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Debunking the "New Orleans Flooded Because it is Below Sea Level' Myth

Of all the myths surrounding Katrina -and there are thousands of them- the biggest one by far is that New Orleans flooded because it is below sea level. I know you've all heard it and I know many of you have repeated it. It's simply not true. It's a myth.

Before I explain it, I'm forced by history to give you the following warning. Understanding the reasons behind New Orleans flooding requires you to A) Read the whole post. B) Think. If you are unable or unwilling to do both, then here is something else to spend your time doing.

And one last warning. I KNOW many of you are already composing your rebuttal to this post in your head even before you read it. (Caught ya didn't I?) If you've already decided I am wrong and you are going to set me straight, then please follow the above link. If you don't live in New Orleans and/or you've never studied the area and its topology, having a blogger account does not make you an expert.

Let's begin...

It is true, of course, that New Orleans is below sea level, that is not a myth. But that had nothing to do with why New Orleans flooded. In fact if we had magically elevated New Orleans 3 feet above sea level the day before the storm, New Orleans would have gotten the exact same amount of water. In fact, the true elevation of the ground has almost nothing to do with it. As I've said repeatedly, the section of the city that was hit the worst is largely above sea level and the lowest spot in the city stayed dry. -- That's why I often council against people who have never even been to New Orleans taking strong opinions on why it flooded. (Hint: It had more to do with longitude than elevation. The further east, the worse the damage.)

The true vulnerability of New Orleans lies not it its elevation but its proximity to the coast. Every coastal city shares this vulnerability; New Orleans is actually more protected than most. Each city deals with it a different way. Louisiana has build levees for example and Galveston built a 17 foot high sea wall. If Rita had topped (or broken) that seawall, Galveston would have looked not unlike New Orleans. They built that seawall because in 1900 they got slammed worse than Katrina slammed New Orleans. - And they were above sea level.

In Katrina however, New Orleans' defenses broke. Common wisdom in the mainstream media and the blogospehre is that they broke because "Katrina was a Cat 4" and the storm surge was just too high. That's simply not true. In digging thru the Wizbang archives I found a graphic that illustrates the error of this belief. Ironically when this was posted by Kevin, it meant New Orleans was safe.


Click for full size graphic

This was taken from a gauge just a few yards from the breach at the 17th Street Canal. The red line shows the record high water mark previous to Katrina. We "knew" we could take that much water again. In fact we just hoped it stayed below the 8 foot mark so it would not overtop the floodwalls.

What we did not anticipate -and no one had real cause to- was that the walls would crumble long before the water reached previous levels. Karina sent less of a flood surge in to Lake Pontchartrain than previous hurricanes. (I think that red line is Ivan) This graph makes it easy to understand why I say the hurricane did not flood us, it was a dam break.

It also shows why being 3 feet above sea level would not have made much of difference... The water still would have flowed in. (granted the water would not have been as deep in some places but that's neither here nor there. If the city were perfectly level at +3' MSL that would mean that the whole city took water not just 80%.)

Other coastal towns have gone different routes. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is probably about the size of New Orleans, but they are built more like a "strip mall" along the coast and New Orleans is more centralized. They don't have our levee system; believing that being above sea level was enough. I have not gotten over there but numerous reports indicate that whole towns are simply gone. Looking at the satellite images, I believe it.

Let me repeat for the 10th time... If the levees had held, New Orleans would have come thru Katrina a little battered but largely fine. We still would have been hit by a hurricane but that would have been small potatoes by comparison.

Should we "move New Orleans?" I guess if we want to move every coastal city and every town that lives near a man made dam and every town in an earthquake zone and every town in a tornado zone and every town.... You get the point.

Ironically -and the point people miss- is that New Orleans -even being below sea level- is not that prone to flooding. And you don't have to take my word for it... 60% of the city did not have flood insurance. And their mortgage companies did not require it. Why? Because they were above the 100 year flood plain.

We have what is arguably the most capable drainage and pumping system in the world. We can handle something like 3 inches of rain in 90 minutes and 1 inch per hour basically indefinitely. Give any other major city 1 inch of rain per hour for 24 hours and see what you get. It won't be pretty.

And we could have EASILY handled Katrina if not for a hardware failure. If you have a car wreck because your breaks go out while you are going 60mph on the interstate, you don't blame the interstate.

The levee work announced yesterday by the Whitehouse will put our flood protection back to where it was supposed to be (and we were told it was) before Katrina. If this had been done last year, New Orleans would be fine today.

Considering this has already cost the US Treasury $60 Billion and it likely to cost another $100 Billion more, really understanding the dynamics of the situation might be a good idea for everyone.

Sadly, the MSM has done a horrific job explaining all this. Mostly because (and I'm planning a big post on this later) because the news media today is not about information, they are about drama. They don't care how or why New Orleans flooded. If they can show black people staving in the Superdome and blame George Bush, they are here with the Satellite trucks. Ask them to explain to the U.S. citizens why a half a million people are homeless and the Treasury is spending 100 billion dollars on something and their eyes glaze over.

So I do my best to explain it in my little corner of the blogosphere.

Two final thoughts.

As for paying for the restoration, the Federal government has not just the traditional obligation to pay for it as they would when they rebuild every other city after a tragedy, now they have an additional burden. Considering the feds flooded the city, they now bear the cost of fixing it.

Lastly, some you all want to whine about the feds sending us money. OK, I have a proposition for you.... Louisiana could pay for every penny of the restoration out of its own pocket if we were given the same cut of the oil taxes that every other state in the union gets. We produce 24% of the oil produced in this nation. We'll sell OUR oil on the open market and pay for everything ourselves.

You all don't mind paying 4 bucks a gallon for gas do you?

Speaking on behalf of the entire state of Louisiana, we'll keep the oil and you guys don't have to pay for the levees. Deal?


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Comments (55)

Thanks for mentioning the M... (Below threshold)

Thanks for mentioning the Mississippi Coast. A lot of people tend to forget that we were even hit. When I was listening in the dark in Gulfport after Katrina hit that a levee had broke, I was praying for you guys in New Orleans. When I heard about the others breaking later, I was worried about some friends over there.

I don't understand why people keep saying New Orleans should not be rebuilt. Where would the New Orleans port facilities go so that farmers in the Midwest can ship their goods across the world? Where would all the support companies for the oil industry go?

New Orleans has always been a vibrant city and helps drive the economy on the Gulf Coast. A lot of our customers are New Orleans businesses and slowly but surely they are coming back.

>Speaking on behalf of the ... (Below threshold)

>Speaking on behalf of the entire state of
>Louisiana, we'll keep the oil and you guys
>don't have to pay for the levees. Deal?

Preach it, brother. ;-) I seldom agree with Mary Landrieu but I saw her on CSPAN yesterday explaining why the Feds should pay up on levee repairs and upgrades, the significance of New Orleans as a port city and our area's impact as an oil producer, and the one comment that stuck with me was "We are NOT a charity case." Damn straight.

>Thanks for mentioning the ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Thanks for mentioning the Mississippi Coast. A lot of people tend to forget that we were even hit.

seawitch- But for the levee breaks, you guys would be the story. In a way you guys are getting short changed in all this.

Absolutely correct. (And it... (Below threshold)
Phillip II:

Absolutely correct. (And it kills me to have to agree with anything Sen. Landrieu says.)

I agree with the idea of th... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

I agree with the idea of the feds paying to rebuild NO in this case. Paul's argument is a very good one. My concern comes with the next disaster. People aren't going to care what the reasons were for the Feds rebuilding NO. They will only want to know when the Feds are going to show up and rebuild their town, regardless of the circumstances.

Everyone believes that his town is vital to the economy of the free world. However, people will tire of seeing their tax dollars constantly being used for rebuilding other people's stuff.

I have been to New Orleans ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

I have been to New Orleans many times and I was stationed at Air Force bases along the gulf cost in both Mississippi and Florida for years, so I know the area. Your point that New Orleans would have flooded if it were 3 feet above sea level is true, but if it were 50 feet above sea level it would have stayed dry except for runoff pooling.

Elevation does matter when building levees. The lower the elevation the higher the levees have to be, and the higher they are the more they cost to build and maintain. Also, the soft saturated ground in the New Orleans area makes building strong and high levees an expensive process.

Another important point is that if New Orleans was 3 feet above sea level the flood waters would have drained away just like they did in hard hit areas of Mississippi. We wouldn't need to be rescuing people from roof tops days after the hurricane.

The port New Orleans needs to be where it is, at least until we allow the Mississippi to change it's course as it has been trying to do for over 100 years. However, the city could be moved to high ground. It would be far cheaper to build a high speed rail link between the high and dry city of New Orleans and the port New Orleans than to build even category 4 levees around the city.

Lets not spend billions setting up a house of cards only to have the next hurricane knock it down again.

Paul - As always, I love th... (Below threshold)

Paul - As always, I love the blog. "Hiring" Jay has been a great thing. And I certainly feel for your struggles living in the thick of it.

But when you go and say something silly, I have to wonder what you were thinking....

If you have a car wreck because your breaks go out while you are going 60mph on the interstate, you don't blame the interstate.

Of course you'd blame the Interstate. Who else has that kind of cake to support you for the rest of your unmotivated and lackadaisical (I looked that one up, it is spelled right regardless of the warnings sounds going off in your head right now) life?

Got my blockquote goofed up... (Below threshold)

Got my blockquote goofed up, sorry... Final para was me.

Paul,As a taxpayer... (Below threshold)
j.west:

Paul,

As a taxpayer, I would oppose spending any money to rebuild New Orleans until the citizens of Louisiana rise up and replace your officials with people of at least minimal competence.

Americans will support just about any program to replace and improve a city damaged by a natural disaster; however, the one thing they will not stand for is wasting billions through inept and corrupt management.

We cannot, in good conscience, send one dime to New Orleans while Broussard, Nagin and Blanco continue in any position of authority. Until the residents of your state take responsibility for installing leaders who will spend our tax dollars honestly and competently, let them sleep in tents and cars.

If you would get rid of all... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

If you would get rid of all the crooks in the goverment in La. you would have plenty of money to fix it all.

Well put, Paul, but I think... (Below threshold)
Indy Voter:

Well put, Paul, but I think you'll have to agree that the reason floodwaters in New Orleans didn't drain *after* the city flooded was because the water had accumulated in the areas which were below sea level (or at least below breach level, which was no doubt a few feet above sea level). In that sense the "bowl" analogy which was used so much at the time of the hurricane was quite apt.

Does anyone know how Galveston or other coastal cities' surge protection systems are designed to respond to overtopping? Since they're above sea level I'd suspect there's some kind of a sluice or channel which could be opened to let flood water drain more rapidly.

Paul, when you're wrong you... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Paul, when you're wrong you're wrong. And you're wrong. First off, let me start by saying I've never been to New Orleans and I'm no expert. But just as you asked me to read your whole post before making up my mind or starting to form my rebuttal, I'd ask the same of you.

Cities above sea level can flood, this is true. Cities below sea level have a harder time with flooding because there is nowhere for the water to drain. It has to be pumped out.

Your argument is that New Orleans did not flood because it was below sea level, it flooded because the levees broke. Sure, the levee breaks let the water flow into New Orleans. But the fact remains that New Orleans is a bowl surrounded by water. Water that is higher than the city itself. The water from the levee breaks flowed into New Orleans because it is below sea level.

So you can argue that it was the levee breaks that actually caused the flooding, but it is the fact that the bowl sits below sea level that created the real need for the levees and set the stage for the disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina.

You don't have to take my word for it, you've blogged on the this very topic.

Arguing that being below sea level had nothing to do with the flooding is silly.

I agree with Paul wholehear... (Below threshold)

I agree with Paul wholeheartedly that the arguments against federal assistance in rebuilding New Orleans, on the basis that it's below sea level, are just plain crackpotted.

J.West, though, does raise a concern that ought to be examined and dealt with in the process of rebuilding the city.

It seems to me that the mos... (Below threshold)
Guvnah:

It seems to me that the most accurate thing to say is that New Orleans flooded because it was NEAR* sea level. It STAYED flooded because it was below sea level.

*(Near enough for storm surge to be a problem).

Was there this bickering an... (Below threshold)

Was there this bickering and division after Galveston? Mass graft again in Louisiana. They're too busy getting Creoled. Didn't really care about the po' folks.

Dam was damned years ago. What happens when Hurricane Huey comes in next? I think he's there already in the form of Blanco and Landrieu. Check out what Gov. Blanco's doing for relief this Christmas right here.

Fine analysis! Think of the energy needed to raise a city three feet. Wow!

So some follow up questions... (Below threshold)
Tommy:

So some follow up questions.
1. When were these levies built?
2. Who oversaw the contractors?
3. Were the CoEE's who approved the project the same as the ones who inspected it. , accepted it, -signed off as complete.
4. How was the contract awarded. Anything unusual?
5. What are the parties involved doing now.
6. Are any Vince Foster?

OK, I have a prop... (Below threshold)
MikeB:


OK, I have a proposition for you.... Louisiana could pay for every penny of the restoration out of its own pocket if we were given the same cut of the oil taxes that every other state in the union gets. We produce 24% of the oil produced in this nation. We'll sell OUR oil on the open market and pay for everything ourselves.

Are you confusing the consumption tax paid at the pump for some newly created Paul-'production'-tax or is this some other straw for which your grasping for to rationalize argument ? And I was unaware that the State of Louisianna owned such vast oil deposits. Curious.

- MikeB

Why should Americans with t... (Below threshold)
Fred Z:

Why should Americans with the good sense to live where hurricanes do not flood low lying land pay money to Americans who chose to live in NO? If you stay, you must pay.

Don't tell fairy tales about the benefits to the rest of the USA from the 'port'. It was charging all the traffic would bear and was delivering no favors to anyone; except maybe your corrupt officials.

But it was a great idea to keep your oil in the ground. It will increase the price and we in Alberta will happily take over your customers. Thanks for that and thanks also to American enviro-loonies for stopping drilling in ANWR.

I believe the proof of what... (Below threshold)
Oh, FTLOG:

I believe the proof of what you're saying, Paul, is that NO was, for the most part, just fine immediately after the worst of Katrina had moved northward. Does anyone else remember the big "Whew!" expressed by meteorologists? How many times did we hear that NO had "dodged a bullet"?

As for rebuilding...what other natural disaster has occurred where people have pointed to the victims and proclaimed the disaster to be a self-inflicted wound? Perhaps seaside, multi-million dollar homes falling into the Pacific Ocean, but they don't count...they're rich. (just jokin'!)

New Orleans was a prosperous community that was an asset to the rest of the country. I think it's about time we put some of our tax dollars to work rebuilding true American interests.

The coastline is shrinking,... (Below threshold)
New Baton Rouge:

The coastline is shrinking, how much longer until New Orleans is an island surrounded by dikes/levies?

Rebuild New Orlean on high ground, keeping the port for cargo and the French Quarter for tourists. Make the rest of old New Orleans into a park honouring the peole killed in the huricane. Use Federal money and built the relocated New Orleans as a model city. New Schools, new places of employment, break the cycle of poverty. New Orleans could be the model for rebuilding teh inner cities of America or it could be put back, as is, and wait for the next disaster.

Folks, the arguments to reb... (Below threshold)

Folks, the arguments to rebuild New Orleans ignores geology.

The soil of the lower Louisiana Delta is primarily silt, and over time, silt compacts. The Delta is constantly sinking, and the entire city of New Orleans is sinking from fraction of an inch to many inches per year based upon the exact underlying soil composition of a given area of the city.

The levees that protect the city are now killing it, as the yearly flooding of the Mississippithat once provided silt to reinvigorate the delta is now directed, wastefully, into the Gulf where it is washed away. The city sinks and the delta marshes, unable to rebuild because of the wasteful levees, wash more rapidly away every year.

New Orleans is dying in a trap of man's design, and the city will join the Gulf of Mexico between 2050-2090 according to experts from the Corps of engineers, LSU, and many other coastal and marine studies experts.

Even if massive sea walls were built completely around the city to make it an under sea level island, the silty soil base would one again fail from below.

The most logical, cost effective way to save New Orleans is to move it inland, or in this instance, upriver.

Hundreds of billions of dollars of costly renovations are tempory solution to the orginal problem of a very poor location.

Steve L>I agree wi... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Steve L

>I agree with the idea of the feds paying to rebuild NO in this case. Paul's argument is a very good one. My concern comes with the next disaster.

>people will tire of seeing their tax dollars constantly being used for rebuilding other people's stuff.

When was the last time this happened in Louisiana? When was the last time the in Florida? Or California?

Just wondering.

-----
Mac
> the city could be moved to high ground.

Ok Right after we move Miami and New York.
-----

j West

>As a taxpayer, I would oppose spending any money to rebuild New Orleans until the citizens of Louisiana rise up and replace your officials with people of at least minimal competence.

I think the same thing every time I see money going in Washington DC

-------
Sean:

>Arguing that being below sea level had nothing to do with the flooding is silly

Nowhere in your whole post -which i read- did you explain who being below sea level made LOLA flood. You just showed that it slowed the drainage process. We all know that.
-------
Tommy, you get your own reply.
-------

MikeB

>Are you confusing the consumption tax paid at the pump for some newly created Paul-'production'-tax or is this some other straw for which your grasping for to rationalize argument ? And I was unaware that the State of Louisianna owned such vast oil deposits. Curious.

No, do some research and get back to me. (or I hope to blog it in the next week.)

--------------

And Fred Z humorously opined....

>Why should Americans with the good sense to live where hurricanes do not flood low lying land pay money to Americans who chose to live in NO?

>we in Alberta...

Fred... You live in alberta... If the power goes out you fucking freeze to death. New Orleans gets a hurricane like this every 300 years. You get winter every year. Dumbass.

(I knew it was going too good. ;-)
---------------

New BR

>The coastline is shrinking, how much longer until New Orleans is an island surrounded by dikes/levies?

Sigh, do your home work and get back to me.

----------

I must say... If people keep making sane and rational comments to my post, I'll think I'm on the wrong blog.

All I can figure is that the Disney servers must have melted from the load.

Just when I thought there w... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Just when I thought there were no true dumbasses, we get one.

>New Orleans is dying in a trap of man's design, and the city will join the Gulf of Mexico between 2050-2090 according to experts from the Corps of engineers, LSU, and many other coastal and marine studies experts.

Are you watching 60 Minutes again? So in 45 years the city will join the gulf of Mexico?

Too stupid for words.

And it is a shame because you mention good points... then piss the whole thing away with stupidity.

Tommy's questions, my answe... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Tommy's questions, my answers...

1. When were these levies built?

Heh- Well I think they stated in 1850 or somewhere there about. The floodwalls that failed were built in the late 1990s... Less than 10 years ago.

2. Who oversaw the contractors?

ACoE

3. Were the CoEE's who approved the project the same as the ones who inspected it. , accepted it, -signed off as complete.

That would be them.

4. How was the contract awarded. Anything unusual?

Standard issue bid process... I don't recall if there was anything "unusual" about something 10 years ago but there has been nothing in the local paper or local talk shows about it since the storm...

Certainly if there was a scandal back then, we'd be reliving it today.

5. What are the parties involved doing now.

Designing the new levees. Why?

6. Are any Vince Foster?

Nope, he was in his office committing suicide at the time.

Speakin... (Below threshold)


Speaking on behalf of the entire state of Louisiana, we'll keep the oil and you guys don't have to pay for the levees. Deal?

No kidding. I'd also like to see all of the midwest farmers FedEx'ing their corn to market too. Or maybe they'd just have to truck it to Los Angeles, who knows...

:peter

How does the (hypothetical)... (Below threshold)

How does the (hypothetical) comment that LA could "keep all the oil" (and sell if on the open market) relate to the farmers not having a port through which to ship their harvests? Paul wasn't saying he (hypothetically) wanted to isolate LA from the Union, only that they might divorce themselves from the Fed Gov'ts thumbscrews.

Mike B - A head start on that research:
US Oil Refineries
US Oil Imports, and scroll for a "Price of Gas Comparison"
Crude Production by State


By the way - How goes the movie release? (sorry, couldn't resist...)

"Considering the feds fl... (Below threshold)

"Considering the feds flooded the city, they now bear the cost of fixing it"

So, you're a proponent of the expansion of the welfare state? Why didn't LA take care of protecting itself in the first damn place?

"You all don't mind paying 4 bucks a gallon for gas do you?"

Not if it comes from ANWR.

Nowhere in your whole po... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Nowhere in your whole post -which i read- did you explain who being below sea level made LOLA flood. You just showed that it slowed the drainage process. We all know that.

I just assumed you'd follow the link to read your own words. I also said that NO was a bowl. This bowl is below seal level. This means that any water that gets near it will go down into the bowl. Being lower than the water which surrounds a place causes flooding.

I would have thought that would be obvious.

Lose power in Alberta and f... (Below threshold)
Fred Z:

Lose power in Alberta and freeze to death...right. Us Alberta dumbasses is too dumbass to burn our oil'n'gaz to keep warm and to produce...power.

Likewise, my friends and neighbours in Montana are dumbasses too dumb to live in swampy-silty-hurricane-land because the 'bad' hurricanes only come every 300 years. They're too stupid to buy Alberta oil'n'gaz if you keep yours and they'll freeze too when their power goes out, every Montana winter, like it usually does, they being to stupid to keep it working, and all. Those dolts oughta pay for NO restoration, and they oughta pay extra for the privilege of paying. And don't lets get started on those cheapass Oregonians and Dakotans. Turn'em upside down and shake their pockets.

Knowing what we know about the world there is much less excuse or reason to pay for others to live in places of known risk. Buy a map. Buy an atlas. Move. Or pay.

No doubt the feds screwed up. When they took jurisdiction over NO safety, did anyone stand up and say 'No, that's our responsibility, we choose to live here and we'll look after it.' Nope, you stayed quiet and took the supposed benefit.

Après toi, la deluge.

How does the (hypo... (Below threshold)
How does the (hypothetical) comment that LA could "keep all the oil" (and sell if on the open market) relate to the farmers not having a port through which to ship their harvests?

Sorry, I jumped the gun a bit. The whole "don't let the US gov't pay for N.O" is most commonly the opening for an "abandon N.O. to the sea" argument.

By the way - How goes the movie release? (sorry, couldn't resist...)

Yeah, not to many can resist these days =8^]

Although I have to admit that before he got big with Rings it was cool to every now and then get some of his fan email =8^]

"Dude, I love you man, like, Meet the Feebles is my favorite movie. of all time. Dude!"

We don't need to rebuild al... (Below threshold)

We don't need to rebuild all of the "sump" parts of New Orleans to keep the Port open and working at 100%. Just keep the current high ground, put in a few more layers of levees to keep the middle parts dry, and let the lowest parts go back to the river.

The *real* screwup in the levees wasn't in the construction of one or two crappy pieces that broke, but in the strategic design that let huge areas of the city flood from a couple of breaches.

New^2 Orleans needs to have more of a grid system, that's more tolerant of single-point breaches.

For the locals, I found thi... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

For the locals, I found this video link on nola.com forums and really liked it. The views of old New Orleans really got to me. Now as Hap Glaudi used to say "Now somptin for da ladies."

http://media.putfile.com/My-City-of-Ruins

I found an interesting arti... (Below threshold)

I found an interesting article. Below is a small section:


"But there is growing evidence the New Orleans flood-control system sprang leaks in countless other locations around the city. Even if no levees had collapsed, parts of New Orleans still would have flooded, engineering reports indicate.

Engineers and others now say substantial blame for some of those failures lies with the ineffectual patchwork of agencies overseeing the system. A big part of the problem is a colorful relic of 19th-century Louisiana: the local "levee districts" that own and maintain most of the levees and floodwalls. Held up as an essential defense against floods, they also became vehicles for government contracts and political patronage, critics say.

The Orleans Levee District -- responsible for most flood control in the city and armed with a $40 million annual budget and nearly 300 employees -- had branched out over the years to build parks, marinas, a cash-strapped airport and a dock it leased to a casino gambling boat. Critics and some former board members say the board had lost sight of its original mission."Post-Gazette

The link for the article di... (Below threshold)

The link for the article didn't work: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05329/612494.stm

Sean:>I just assum... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Sean:

>I just assumed you'd follow the link to read your own words. I also said that NO was a bowl. This bowl is below seal level. This means that any water that gets near it will go down into the bowl. Being lower than the water which surrounds a place causes flooding.

>I would have thought that would be obvious.

You are patently incorrect. "This means that any water that gets near it will go down into the bowl."

If by "near it" you mean a flood surge of 13 feet! The fact remain Sean -no matter how much you try to deny it- if New Orleans were +3 feet it still would have flooded.

I would have thought that would be obvious.
------------

Seawitch I THINK I blogged it some time back. Someone mailed it to me I know and I know I replied... Basically if you read the story with a fine tooth comb, yes SOME areas would have gotten water. But a leak at a floodgate and a 3 block long breach are orders of magnitude apart.

-------

cirby

BINGO! It is being discussed.

----

Fred Z

>Lose power in Alberta and freeze to death...right. Us Alberta dumbasses is too dumbass to burn our oil'n'gaz to keep warm and to produce...power.

Oh sure Fred and the the power WILL NEVER go out for you... Dumbass.

The *rea... (Below threshold)


The *real* screwup in the levees wasn't in the construction of one or two crappy pieces that broke, but in the strategic design that let huge areas of the city flood from a couple of breaches.

Hmmm. And what "strategic design" would that be? Think London streets; they've been redirected and layed over each other for years and years. That's what New Orleans needs: the first "strategic design" it's ever had.

The truth is a couple of storm gates on the interior canals would have completely prevented the catastrophic flooding.

:peter

Paul:The other pro... (Below threshold)

Paul:

The other problem is that being below sea level made a *huge* difference when the sea came around through Lake Pontchartrain during the storm surge. If the storm surge suppression structure had been built 30 years ago, like the Corps of Engineers had asked, things would have been much different.

Then, of course, it's also not so much of a problem of being below "sea level" as being below lake level, when you have a huge body of water like Pontchartrain sitting just uphill of you. Especially when that same lake is about five or six feet deeper with a sudden bolus of salt water.

So, Mr. Bonging Pejorative ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

So, Mr. Bonging Pejorative now has a degree in geology?

Didn't think so.

I think at this point, Paul, you're simply flame baiting. You live in a flood plain area that has both areas below sea level now and those that will be sooner than later.

Deal with it or stop trying to rationalize the geography. Better yet, get a houseboat, a barge or move somewhere else.

McGehee: people aren't obje... (Below threshold)
-S-:

McGehee: people aren't objecting to federal dollars of the ever increasing billions being given to Louisiana because of issues related to sea level, we are objecting based upon gross mismanagement and ridiculous posturing about the so-called urgency and importance of rebuilding an urban infrastructure with suburban areas that exists in a flood plain area, that is entirely dependent upon that.

Look at the place before the flooding occured. Look at what happened to the place after the Hurricane (and during).

It's as if the Duke of New York was in charge, to be sarcastic here for a moment.

The area does have, despite what Paul insists it does not, areas that are beneath sea level, most that are at sea level and some areas that soon will be either or both. The area is subject to an ever increasing water level (sea level increases and Mississippi River delta topography) and there's little that anyone can do to debate that other than to try and be sensible and consider other habitable options.

No one's yet offered any reason NOT to "rebuild" New Orleans, for starters, in some other more sensible area. Why not "rebuild" a few more miles inland/upland/whatever. Why not relocate the most vulnerable areas? I can offer more suggestions on how to better spend multibillion dollars of OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY but no one's paying any attention, continuing instead to focus on New Orleans as if it's the Golden Calf.

It isn't. And I can't speak for others but multibillions of dollars is a lot of money. A.lot.of.money.

Save and salvage and assist human and animal life and alleviate suffering. Hold those responsible (why is anyone even listening to Nagin and Blanco, particularly the Senate) for the mismanagement and devote all.that.money to rebuidling an area in safe conditions.

I also have not read much redeeming information other than they have good gumbo about New Orleans, and, yeah, alcohol, voodoo, music, the basics. There isn't a lot there that the average American taxpayer can see going without inorder to support, and people are right to ask questions about the amount of money that's being asked to be ponied up to the area, and one that exists in such vulnerable circumstances.

I'm in no big hurry to support rebuilding slums. Homeowners had insurance, let them consider their options, but the city of N.O. also had the highest murder rate in the nation prior to the Hurricane. So, there's much to be considered about the area. Throwing billions and more billions at the area hasn't helped yet, so why should it now?

These are reasonable questions. And the issue of "sea level" just minimizes and ridicules the significance of these reasonable questions...not a good indication that the questions are being regarded well by people who instead insist on billions more. I find the pressure itself questionable.

Speaking on behalf of th... (Below threshold)
scott:

Speaking on behalf of the entire state of Louisiana, we'll keep the oil and you guys don't have to pay for the levees. Deal?

Deal!

We are already paying 'market price' for your oil(which actually belongs to a private company that probably wishes it didn't have to deal with a bunch of losers like you that have continuously voted for 'representative' assholes(Eddie Edwards vs. D. Duke???-- Tee-hee!~) that have completely illustrated the "abject stupidity" of your entire community for the last 80 years)...

You want another dollar more?

Fuck You!

...and the horse you rode in on(if the horse didn't drown because his owner was too fuckin' dumb to leave before a Category 5 hurricane hit...)


Listen twits I will agree t... (Below threshold)

Listen twits I will agree to rebuilding New Orleans a few miles away when you agree to rebuilding San Francisco a few miles away, when you agree to rebuilding New York City a few miles away, when you agree to rebuilding just about any fucking Costal city a few miles away. Your self rightous pontificating only causes my roids to burn brightly causing my temper to burn even more brightly.

Every single one of us has problems that given the right set of circumstances may have us helpless and in a disaster. NYC is simply biding time before a Nuke goes Boooom...it will happen all of us know it. And when it does I won't be one of those soulless cocksuckers that laughs and says well you should have known better than to live there.

San Francisco is waiting for the big shake and when it does only the aforementioned soulless cocksuckers will be poo pooing rebuilding it. Not me I will be doing exactly what I did on 9/11 heaving enormous amounts of cash towards firemen collecting. So large that they think I am drunk...I am not because that doesn't happen till later on.

And finally because I know that those lemon drops and several glasses of excellent Minor Merlot are kicking my ass.

Spare me all that idealistic crap about denying my city money because we all have to live on our own...thats not why you are arguing. You are arguing because you are NOT your brothers keeper...you are a bunch of selfish bastards who think that helping your brother only means helping YOU when you have stepped on your dick.

Pierre Legrand
Baton Rouge La

And yea Paul thats exactly ... (Below threshold)

And yea Paul thats exactly what I think. Damn I am getting more and more pissed off and I thank you. For the longest time I have just been bewildered...but no longer. I am not asking for favors I am asking for simple justice and if it doesnt come then we add all sorts of fun tariffs and taxes to oil and grain being shipped from our ports.

Yea I am irrational but I am drunk as hell after an asskicking night at the Club I run. And if any of the twits thinks thats indicative of the failure of New Orleans they can kiss my ass.

Pierre

> The area does have, despi... (Below threshold)
Paul:

> The area does have, despite what Paul insists it does not, areas that are beneath sea level, most

Susie I keep telling you to put down the bong!

I specifically said... if you could read it thru the smoke...

"It is true, of course, that New Orleans is below sea level, that is not a myth"

Now I've asked you kindly about 10 times. Now I have lost all patience. Go thru detox before you comment on my posts again.

Don't sweat it Paul.... (Below threshold)


Don't sweat it Paul. In spite of your efforts to ease their ignorance they just don't understand. They hear "New Orleans is below sea level" in the MSM and don't realize that only parts of the city are actually below sea level. They hear "the 9th Ward is underwater" and don't realize that only about half of the 9th Ward actually flooded at all, or that the worst damage was next door in St. Bernard which isn't under sea level. They think all New Orleans is is Bourbon Street. They've probably never seen a refinery in their lives. They don't know what a stevedore is. They have no idea how the coffee they're drinking got to their supermarket shelves, or where the sugar in their coffee came from, or where the polyethelene rubber in their tires comes from. They think good food is Chile's baby back ribs. They think good music is Shania Twain. They don't know what a proper bar is, and if their local government doesn't tell them when to go home, they'll drink until they hurt themselves. They don't conceptually grasp the concept of "coast," or how New Orleans isn't really any more exposed to Gulf hurricanes than any other town on the Gulf coast. They don't understand that when one hits Florida all they have to do is throw up more strip malls and trailer parks to replace the ones that were destroyed, but that in New Orleans it's a little different. Why? Because they've never seen a house that was built before WWII, much less WWI. And lets face it, they probably aren't too keen on black folks either.

But boy, they sure are quick with their opinions about what should be done with the lives of two million people and billions or trillions of dollars worth of capital infrastructure of which they know nothing, aren't they? With fellow countrymen like these, who needs enemies? It's comforting to know how small a minority they are.

:peter

Peter:...and some ... (Below threshold)

Peter:

...and some of us have a bit of a longer view, and agree with the overall strategy of *not* giving any sort of public funds to rebuild in a short-term flood plain.

They should take the same strategy they've used before: Buy the land from the people who own it, clean the buildings out and bulldoze them flat. Then, the land could become parks (for the 50 to 100 year floodplain areas) or watercourses (for the really low-lying areas). This has been done many times in recent history, with great results (among other things, it lowers the population density).

If you have to rebuild the houses *anyway*, why pay someone to put them back in stupid locations? If you're sinking billions of dollars, why not get decent bang for your buck, instead of paying someone a bunch of money to rebuild a house that's probably not going to outlast the mortgage?

Once you discount the lowest-elevation areas from consideration, there's still plenty of land left for *rational* rebuilding programs - or buildings with enough space for people to live well. With the crazy increases in pay for many jobs ($25/hour for people to lay sheetrock, over $30/hour for a welder, and $10/hour for a Burger Kind clerk), affording houses might not be as much of a long term issue as some seem to think.


I was reading this article ... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

I was reading this article online -" Katrina Leaves Widespread Despair in Its Wake" . This paragragh made me think of some of the posters on this blog.

"But now, nearly four months after Katrina's fury, residents of the Gulf Coast have an additional trauma, a "betrayal trauma" resulting from the reaction — or non-reaction — of the rest of the nation to their devastation.

"Betrayal trauma is not just limited to the slowness of the rescue but is now in this ambivalence of the nation," Fullilove said. "Instead of saying, 'This is an important region of the nation and of course we're going to repair it,' we're debating are we even going to do anything about this stuff. This is a whole other terrible, terrible thing that really eats up the soul of the people."

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthology/story?id=1397745

You should all be ashamed of yourselves, especially at this time of year.


Cirby:>Then, the l... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Cirby:

>Then, the land could become parks (for the 50 to 100 year floodplain areas) or watercourses (for the really low-lying areas)

Define a 100 year flood plain for me.

All of the lower 9th ward that got trashed is/was above the 100 year flood plain. Guess what? They still are. (see disclaimer below)

New numbers come out from the Corps next year. (They do it like every 10 years) and the lower 9th will be above the 100 year flood plain. (see below)

Why? Because a 100 year flood plain is NOT defined as land that flooded any time in the last 100 years.. If so, basically every stitch of land in America would qualify.

The 100 year floodplain is defined by having a 1/100 of a chance of flooding any given year.

AND -get this- the Corps is going to be forced to admit the lower 9 did not "flood" it was the victim of a man made dam break. As such that does not affect its chances of flooding as no body can put predict that.

So the kicker is that people will (see below) be able to build on those same lots and not even need flood insurance (!) because they still have less than a 1/100th of a chance of flooding.

You mention "really low lying areas." The lowest area in town was dry. (counterintuitive I know)

People keep talking about the fact they don't want to KEEP rebuilding New Orleans. Unless they remember 1965 they don't even remember any real hurricanes hitting New Orleans. Contrary to what the critics now say, this doesn't happen every third year.

And for the 1 millionth time if the levee had not failed, they'd hardly remember this hurricane.

The problem with all these grand statements that people love to make, is that it is VASTLY more complicated than just "moving people out the low-lying area."

The proper approach was actually started a few days ago... Let's fix the design flaws in the system so they can't bite us again.

The feds really have a simple decision to make after that. Upgrading the levees will cost about 6-8 Billion. We paid triple that just to remove debris from this storm. -Without rebuilding.

Considering we (Louisiana) lose that much in taxes every year because the feds screw us on the oil, (explainer post coming next week) it is cheap.

--

OK general purpose disclaimer for above.

We don't know what the Corps is going to do with the 100 year floodplain. If they go by the rules set up before Katrina, the lower 9 will not be considered below the 100 year plain because (short of man made failure) it still has a less than 1% chance of flooding any given year. --- But ya gotta wonder if they can somehow fudge that. ???

Last disclaimer- I picked the lower 9 because people had heard of it and I'm pretty sure the weird scenario outlined above will be true there. if not true there, it is VERY likely to be the case in Lakeview. (I'm hair splitting with myself... The larger point is that areas which got the worse devastation may be considered above the floodplain in the new numbers. Strange but true.)

...and s... (Below threshold)


...and some of us have a bit of a longer view, and agree with the overall strategy of *not* giving any sort of public funds to rebuild in a short-term flood plain.

Thank you for a thoughtful response to my rant. My point is that if the Federal Gov't would manage their navigable waterway infrastructure properly, then New Orleans wouldn't be a short-term flood plain. The fact is and has always been that the US government owns and manages the nation's navigable waterways, period. The Federal government built the bloody Intracoastal Canal before WWII. Lake Ponchartrain is only really the shallow "lake" as it appears today due to generations of dredging to make more of it navigable. (By the way, as far as Ponchartrain goes, lake level and sea level are the same thing.)

Whereas I don't agree with Paul that what happened to N.O. was the Fed's fault, it nevertheless IS the Fed's responsibility, by law, regardless what one's opinion of rebuilding N.O. is. Arguing to withhold support for New Orleans is to argue for the Federal Government to reneg on it's legal and moral responsibilities.

And frankly, I personally don't want the Feds involved in City planning or recovery. Heck, if I had it my way the City wouldn't be involved in it either, it would just be up to the market to determine what was rebuilt and what wasn't. The only thing I want from the Feds is for them to keep their waterways out of my hometown's streets and homes and businesses. If they can manage that, then banks will make loans again, insurance companies will write policies, and New Orleans will be able to rebuild itself.

:peter

Thanks for that summary. Li... (Below threshold)
Rob:

Thanks for that summary. Like you, I live here and was livid at what not-New-Orleanians were saying after the storm. Half of my family's in Pass Christian, so I'm pretty familiar with that area. The problem there was the tsunami-like surge, which (I think) went up about 28'. The land there slopes upward from the water pretty consistently for miles, so those who were far enough away from the beach (say, a mile) were fine--provided they didn't get torn up by a tornado (the homes you see shredded on satellite pics).

Rob, The surge w... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Rob,
The surge was flukey in Pass Christian. My mom lives on the beach side of 2nd street (2nd street off the beach) and came away with just a few shingles missing. The old mansion on the beach in front of her was gone. There is not much for them to do anymore over there. Life is surreal.

Paul:According to ... (Below threshold)

Paul:

According to FEMA maps dating back as far as 1984, most of New Orleans is within the 100 year flood plain.

You want to see the 100 year flood plain in New Orleans? Drive around. Anywhere you see buildings or cars that got flooded, you're in it.

I don't know where you got the odd idea that any of the lower parts of the 9th Ward were outside of the flood plain. They're not, at least according to the maps that people actually use for this. That's part of the reason so few people had flood insurance there - nobody could issue it for a reasonable premium.

The problem with all these grand statements that people love to make, is that it is VASTLY more complicated than just "moving people out the low-lying area."

Not any more. Once a wood-frame house has been flooded for any length of time, it's just a matter of *when* you tear it down, not "whether."

If they go by the rules set up before Katrina, the lower 9 will not be considered below the 100 year plain because (short of man made failure) it still has a less than 1% chance of flooding any given year.

Not true. Please look up the flood plain maps (available at FEMA and other places) before you claim this again. You don't have to had had a flood to consider something a "flood plain." The fact that much of New Orleans had to be pumped dry after even a moderate storm shows how far off you are on this.

Stop assuming.

Rob:

I also think that anyone who lives next to any beach in the Gulf or on the Atlantic should take their own chances, and not expect me to pay for their mistake, just like I don't expect anyone to pay for the risk I take in living in an active hurricane zone (but a bit farther inland).

Flood plain/tsunami risks are things you can look up, it's not like anyone kept this stuff a secret.

By the way: between the storms last year and the storms this year, I'm down about $12,000 in lost income, which isn't going to be made up by *anyone*.

-S-:Speaking about... (Below threshold)

-S-:

Speaking about geology and oil, how come nobody seems interested in the Bay of Bengal or the Andaman Sea? Or, how about off Rio de la Plata?

Look at what the Russians can't get at in the Kara Sea, which has taken huge outflows over time. Although they have a nice overlooking field on the Yamal Pen.

I say look forward to the alluvium! Where is Halliburton on this matter?! Or, SEDCO! Where is our platforms for meeting future energy needs?!

cirby Heavy, Heavy... (Below threshold)
Paul:

cirby

Heavy, Heavy sigh

>I don't know where you got the odd idea that any of the lower parts of the 9th Ward were outside of the flood plain.

Could it freaking be that I have a 4 foot by 5 foot map showing the flood pain of the freaking city on my dining room table? Do you?

>You want to see the 100 year flood plain in New Orleans? Drive around. Anywhere you see buildings or cars that got flooded, you're in it.

Sigh- Did you ever hear of this thing called google? From the first hit!

---------
For land use planning purposes, the regulatory floodplain is usually viewed as all lands within reach of a 100 year flood.

A "100-year flood" is defined as a flood event that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year.
----------

Gee that EXACTLY what I said above.

I spent a good 20 minutes typing that comment to explain it to you. It was a waste of my freaking time.

This is a serious issue that involves millions of peoples lives and billions of dollars. PLEASE if you care to be taken seriously learn the terms and use them properly.

You've made some good points... but then you piss it all away by babbling. If I wanted that I'd invite Susie back.

The paradoxical situation I outlined above exists. Sorry if its existance offends you.

Please, if you wnat to discuss it, don't exceed the bounds of knowledge or common sense.

Paul,This thread i... (Below threshold)
max:

Paul,

This thread is probably dead and you won't see this, but I have been wondering ever since I read your post - what is the 'lowest spot in the city that stayed dry'?

I live in New Orleans in the 'sliver along the river' and am curious about this.

Thanks.

Am I the only one that wond... (Below threshold)
kc:

Am I the only one that wonders why New Orleans sat there for over 100 years and did nothing about their bowl situation? In 1900 Galveston lost 12000 at 8ft above mean sea level (msl). They scrimped and got a sea wall built and elevated the city to 23 ft msl. New Orleans knew about this yet did not have the sense to apply it to themselves. If Galveston lost 12000 at 8 ft above msl, what did New Orleans think was to happen to them at 10 ft below?




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