Throughout all of America, there is infrastructure to which a basic assumption is made that it will always work, until it doesn't.  The fact of the matter is we usually have a very good foreknowledge of infrastructure that needs to be amended, addressed, fixed, maintained, or repaired.  As the old saying goes, "a stitch in time saves nine", New Orleans demonstrates the folly of ignoring this sage advice.