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The Katrina Video Congress Didn't Want You To See

I'm going to warn you now. If you've only heard the news from the mainstream media, everything you think you know about Katrina flooding New Orleans is wrong. If you think you already know everything there is to know about Katrina, then you can safely ignore this post. - If the sum total of your interest in New Orleans flooding is to bash Nagin or Bush, then please... Go to where your intellect will be more appreciated. If you'd like to have your whole understanding of the Great Flood of New Orleans changed, hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

We've all heard the story, in the early morning hours of Aug 29, 2005, the Category 4 Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, overwhelming the New Orleans levee system and flooding the city. If you read Wizbang, you've known since early October of 2005 this story was fatally flawed.

In the months since Katrina, we've learned that the storm was a Category 1 by the time she hit New Orleans. No "Super Hurricane," just an average storm. We've also learned that the New Orleans Hurricane Protection System was not overwhelmed by Katrina, it collapsed. Causing the Corps of Engineers admit they flooded New Orleans not Katrina... An admission that got scant little media coverage. The Great Flood of New Orleans was not a natural disaster but a man made one.

The reason the Corps finally had to admit responsibility was that the floodwall that failed -flooding 70% of the city- basically collapsed under its own weight. It was undeniable. The Corps tried for months to claim the water came over the top of the floodwall and washed it away from the backside. (Which would make it Congress's fault) Everyone who has seen the break or looked at the surge data knew this was a lie; that the wall suffered a catastrophic failure before the water reached the top. Almost a year later, the Corps admitted that the floodwall suffered from multiple fatal design flaws and failed prematurely.

What was not really told to the public however is how high the water got up the walls before they failed. - This is an important question to a city rebuilding ~$250 billion in infrastructure. It is commonly assumed by the public that the water must have been quite high.

The question also has legal ramifications. Sovereign Immunity says citizens can not sue the government for damages unless there is negligence or Congress allows the government to be sued. If the public assumption is that Katrina was responsible for the flooding, Congress would never allow the government to be sued.

Perhaps that explains why Congress confiscated a video of the floodwall collapsing and refused to let the public see it until (a perfectly timed) 10 months after the storm. - Well after the storm passed but a few months before the current 1 year anniversary hype.

You've probably never seen it, but we have video taken by New Orleans firefighters as the 17th street canal floodwall was actually in the process of breaking during Katrina. It answers the question of just how prematurely the walls failed. The video was obtained by the National Geographic channel and aired a few weeks ago. (it took me a while to blog it, so sue me)

The video -if you understand it- is shocking. Sadly, no one at National Geographic or even the local TV station got the significance of the video. -- Because they were looking at the wrong thing.

I'm going to explain what is on the video that no one caught and I'll do my best to give you a good understanding of the whole thing.

Before I type their whole story, watch the firefighters' story as told by a local TV station a couple of months ago. As you watch the video, don't worry about the pictures for now, we'll get to them. For now, listen to the reporter and the firemen tell their story.


You can also see the video here.


Other than the heroism of the NOFD, let's look at the rest of the video and why it is so revealing. As the fireman said, the wall broke before 9AM. I have a picture taken from a house just a few meters from the break and they left a simple message on their gutted house for the whole world to see about the timing of the break.

clock.JPG
This one isn't, but most other pictures are clickable.


As you can see the water was high enough to kill a battery powered wall clock by 8:57.

As it turns out, the wall gave way in stages. (Which is logical if you've ever hit a lump of mud with a garden hose.) Sometime about 8:30AM it started to leak enough to flood the houses across the street from the break. Sometime a little after 9AM (as per the firemen) the wall slipped some more and was in the condition we see it in the video. Later, about 10:30AM a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the wall give way and burst wide open as we've all seen in the now infamous pictures:

NOAA_Katrina_NOLA_17th_Street_breach_Aug_31_2005.jpg
Via Wikipedia, very clickable


So as a recap, the video we have is roughly 30 minutes after it started leaking and about an hour and a half before it gave way all together. The damage is still limited to feet not blocks. Now watch the video again:


You were probably, like everyone else, looking at the wall closest to the camera. If you did that, you were looking at the wrong wall. Look at the other wall across the canal. Here's a screen shot.

breakscreencap.jpg
This is the smoking gun. Go ahead and click on it.
And/Or watch the video a few more times.


If you look at the top of the image in the band where the color is shifted, you see the other wall of the canal. Notice the weeds on the bank? Notice how far from the top of the wall the water is... just minutes after it started leaking but over an hour before it gave way. (BTW- This is a cap from the NGC special, not WWL. Their video was a little cleaner.)

Here is another picture of that same wall -over a week after the storm had passed- after the repair is in place... In other words, with the water at "normal" levels.

17thbreakafterfix.jpg


Look familiar? I reduced it to make it look like the screen cap. It's clickable.


You can watch the video several times and you'll clearly see the water was at this level the whole time. In fact the weeds look taller in this picture because the video was shot form so high up. BTW- If you look at the very base of the weeds in the good picture, you can barely see some white rocks in the water. (it will be more clear later)

Here's a few more shots taken in the few weeks after the storm:

breakatlowtide.jpg
This is right after the repair was made. You'll notice (on right) I was there at low tide.


noscumlowtide.jpg
This is what got me suspicious just a week after the storm. Anyone in the area knew that wall never saw floodwater...(It was a very low tide)


floodmud.jpg
EVERYTHING the water touched was caked in mud.The wall, on both the front and back, was clean. It had to be dry. Notice I got there just after they got the water out of the area... The mud is still wet. I won't tell you how I got in, I'll just tell you that some National Guardsman from South Carolina (with a loaded M-16) never heard of social engineering.


govinchopper.jpg
The Governor had a little bit better view than me. She didn't even wave. (Horrible composition, I know, don't remind me.)


breakfromnearbridge.jpg

This is a great perspective. It is taken at low tide from the break side. In this picture, you can see the white rocks in the water the tide is so low. The wall is so tall BTW that I'm 6'3" and I'm standing on top a pickup truck to take this. And I still couldn't reach the camera above the wall the way I wanted. AND the truck is on a road they built up to fix the break. The top of the wall is probably 15ish feet above the water level.


The bottom line is, Katrina's storm surge did not wash the wall away. As you may remember, water had been seeping under the floodwall at the break location for about a year before Katrina. The ground under the levee was soaked and ready to give at any moment...

New Orleans was doomed with or without Katrina, we just didn't know it. A good high tide puts more water in the canal than this. As the video shows, the water was barely higher than normal levels. The walls could have failed on a decent high tide.

From the looks of the video the fact the wall failed when Katrina was approaching was really coincidence. Yes, Katrina was the "final straw" but so could any winds from the southeast. Or any given winter storm. (we often get winds out the south that "stack" the lake far higher than this.) Indeed these same walls held much higher surges in the past; that is, before they were undermined by seeping water for a year.

Ironically the same flawed walls are incrementally safer now. We'll never have water seeping under them for a year and nobody doing anything. The flaw(s) is still there but now we can compensate for it more effectively. The right answer, of course, is to replace them.

What I will say next will probably completely throw you. Katrina saved probably over 50,000 lives.

That levee was doomed. If it had failed without notice, the death toll would have been measured in tens of thousands. There would be no evacuation, no preparation, no Feds at all. (such that they were anyway) no Coast Guard in choppers etc. Tens of thousands of people would have been dead in hours and tens of thousands more would have died on 120 degree rooftops waiting for rescue. It would have been unimaginable. - More unimaginable.

"Luckily" -and I groan when I say that- Katrina allowed the city to be evacuated.

I've said it for months. Katrina didn't flood New Orleans. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But what I find just as troubling is the history of this video. It was turned over to Federal authorities just days after the storm. The firemen who took it were told they would be fired if they spoke about it. For months the Corps -who had to have seen the video- claimed the walls were overtopped. For months the firemen listened to the lies and never said a word.

There was no national security reason to hold the video as there might be of a terrorist attack. In fact the video would have helped the scientists studying it determine the cause. Congress had the firemen testify behind closed doors then placed a gag order on them.

I routinely mock conspiracy theorists but I have trouble understanding why this tape was withheld for months. What I also find interesting is that the Corps denied they were to blame until June 1... Just TWO WEEKS before this video was quietly released.

Perhaps, I'm too cynical but it is impossible for me not to notice that if this tape had been released in the weeks after the storm, the media coverage -and the scrutiny of Congress- would have been vastly different.

You may draw a different conclusion but I'll go to my grave believing that Congress withheld this tape intentionally. It was too damning.

What I don't understand is where the media is today on this story... The story of their lives is waiting to be told but they just ignore it. If you didn't read Wizbang, you'd never know the true story of the Great Flood of New Orleans.


Playing Devil's advocate with myself.
I know what some of you are thinking. (I know because I wondered about it myself...) The water in the canal was higher (exerting more force on the wall) before the wall broke but it is lower in the video because of the break. I was planning on doing a fair amount of work - including pictures, graphs and mathematical equations about flow rates- to disprove this; both to myself and to you. But really there is no need. The canal is about 150 feet across and 10 feet deep. That's a big pipe! Just about 4 blocks away is a lake that measures roughly 26 miles high by 60 miles wide. (That's whole bunch of water) There is no way that a hole as small as shown in this video produced any localized reduction in the level of the canal. Just scroll up and look at the aerial picture of the canal and notice the cars on the bridge as scale. Then go back and look at the video and notice the water in the canal was level the whole way and surprisingly calm.

There's no need for complicated analysis. Just looking at the scale killed the theory. I might guess the water was up 1.5 feet and you'd guess 3.5. - Whatever. The video is probably not an exact enough tool to get that precise.. But it does show beyond any doubt the water was at near regular levels when the wall failed. And certainly below where it had been many times.


And a word about the comments: If you're clamoring to talk trash about George Bush or Ray Nagin, please... do it here.

If you are one of the various people who for the last year have ridiculed me in the comments section for saying the Corps flooded New Orleans... Well, I can't help you. I've explained it for a year, the Corps admitted they flooded New Orleans and I just gave you incontrovertible photographic proof.

At this point if you don't believe it, please take to your own blog and prove me AND the Corps itself both wrong.

If you'd like to make the case that I'm overboard when I say Congress withheld the video... well, we'll have to agree to disagree. There was no reason to make the firefighters testify behind closed doors. You're free to draw your own conclusions. As I said, I'll go to my graving believing the tape was withheld on purpose.

I just wish the media would do their job now that it's released. We saw the mediagasm when the AP released the footage of Bush being briefed. This is an order of magnitude or so more important.


And a big hat tip to Laura who emailed me about the WWL report and from whom we swiped the video file. And to Kenny who runs Bonaire Resort for the screen grab.


[Editors Note: This is, in a way, the culmination of our (mostly Paul's) extensive Katrina coverage from the local perspective, going back to before the hurricane hit on this day before the 1st anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There are approximately 175 Katrina posts in our Katrina archives,including a the devastatingly accurate predictions about riding out Katrina in The Superdome, unused school buses, media failures, government failures, and plenty on the Corps. While the post below contains many links, some times the balance between covering new ground on a story and rehashing previous posts has to be tilted toward the former. We've made perusing the archives easy - if you're looking for more detail you should spend some time digging through the archives.]


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Comments (193)

Whoa. Everything I had seen... (Below threshold)
meep:

Whoa. Everything I had seen and read years before Katrina was about the danger NOLA was in due to hurricane... did anyone sound the warning about the levees being in danger of collapsing under their own decay, and not due to hurricane-force winds?

I think you may be off the ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

I think you may be off the USACE Christmas card list by now.

But seriously, we have all heard time and again about the power of blogs to usurp the role of traditional news media. Unfortunately, most blogging consists of little more than linking to traditional media and the occasional "Heh, indeed" or intellectual equivalent.

By contrast, what you have here is some real investigative reporting. Watch out, Paul, you may just be helping give blogs a good name. Ok, probably not, but very nice work anyway.

Paul,Did you see any... (Below threshold)
Red Fog:

Paul,
Did you see any evidence of a bomb because one of our fine black leaders said that's what caused it.

Wowwwww.....just wow. That ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Wowwwww.....just wow. That really is damning evidence. Very enlightening indeed.

Paul,Great post! ... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Paul,

Great post! The media will use the information if they think it could possibly damage an opponent, or be helpful to a candidate they support. Otherwise, the story is so last year to them!

Do you know if there was a high-tide at the same time Katrina came ashore?

A point in the pictures posted(the video link doesn't work for me) that might of been missed. The housing around the area of the levee break didn't look hardly damaged by winds before or after the break. More proof of Katrina only being Cat 1.

Matt

i think you meant to say "s... (Below threshold)

i think you meant to say "sum total"

Excellent breakdown of the ... (Below threshold)
Darby:

Excellent breakdown of the breakdown Paul. I learned quite a bit I didn't know already, especially the damning video evidence that is shown... That water was no where near "Overspilling" as they say.

little confused here, does ... (Below threshold)
jp:

little confused here, does this mean the govt. did blow up the levees? as alleged by the nutroots?

Great work, Paul. A few co... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Great work, Paul. A few comments and observations:

1. Speculating on what actually triggered the collapse: I wonder how much rain had been dropped by the storm in the day or so prior, and where the water table levels were. Given that the existing leak probably created a local peak in the water table, possibly that and the rain just basically floated the base of the wall off of its foundation at that point.

2. My recollection from my own visits to N.O., and from relatives who used to visit there frequently (my dad sold his time-share there just a few months before Katrina), is that the local media was always harping about one levee or another being in imminent danger of collapse, going back to the '70s. Is this your impression? And if so, do you think that perhaps the crying-wolf media coverage desensitized everyone, including the local leaders, to the possibility of an actual collapse?

3. If Congress did allow the CoE to be sued, do you think it would do any good? After all, the funding for any settlement or judgement would still have to be approved by Congress. Do you think it would make a difference in how the money flows and what use it gets pot to, compared to the grants that Congress has already allocated?

Again, great job on putting the videos and other bits together.

In light of this fascinatin... (Below threshold)
Red Fog:

In light of this fascinating evidence, I encourage any intrepid blogger in the Boston area to create video/photo evidence of the Boston 'Big Dig' tunnel before it collapses and floods during rush hour. It may prove invaluable some day ...

You mean <a href="http://ww... (Below threshold)
JimK:
Not bad for an amateur.... (Below threshold)
Toddk:

Not bad for an amateur.

My recollection from my ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

My recollection from my own visits to N.O., and from relatives who used to visit there frequently (my dad sold his time-share there just a few months before Katrina), is that the local media was always harping about one levee or another being in imminent danger of collapse, going back to the '70s. Is this your impression?

Well, not really. I must admit that I paid far less attenion to levee stuff a year ago -- we all did. But having said that the big thing down here was always coastal restoration. And now more than ever it seems imperitive.

If Congress did allow the CoE to be sued, do you think it would do any good? After all, the funding for any settlement or judgement would still have to be approved by Congress. Do you think it would make a difference in how the money flows and what use it gets pot to, compared to the grants that Congress has already allocated?

BIG BIG BIG monster difference. basically the "real" money from the feds is only covering VERY limited uninsured losses.

If it were a suit then pain and suffering and punitive damages comes into the picture. That means that someone like me who lived in the next parish (county) could sue for big bucks. -- I'm not the suing type but I'd do it big time.

========

Jim, all of us had the video months ago. Laura has had it on her site for months. The difference is I knew what it meant the instant I saw it.

Okay, so I'm back on Monday... (Below threshold)
Big D:

Okay, so I'm back on Monday for the promised revelation.

On reviewing your evidence, you have a case to make. But, I have a fundamental aversion to saying "the Corps caused the flood", and I think you are intentionally missing why so many people would profoundly disagree with that statement. The reason is that a statement like this seems to preclude the potential for other causes, and obscures the reality of the situation:

1) The city was constructed below sea level. Was that a Corps decision? NOLA? Greedy developers?

2) I believe that the private contractors who constructed the dikes (the Corps usually designs things then hires contractors to do construction) did not do what the design told them to do. Would this then be a design failure or a construction failure? I would assume that if private companies did the work, then they were local NOLA contractors. Were they?

3) The dike was leaking for a year before it broke? And NOLA did what exactly during that year? Whine to the Corps? Did they even do that much?

4) I seem to remember that NOLA is assigned the task of dike and canal maintenance. Also that these jobs were routinely handed out to political cronies. True?

5) And I suppose all funds provided to NOLA for for dikes was well spent, with no waste?

6) As you know, structures have design lifetimes. Beyond that, you're on your own. When were the dikes in question built?

So, before getting animated, hostile, sighing etc., why not spend some time investigating the real cause of the dike failure, and assigning at least some of the blame where it rightly belongs?

Finally, while I have never doubted your intelligence, I have previously doubted your engineering expertise. I apologize. However, you should be gravely concerned with the fact that your posts read as if you have no such expertise, at least to another engineer.

Let's see a good why tree analyses.

In light of Paul's stunning... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

In light of Paul's stunning evidence, I'm so friggin' mad because it just magnifies government incompetence when it comes to the overwheleming neglect by local, state and national governments and agencies to repair necessary and dangerous and outdated structures such as the N.O. leeves.

In Seattle, we have a disaster in the making when it comes to our Alaska Way Viaduct—an inner city double-decker freeway that carries 110,000 cars a day and is routinely clogged with traffic. If anyone needs a reminder of why double decker freeways do not work along the earthquake-riddled west coast, I present the 1989 Cypress Freeway in Oakland, CA as evidence.

More chilling: The Viaduct is almost 2x as long as the Cypress and, since the 2001 6.8 Nisqually quake which badly damaged the Viaduct, there have been only minimal repairs made. Seismologists have repeatedly warned state and local governments that the Viaduct needs to be replaced, almost immediately. Even a temporary retrofit would help–thought very little.

But how have local and state governments responded? With...with...with dilly-dailying! They've even gone so far as to cater to nutty ideas like digging a 3-mile long underground tunnel that skirts the seawall. (Thank you Boston's "Big Dig" for "inspiring" Seattle's and Washington's civic leaders with that reckless idea.) Meanwhile, several seismologists are worried that as "little" as 5.0-5.5 quake, with any kind of sustained length, could bring the Viaduct down. It could all happen at any moment. And if it happens during the morning or afternoon rush hour? Forget it, it'll come close to 9/11 numbers.

The frustrating part? I've attend every major public meeting on the Viaduct and spoken to the Seattle City Council as a citizen and nothing. Not a peep. Not a "Dear God, we need to get this done..."

Meanwhile, time until our next quake just keeps ticking away...just as it was before with New Orleans and Katrina...

>1) The city was constructe... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>1) The city was constructed below sea level. Was that a Corps decision? NOLA? Greedy developers?

Yes, that would be the greedy developers 300 years ago.

>2) I believe that the private contractors who constructed the dikes (the Corps usually designs things then hires contractors to do construction) did not do what the design told them to do.

Do you also belive in the tooth fairy and the easter bunny?

You see that's the problem. You make grand statements and you have no clue about which you speak.

If you had read the ipet report... That is if you knew what the ipet report was.. It SPECIFICALLY said there was no problem with the construction. It was the design that was flawed.

But in your brain it doens't matter what the facts are because "you believe" something.

If you knew what the hell you were talking about I'd have read point #3.. But the first 2 proved that not only are you ignorant but you don't let that slow you down.

Amazing.

I am sorry. The videos and ... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

I am sorry. The videos and pictures did not convince me of much. They were sketchy and taken from odd angles. Long walls tend to have high spots and low spots and the one side did look like it was near the top. Other side was too vague to really see.

The fact that the government did not know the exact moment the wall failed is not surprising. Also the definition of what is meant by the wall failing varies. A watermark on walls argument is a bit week too. I am not saying your conclusions are wrong only that your evidence did not convince me. It struck me as evidence produce by someone with a bias.

Paul, Congratul... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Paul,
Congratulations on some great work! Now let's start linking this all over the web like they did on the CBS news Rathergate story. This is citizen journalism at its best.

If you knew what the hel... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

If you knew what the hell you were talking about I'd have read point #3.. But the first 2 proved that not only are you ignorant but you don't let that slow you down.

It is this sort of holier than thou, arrogant attitude that makes me suspect of everything you post. And while I find this information enlightening to a point, I find it hard to see past that arrogance and believe what you say.

And I know and have read the history of the discussions prior to this post.

>It is this sort of holier ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>It is this sort of holier than thou, arrogant attitude that makes me suspect of everything you post. And while I find this information enlightening to a point, I find it hard to see past that arrogance and believe what you say.

Don't. Go get the ipet report and read it. Don't take my word for it.

Problem Solved

>I am sorry. The videos and... (Below threshold)

>I am sorry. The videos and pictures did not convince me of much.

Wayne - I hope that what Paul has presented here, although it didn't convince you, at least planted enough doubt for you to check into it further. All those older posts on the levee breaks are well worth reading, with a lot of good links to back up his assertions.

New Orleans was doomed w... (Below threshold)
Nahanni:

New Orleans was doomed with or without Katrina, we just didn't know it.

New Orleans was "doomed" the moment is was founded some 300+ years ago.

Yes, it is a man made disaster, but one decades and centuries in the making. And one that is not for the reasons you think. NOLA should have been abandoned long ago. There is simply no way anyone can fight the natural forces at work in the delta, in fact the efforts over the decades to fight them has only made the situation worse for the whole Mississippi delta. The levee systems and the Old River complex are exercises in futility designed to keep a doomed city alive just a wee bit longer.

You see, this is not the biggest disaster that will happen to NOLA. The Corps of Engineers freely admits that there is no way that they can continue to keep the Mississippi going down it's present channel to NOLA-that eventually the Old River complex will fail and the Mississippi will go where it has wanted to go for a long time, down the Atchafalaya. When it fails, and it will, the Mississippi will never go back down it's "current" channel to New Orleans and eventually NOLA will be located on a salt water estuary and eventually claimed by the sea, as all the other former deltas of the Mississippi have.

Want to look for someone to blame for all of this, go right ahead. But I am afraid that you will find that the people who are most to blame are those who have insisted that New Orleans be "kept alive" and not to let nature take her course. That blame goes a long way-from the US government to the state of Louisiana to the city of New Orleans to the citizens of Louisiana and New Orleans to all the party people who would show up by the millions for Mardi Gras. They all have been living in a fool's paradise.

There is an old expression which states "You can't fight Mother Nature", and in New Orleans case that happens to be quite true. I am sorry if what I have said hurts, but it is the fact of the matter. The sooner we all adjust to this simple fact the better off we will all be.

You may draw a different... (Below threshold)
Capt. Codger:

You may draw a different conclusion but I'll go to my grave believing that Congress withheld this tape intentionally. It was too damning.

Assuming your are correct, then why allow the tape to be released at all? It would not be the first time Congress has banned information never to see the light of say again.

If they had the ability to delay, why not squash it entirely?

Therein lay one problem with your entire conspiracy theory.

Suing the Federal governmen... (Below threshold)
David Hardy:

Suing the Federal government is more complex than that. Yup, you generally have to show negligence (which would be easy here). But under the Federal Tort Claims Act (in which Congress partially waived sovereign immunity), you also have to beat an exception for "discretionary functions."

Supreme Court has said that essentially means you have to show that some federal employee's action or neglect violated a law, regulation, or a properly specific order. So it'd be winnable if, say, there was a federal mandate that the place be inspected every so often, and it wasn't, or that a leak be reported or dealt with, and it was discovered and not dealt with.

The paradox of the FTCA is that it gives agencies an incentive NOT to impose safety standards. If you do nothing, none of your employees can violate orders. If you set down safety requirements, and one of them fails to comply, you can be sued. One of the underpinnings of tort law is that it gives an incentive to be safe, so you don't get sued. Under FTCA, it's the other way around.

I understamd what you are s... (Below threshold)
George:

I understamd what you are saying, but there is on flaw. My house was in New Orleans and it was not flooded as a result of a levee break; it was flooded from storm surge. No levess in New Orleans East were toppled. All of the flooding in New Orleans East was storm surge. My back yard alone had 11.5' of water. By the way, on the other side of the levees shown, there was flooding. Parts of Metairie (on the other side of the 17th St. Canal were flooded. Not as badly as the "Lakeview" side though. Please make sure ALL of your facts are straight.

.... but Nation of Islam Le... (Below threshold)
Red Fog:

.... but Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan said it was a bomb.

Capt. Codger - the firemen ... (Below threshold)

Capt. Codger - the firemen who took the video would certainly have blown the whistle if there had been a move to permanently quash the video.

I'll be darned if I can fig... (Below threshold)
Strabo the Lesser:

I'll be darned if I can figure out the political implications of this one. Who to blame? Republicans controlling congress? Dems controlling LA? Our entire miserable political class?[yes]. My guess is that there are probably dozens of places just waiting for a natural disaster. A commenter above mentioned the Cypress freeway, and the Seattle viaduct, but we also have the Current Bay Bridge here in San Francisco whose replacement is a boondoggle. Not to mention the BART subway tunnels under San Francisco bay, wihch in a good rush hour quake would probably flood killing several thousand people. To some extent, this is unavoidable, as previous generations had both lesser ability to quantify risks and a greater risk tolerance.

That's a lot of work. Nice ... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

That's a lot of work. Nice job.

George, the parts of Metair... (Below threshold)

George, the parts of Metairie you're talking about that flooded - you don't mean the Aaron Broussard flood plain, do you?

Good Grief people.... (Below threshold)
Tammy:

Good Grief people.

If Paul said the sky in New Orleans was blue, there are a certain number of you who would swear it was purple.

Don't you get tired?

He clearly did him homework on this one. He knows more about it than any of the experts I've heard on T.V. this week-end.

And George, how did the storm surge get to you if the levees were not topped? I don't know anything but I know better than that.

The IPET report Paul's clam... (Below threshold)
BumperStickerist:

The IPET report Paul's clamboring for everybody to read states that the levees met the design specification, but not the design intent. That would seem to have something to do with liability.

As would the contributory causes to the failure cited by the IPET such as the failure to close the gate at CSX, possible upkeep issues due to the presence of trees on the levee, et cetera, et cetera.

To read the IPET report and come to the conclusion that 'the Corps was at fault, and they admitted it' is lunacy.

The statement by the Corps of Engineers that they 'caused the flood' is so heavily ammended when considered as a statement in full that Paul's editorial decision to excise the rest of the statement is notable.

So, we're left with Paul, being both an engineer and - apparently - Erin Brockovich, moving around the scene, taking pictures and coming up with his own explanations that the there would have been a spontaneous failure even if there wasn't a hurricane ... because ....

well, Paul's not looked into the matter in terms of what testing regiments were going to be used on the levees what sort of early indicators there would be of a potential levee failure, whether or not funding and resources would be allocated in the event of a potential breach to either shore-up the section or evacuate the people.

Also, Paul WILDLY overestimates the speed with which a spontaneous breach would fill New Orleans killing a potential total of 50,000 people, given that the breach would presumably not take place after 14" of rain fell, there wouldn't be 60+ mph winds to contend with, and all paths leading out of the affected area would be open.

Which might, you know, affect the outcome casualty-wise.

The data Paul's collected personally through photography is admirable and the source material he cites is worth reading, if only to get all the caveats and alternative explanation Paul finds too burdensome to include.

A quick case in point is the the clock that reads 8:57 ... Paul *neglects to consider* that the clock could have been shaken off the wall before 9:00 the night before or that windblown rain or other factor could have caused the clock to stop at 8:57. Somehow Paul's gone from the Town Clock after the Atomic Blast to a wall clock on the ground after the flood as being equally indictative of the timing of the respective events.

Paul, I've read the IPET report.
It does not mean what you think it means.

As for the other evidence you've put together, espcially the photographs, it's interesting to consider and perhaps useful to people with expertise who are investigating it.

Good luck to you and best wishes for a storm-free season.

LauraI always have... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Laura

I always have doubts. Having a Math degree, I tend to spend more time looking for facts that would disprove one of my theories than I do looking for facts to prove it. I am one of those who many do not like having a discussion with since I will argue the counterpoints even though I do not agree with those counterpoints.

It would not surprise me at all if the levies were on their way to breaking. There are many Corp of Engineer projects especially the old ones that have flaws in them or are wearing down.

If I find some time I might look at some of the old post. I read Whizbang almost on daily bases for the last two years so I may have seen them already. The pictures and video did bring forth speculations but not much as in hard indisputable facts.

>To read the IPET report an... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>To read the IPET report and come to the conclusion that 'the Corps was at fault, and they admitted it' is lunacy.

Ok Whatever you say:

Corps Takes Blame for New Orleans Flooding

A contrite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility Thursday for the flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and said the levees failed because they were built in a disjointed fashion using outdated data.

"This is the first time that the Corps has had to stand up and say, `We've had a catastrophic failure,'" Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps chief, said as the agency issued a 6,000-page-plus report on the disaster on Day 1 of the new hurricane season.

The Corps said it will use the lessons it has learned to build better flood defenses.

"Words alone will not restore trust in the Corps," Strock said, adding that the Corps is committed "to fulfilling our important responsibilities."

The $19.7 million report includes details on the engineering and design failures that allowed the storm surge to overwhelm New Orleans' levees and floodwalls Aug. 29.

Many of the findings and details on floodwall design, storm modeling and soil types have been released in pieces in recent months as the Corps sought to show it was being open about what went wrong. But the final report goes into greater depth.

And to think, I linked it 3 times in the post. Guess I was being loony.

Matt,Looks like th... (Below threshold)

Matt,

Looks like the tide had been falling for an hour: high tide at 0509, landfall at 0610.

Tide info here:
http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/tide/tideshow.cgi, landfall info thanks to google.

Excellent work Paul and goo... (Below threshold)

Excellent work Paul and good presentation of the entire issue. You and I have slightly different interpretations of various events, but I think you've pretty well nailed it on this one.

Excellent, informative and honest work. Well done.

--Jason

Paul that was funny. You n... (Below threshold)
Tammy:

Paul that was funny. You need a keyboard warning next time.

Gee, Paul, I'd've hoped by ... (Below threshold)
BumperStickerist:

Gee, Paul, I'd've hoped by the third time you'd notice that was a Forbes article you linked to and not the IPET report.

See, there's a Forbes article.

and then there's an IPET report.

Forbes article ... IPET
Forbes ... IPET

It's not really that difficult a distinction, Paul.

You might oughta wanna check the official Corps of Engineers response to the IPET findings.

Unless you're one of those guys who takes at face value a Forbes reporter's characterization of a Lt. General's statement as being 'contrite'.

Nice work on the photos, though.

Congratulations on the Inst... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Congratulations on the Instapundit link!

Paul---What's with your mea... (Below threshold)
Steve the LLamabutcher:

Paul---What's with your mean-spirited vendetta against disneyfunhoue.com? I question the timing.

Paul, I don't know ANYONE w... (Below threshold)
JimK:

Paul, I don't know ANYONE who saw that video - be it this week or two months ago - and came to any other conclusion but that the Army Corps of Engineers was at fault for poor design and construction.

We are in 100% agreement about how and why that leveee broke. I'm not trying to stir up trouble or contradict you...in fact I think this post is excellent and refrains from the more hyperbolic phrasing that puts people off. You made your case plainly and clearly.

The failure of the 17th st ... (Below threshold)
-ronnie in new orleans-:

The failure of the 17th st canal did not create the worst flooding in the New Orleans area. The multiple failures of the MRGO and Industrial Canal levees by storm surge flooded the majority of the homes totally lost to flooding, which are located in New Orleans East and St. Bernard.

As a St. Bernard resident who was there I can assure you that at 7:15 thee was 8 feet of water in St. Bernard and by 9:45 there was about 13 ft. I observed this and felt it first hand from the roof of my house on Aycock St in Arabi. The MRGO and Industrial canal breaches were just as avoidable since St Bernard has been pleading for the shutdown on the seldom used MRGO for years and the Industrial Canal levee broke in an almost identical manner, with almost identical results, to the 1963 breach during Betsy, which also sent 8 feet of water into our area. We were assured by the Corps that the structural problems have been solved. The Corps just made the same claim this month and when I drove over the Seeber bridge last week after filing the papers to have the house demolished I looked down on a new levee that looked just as flimsy and inadequate as before.

Who would buy a used levee from these guys anymore?

And to those who would just won't fight Mother Nature the Netherlands would be a part of the North Sea today with that thinking. You don't have a Y2K problem. You've got a Y1K problem. I thought the Enlightenment had solves that argument.

It can be done properly. It takes the will and the money, neither of which I think will be forthcoming.

Aside from that the observations about this particular levee break are correct. The surge did not reach that area of the Lake. If you don't believe that look at a map. By that time the water was largely being bled off by massive flooding further south. I live 2 miles form the MRGO and the Industrial canal and the water flowing down my street had whitecaps on it.

These levees has been undermined and verged on failure for years and the combination of rain and extended high water just cause a structural failure. I'm not into blame, just facts, and those are the facts.

I would also dispute the possible casualty count in the tens of thousands since Betsy in '63 breached the levee at night without warning or evacuation (the storm had basically passed hours before). The water flowing through a single breach in a levee into a large area moves with comparative slowness and there is time to evacuate. Most of the folks in Arabi in '63 were awakened when the water was already about 2 ft high. There were very few casualties.

Writing from my new home in Denham Springs...

-ronnie-

This was the most amazing b... (Below threshold)

This was the most amazing blogpost I have read this year. My jaw literally dropped when I read the kicker. Outstanding work, and I hope those in the MSM reading this will either a) confirm it, or b) tear it apart. Either way, I want to see the facts looked into, and not ignored.

Paul-Very nice wor... (Below threshold)
tmi3rd:

Paul-

Very nice work indeed. I grew up in Metry (brah), went to HS at Country Day (don't hold it against me), went to UNO, and left NO in 2004. As a member of the MSM, it's frustrating indeed that the national guys (be it CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, FOX, or anyone) will not run with this... but I can at least shed some light on the "why".

Let me preface by saying that we're completely indefensible on this... we blew the coverage of the initial stuff in the first place- don't expect us to get it right on the second. We won't.

Nothing scares the MSM worse than having to admit we're wrong. The other thing is, this doesn't create for a dramatic lede... if there's some way to get the print media into this, that would probably be the best bet. Have you pitched this to the T-P? What about the BR Advocate? And hey- there's always the WSJ... God knows they read you periodically.

Again- fine work. I would gently question how many would die in the potential levee collapse independent of a hurricane- the water would certainly rise quickly, but we (the MSM) still started with a 10K casualty figure for the floor with the hurricane. We were dead wrong on that, too.

But, Paul, please pitch that to the various stations and print media in the neighborhood- I have to think that someone down there would be interested. God knows that the T-P (to my astonishment) did some genuinely good work on the stories to be had (hence the Pulizer)... why would they possibly turn down another?

Bravo.

tmi3rd

First, a technical correcti... (Below threshold)

First, a technical correction:

Katrina hit NOLA as a category 1. But... if you look at the damage in Mississippi, you can see far more that category 1 damage, and it hit NOLA first - so what's going on here?

The answer is that a storm category is a very rough definition. In a hurricane, there are two damage parameters that are critical in this discussion (ignoring rainfall - a third), not one: wind speed and storm surge.

Katrina had been a large category 5 storm before it suddenly dropped in intensity. During that time, the Cat 5 winds imparted a lot of energy to the ocean surface, providing momentum which did not suddenly drop to Category 1 when the winds did - water has a lot more density than air, as you know. The result was, in fact, a category 5 storm surge. Of course, the storm surge was highest E and NE of NOLA, on the right hand side of the track, while NOLA itself was in the lower surge area - the left. But, there was a HUGE surge - probably greater than Camille's 24' record surge.

It was that surge which wiped out so much of the coastline, flooded into the lake, and took down the long interstate bridge. Certainly THAT wasn't a coincidence and it sure wasn't category 1 damage!

To give another example of how these paramters are decoupled, consider Hurricane Andrew - a category five that devastated Miami but had little storm surge. The reason: the diameter of the storm was too small, so the fetch of high speed wind over water was not enough to create a "category 5" storm surge.

Hence the situation is not a simple as you paint it. There was in fact storm surge in the levee system. I believe you correct that it did not overtop MOST of the walls, and that the system was underdesigned. However, it highly unlikely that it was a coincidence that the one particular wall (of many that failed that day) failed just after Katrina made landfall!

About a decade ago I went to a presentation by Dr. Bob Sheets, then Director of the National Hurricane Center. He said his worst nightmare was a Category 3 or above (THREE or above) hurricane bearing down on New Orleans, because of the fear that the levees would go down from storm surge, and the problem of issuing evacuation orders with the track unccertainty. Well, a cat 5 storm surge hit.

So I will partially buy your assertion that the Corps of Engineers was at least one of the parties at fault (as they admit), but no way will I buy that it was just a coincidence. There was too much water moving at abnormal levels at the time of the failure, and way too much damage just upstream of that canal (Mississippi coast). Furthermore, there were many breaches, not just the one you show.

Also, as another poster noted, sea walls overtopped in the eastern NOLA area (I don't know the area, so I can't name the districts) where the storm surge was simply higher than the walls.

The New Orleans disaster was a very complex event. You have focused on one instance, and I find your analysis a bit suspicious on that spot, although the conclusion that the wall failed without overtopping is correct. A while back I saw the water level graphs for varous parts of the system, and the water was definitely well above normal levels. This leaves a problem I cannot explain: why do they appear normal in your pictures, and if they went back down, why are there no mud stains on the walls. Perhaps that particular spot did not have high levels (but I'm pretty sure it did).

In conclusion, no way a coincidence. Yes, the Corps screwed up. No, they were not the only ones at fault. Yes, the failure you show appears to be at a time when the levels are near normal. Yes, I don't know all the answers.

Oops... a couple of final c... (Below threshold)

Oops... a couple of final comments.

I read some time ago in the MSM that the failure was not due to the walls being overtopped. Long before that I saw the water data on the net. It was available.

Great work Paul. As usual,... (Below threshold)
Bill M:

Great work Paul. As usual, you are the go to guy for New Orleans Katrina info.

(Glad to see you back posting, by the way!)

John you make many great po... (Below threshold)
Paul:

John you make many great points.

I spoke for an hour to one of the best known hurricane guys out there and he was making the point we need 2 different scales...

If a storm goes up the east coast, the winds can be at (say) 110 and produce a (say) 10 foot surge....

Yet in the Gulf 110mph winds will get you 18 feet of water.

In a way, the S-S scale is "broken" but there is no hue and cry to fix in among the weather geeks.

When I say Karina was a 1 in New Orleans yes, I focused on wind in the post... but the highest surge reading -that I could find- was only about 6 feet on any guages WEST OF THE INDUSTRIAL CANAL. (2 disclaimers, don't miss either) Thats in 1 territory.

Lemme pick at one of your nits...

Katrina hit NOLA as a category 1. But... if you look at the damage in Mississippi, you can see far more that category 1 damage, and it hit NOLA first - so what's going on here?

Yes and no. The left (weak) side of the storm hit us after going over land. The strong side of the storm hit you guys without any real resistance from land. As the storm approaced it weakened asymetrically as the let side as it crossed land.

The left side was a "1" but the right could well have been a "3" for all I know. (havn't studied it.)

Plus -and this is based on an educated guess and zero study- I bet you guys got nailed harder because the beach is so shallow. If that same storm hit Florida I don't think the deeper water would have climbed so high.

But as I said, I've never studied that.

(With all due respect to St. Bernard) Those poor people got it from both sides. The MRGO acted as a funnel pushing water up thru the 9th ward "catching them from behind" and it also came over from St. Bernards flank. That area is a mess.

Good Comments

There is no way the current... (Below threshold)
JD:

There is no way the current MSM meme will be changed in this story. Quite bluntly, it doesn't emote well enough. It's been turned into the "Biggest Storm of All Time" (I'm kinda a Camille fan myself, and Andrew did more and wider damage but YMMV), and Betsy was actually probably a stronger storm when she hit NOLA than was Katrina.

So what changed from 1963 to 1969 to now? Live, direct satellite television broadcasting, for one.

It's been known what problems would evolve with the potential MRGO failure, and ronnie full-on nailed it. And that failure did help take some pressure off of the upstream areas, but regrettably not enough. But that's all Bill Nye The Science Guy stuff. Good for us 'tards who are into, ya know, science and fact and shit, but that won't get Shep Smith out standing on the top of the levee pointing at a half-drowned city populated with at once fearful and angry people.

And if you cant put dramatis personae to the story, it won't sell on TV, not even FNC. Sure, NGC and Discovery will run it, and it will get watched by folks like us who give a crap. The T-P has been and will continue to be all over it, and people will still look at the paper, shrug their shoulders, and say "SSDD."

I live near Sacramento. We have a similar ticking bomb with the Sacramento River levee system, built and maintained by our friends at the ACoE, but no one can get a straight answer on what or when they will be strengthened past 100-year storm strength. And yet, the Sacto City Council cheerfully goes on allowing more building in the major floodplain that would go 15-20 feet deep should the Sacto or American or East Main Canal let go.

What is the Sacramento Bee's response? To wonder whether the new arena for the Kings should be paid for by the surrounding counties.

As long as politicians and televised news concentrate on the trivialities of life in this nation, nothing will get done. And more people will die. And people will be able to go back into posterity and pull up the evidence and demand "CHANGE!"

And nothing will happen.

That is, until the next storm happens.

Any evidence of water heigh... (Below threshold)
John Lederer:

Any evidence of water height on the side that broke?

It occurs to me that hurricane winds might easily stack water on one side of the canal, particularly if they came at an angle down the canal so they had some reach to work with. Pulsations created by waves could create a lot of stress in the right conditions. I see little evidence of that in the video, but wind direction chnages as a hurricane goes by.

On July 4th 1977 Phillips Wisconsin had a microburt thunderstorm that leveled whole areas of forest. The local small lake had dry bottom on one end and was 15' up a hill on the other side according to an eyewitness. I flew over it in a small plane the day after and, though 15' seems likely an exaggeration, it was clear that the water had been quite high up the hill.

Paul:Why is it th... (Below threshold)
leelu:

Paul:

Why is it that the "Smoking Gun" photos raved about by conspiracy theorists are so bad? The rest are nice, but, like the stopped clock, don't *prove* a damned think. There is a clock. You *say* it was on a wall. Is it really stopped? Was it on a wall that was flooded? You say so, but, prove it.

How long before you shut comments down again??

Paul, You're on to... (Below threshold)

Paul,

You're on to something, but it needs a lot more work to be conclusive. First, John Moore made the point I was going to make about storm category vs storm surge. Katrina was a rapidly diminishing storm when it hit, but the surge takes a lot longer to dissipate than the winds do.

Second, a surge is just that, a rapid but temporary rise in the water levels. It is very plausible that it had subsided by the time the firemen took this video. I don't know how long it would take, or if the timeline allows for it, but that is something that has to be determined before making these kinds of conclusions.

The evidence of the waterline on the wall is not convincing until it is determined what kind of discoloration a temporary rise in water level would create. The low waterline you show is the result of decades of immersion, and their absence is not defacto proof that the water had not been temporarily that high.

Like I said, there's things here worth investigating, but you're not done. But your condescending attitude at the start of your post, as well as your "I'll go to my grave" assertions on incomplete evidence, make me hope somebody else takes over the job.

-ronnie in new orleans-<... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

-ronnie in new orleans-,

Other than having the wrong year (Betsy was 1965; I was 9 days old when it happened), I recall from my family what happened to St. Bernard Parish back then: our house on Jackson & Genie Sts. got 4' water in it from the flooding.

For Katrina, my mother got stranded on my sister's roof for the second half of the storm, after the wall of water came over the Forty Arpent Canal levee shortly after the eyewall went over. Her house was located 2 blocks from that levee, in Meraux.

Long story short, USACoE fusterclucked us on two major counts, based on Paul's writing (and a few others, like levees.com):

* the specification for flood protection was set using old data that was never updated or adjusted for storms like Betsy or Camille (I believe Paul said it was 1959 data), so flood protection was never consistent with "Fast Cat III"; and

* Digging MRGO was probably the worst man-made ecological disaster ever conceived by the Corps, on the basis that it destroyed the buffer zone (marshes); killed or dislocated wildlife; destroyed hunting and trapping that the region was famous for; and significantly sped up coastal erosion in the area.

For St. Bernard, MRGO was a straw stuck right into the Gulf of Mexico, sucking the storm surge right into our houses. Perhaps it had its use at the height of the Apollo program (to get Saturn V first stage rockets out of NASA Michoud), but after that, it should have been plugged. Hardly anyone used it.

What an incredible, preventable waste. And, of course, no one will likely ever be truly held accountable, or responsible, for the losses brought upon St. Bernard and NOLA by USACoE, who were supposed to be "protecting" us.

Meanwhile, I understand they are up to their usual again, this time in South Florida, regarding levees built near the Everglades (I think I recall someone posting that here some time back).

"The evidence of the waterl... (Below threshold)
Jim:

"The evidence of the waterline on the wall is not convincing until it is determined what kind of discoloration a temporary rise in water level would create."
Kyle - as to discoloration - trust me, canal water down here will discolor anything it touches instantly. It's more like gravy than actual water.

And for the last time - New Orleans was not built below sea level. Yes, there are places where it is, in fact, below sea level. The majority of the city is not below sea level. But my neighborhood is a foot or two above sea level and still had 3 -4 feet of water. You can thank Mr. Broussard for that.

"I'm leaving blogging for-E... (Below threshold)
Ironbear:

"I'm leaving blogging for-EVAH!" jest don't last as long as it usedta, huh? ;)

Gee thanks for adding nothi... (Below threshold)

Gee thanks for adding nothing to the conversation Ironbear. Since you seem to remember that farewell post so well, surely you haven't forgot that Paul mentioned he had one last big Katrina post to do... You just read it.

I think Paul has demonstrat... (Below threshold)
greg:

I think Paul has demonstrated a problematic design in the New Orleans levee system as well as poorly maintained and designed pumping/floodgate systems. There has clearly still not been an impetus to significantly change the design to increase the safety of the levee system. Any design is a series of trade-offs. For an infinite amount of money you could build an infinitely safe levee system. The location of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi, below the level of the Gulf and Lake Ponchatrain is problematic and not easily resolved. The loss of sedimentary lands and the constant shifting of the Mississippi are further complications to the design. There is inherent risk when you live below dammed waters. There is high risk when you stay there during a Hurricane. Unfortunately, most people do not understand the trade-offs between risk and cost.

tmi3rd,Small world... (Below threshold)
Cybrludite:

tmi3rd,

Small world. I graduated from MPCD back in '88. Again, don't hold it against me. I had no say-so in the matter.

Paul,

Thank you for this, and for all you've posted on this. Shoot me an email if you ever need to chat.

Jon

>Any evidence of water heig... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Any evidence of water height on the side that broke?

>It occurs to me that hurricane winds might easily stack water on one side of the canal, particularly if they came at an angle down the canal so they had some reach to work with. Pulsations created by waves could create a lot of stress in the right conditions. I see little evidence of that in the video, but wind direction chnages as a hurricane goes by.

----

John the canal is anly about 50 yards across. There simply isn't enough room for the water to be substancially higher on one side than the other.

Besides... (let's assume the walls are 15 feet off the water and the water was +2 feet, that means...) There are 12 foot high solid concrete windbreaks on both sides of the canal... That's why you don't see any waves in the canal.

In the months after the storm it was speculated that the wave action in the canal knocked the walls down (resonance) but what we later learned is that (and I should have put this in the post I see) the walls didn't get knocked down from the top, the soil underneth the wall was soupersatured (that was a pun) and the soil under the wall gave way bringing the wall DOWN with it.

The soil had a large peat layer the Corps ignored and didn't spec the pilings deep enough. That layer of soil gave way. The battle was not above the water line... It was actually below the wall.

BTW - (and the locals will ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

BTW - (and the locals will appreciate this)

Anyone who says the lack of mud on the wall isn't proof of anything wasn't in New Orleans in the weeks after the storm.

Trust me on that one.

(click on the pic of the jeep)

THE VIDEO SHOWS NOTHING THA... (Below threshold)

THE VIDEO SHOWS NOTHING THAT HAPPENED OVERNIGHT.

THE VIDEO DOES NOT PROVE THAT OVERTOPPING DID NOT OCCUR OVERNIGHT, WEAKENING THE BASE OF THE LEVEE AND LEADING TO THE CATASTROPHIC BREECH AT AROUND 8:57AM.

Reliapundit,No nee... (Below threshold)
Cybrludite:

Reliapundit,

No need to shout. The water gauges in the area recorded nowhere near the depth needed to overtop the 17th St. Canal levees, and the Corps has admitted that it breached from beneath. The video is further confirmation. What more could you want in the way of evidence?

Fascinating! Just fascinat... (Below threshold)

Fascinating! Just fascinating. So the levee was leaking anyway and they used Katrina as the reason. Why wasn't this taken care of before?

Reliapundit,follow... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Reliapundit,

follow the link above... "surge data"

Question answered.

P

I give an overview of my ov... (Below threshold)

I give an overview of my overviews on NOLA from basic geophysics to what is wise to rebuild and what should be left as a memorial to our folly, here. As pointed out these things were not unknown, but the scope of the problem has rarely been looked at in *context*. The History Channel did a program on this addressing just the problems seen in the video and I review *that*, here. And last week the Discovery Channel did a similar review and came up, unsurprisingly, with the same conclusions and the engineering and geophysics are undeniable.

When the USACE put in flood control systems in NOLA they are under stress from the pressure of the nearby Mississippi River, which is highly turbid. The flow in NOLA is particularly problematical is the channel deepens starting at Baton Rouge and all the way to the outlet to 200' deep. The USACE, additionally, removes some of the sides of that to expand the shipping channel and ensure that there is a 45' deep navigable channel closer inshore. This removes material that would otherwise flow downwards into the channel river bed. The channel during flood times entrains more sediment and deposits it into the waters of the Gulf and does not flow out into the wetlands to deposit it there. The Atchafalaya cut-off makes this worse as that part of the delta has subsided enough so that the river, itself, wants to flow in that direction. USACE put in a diversion dam so that NOLA could get more water. So the natural deposition cycle is no longer in play due to our engineering of it, and now we are losing large amounts of protective delta and the barrier islands, so the next storm will flow deeper up the river and into the delta.

NOLA, itself, was sinking at 0.5"/year up until all of this and even into the early levee emplacements. NOLA grew explosively during the 1960's and 1970's, a slack time for hurricanes, and this expanded the amount of area needed to be 'reclaimed' from wetlands status. This dries out the sediment and compacts it thus lowering the land even more. This increases the hydrodynamic pressure from the Mississippi incrementally year on year. So, the last measurement showed that the *average* sinking rate over the last 30 years is now 1.0"/year. But there were *no* intervening measurements, so when you have a plot of compaction like that the one thing you can rest assured of is that the actual rate of subsidence is *not* the average, but higher than that as you are moving *away* from a lower susidence rate.

That subsidence rate may not seem like much, but the original USACE work may have been planned to take only 0.15 psi increase over this time and has now seen that increase to 0.30 psi. This pressure is *also* upon the dry levees which are *also* subsiding. Their fill material, being lightly compacted and relatively dry subside *faster* than that stuff inside NOLA which was wet and has been pumped dry.

Thus, NOLA is sinking. No matter *how deep* the pilings are or how closely spaced they are, there will be material that will be flowing *between* them and that flow rate is increasing steadily over time. The land on which NOLA sits is, in point of fact, a highly viscous fluid that moves so slowly we only see it as *land*. This fluid is pressed *down* by the force of gravity and follows the contours of the underlying bedrock, which is over 300' down' to the continental shelf. It flows out towards the Gulf slowly, but surely, year on year. Further, as pumping increases and the rate of sinking also increases, the pressure on the sides increases, year on year. This entire mass is being pressed *inwards* by the River and much less by the Lake. This pressure inwards along with gravity increase the flow down and out. Flooding washes away material as it spreads into the channel and takes it into the Gulf.

This is a recipe for disaster.

We can save parts of the land based portions of NOLA if we work very, very, very hard at it. But the means and methods to create stable land for it are not available at present and unlikely to be available for some time.

The Nation needs a trans-ship port from the Gulf to the Mississippi for commerce. The Nation needs the ability to move crude oil and petroleum goods into the pipeline networks along the Gulf along with the refineries there. And a population needs to be able to serve these things. It is time to rethink what makes New Orleans the city that it was and build something *better*. THAT can be saved, even as the land of the old city sinks slowly and surely downwards.

Problems of the past need blame placed.

The future needs to have hard and serious thought put into it.

Once done pointing can that hand open up to reach out to others to help? For that one finger out leaves three pointing back in accusation that *you* who do the blame must offer *better* or be blamed thrice over and reminded that your destiny is into that ground which you also point and your blame placing will be *all* that is your legacy.

I am sorry for the lengthy comment.

I'm going to wa... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
I'm going to warn you now. If you've only heard the news from the mainstream media, everything you think you know about Katrina flooding New Orleans is wrong.,

It's a great piece Paul, but your opening sentence isn't completely accurate. Here's a report from MSNBC dated Oct 7, 2005

------------------------------------------------------
"Much of the city flooded not because water rushed over the tops of levees, but because two of the storm barriers that ring New Orleans actually shifted and then collapsed, a team of independent engineers said Friday.

The preliminary analysis contradicts initial reports by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which said water may have pushed over the top of the levees, eroding the earthen embankments that support the flood walls.

[snip]

The question of what caused the flooding at the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal has been debated since the storm. The findings Friday show that soil from one levee was pushed back 35 feet, and that soil from the other apparently heaved upward from its base."
------------------------------------------------------

You're right Paul that Katrina was down to category 1 in New Orleans, but it’s storm surge was much larger than one would expect from a category 1 hurricane. The large surge was due to the size of Katrina with it’s eye wall radius being three times that of Camille’s which was category 5 hurricane at landfall. Also the path of Katrina took it over the Gulf’s shallow northern shelf. The resulting storm surge was measured at 30 ft in Plaquemines Parish and 25 ft in New Orleans.

There were about 20 levee breaches in and around New Orleans and some of those were because of overtopping. Bottom line is that even if the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal hadn’t been breached, New Orleans would have experienced significant flooding. That’s an important point because just repairing the levee system won’t prevent flooding from a future Katrina-like storm. Question is, what’s the maximum storm surge that can be expected from a plausible hurricane? We now know it’s at least 25 feet, but maybe it could be 30 or even 35 feet. How many billions would it cost to protect New Orleans from a 30 or 35 foot storm surge, and can it even be done?


I notice that there are som... (Below threshold)
Jeff Z:

I notice that there are some references to earlier hurricanes from the 60’s and 70’s, primarily Betsy. (Or maybe I just perk up for Betsy. She was my favorite, knocking down the most formidable climbing tree in the neighborhood, the one that no one could get to the top of. Thanks to Betsy, we finally did.)

Anyway, since the geography is always changing—for the worse—wouldn’t the damage and impact data from these previous storms be of only limited use for comparative purposes?

This isn’t a rhetorical question; I have no expertise vis-à-vis hurricanes other than taping up windows and mixing drinks from dwindling ice suppliers during the powerless days afterwards.

"as to discoloration - trus... (Below threshold)

"as to discoloration - trust me, canal water down here will discolor anything it touches instantly. It's more like gravy than actual water."

True enough, but any surge would be due to an intrusion of seawater - relatively clear water. I don't know how much it would be diluted and if a very temporary rise in levels would leave a mark, but that's the point: I don't know, and I don't think you do either.

And, it's just ridiculous to say "look at the Jeep", or to point out the mud on the streets after the water has drained as if it was some indication of the turbidity of the water at the top of the walls. That mud is the collected sediment of 5 to 9 feet of water that stood for many days.

I think there's no doubt that the 17th street wall failed primarily by being undermined rather than overtopped. That still leaves open the question of how much the stess of holding back a large increase in volume contributed to that undermining, and whether there was any overtopping that scoured the base from the other side. The idea that the breach was entirely coincidental to Katrina is an extraordinary claim that will require extraordinary evidence.

I have no doubt about the moral stature and gross incompetence of our government officials from the President on down to the garbage collectors. But if you want this story to convince anyone else of that, you'll need facts, not speculation. Your video shows nothing but the conditions after a significant breach had already occured. It's a valuable clue, not a smoking gun.

Great points as always Mac.... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Great points as always Mac... But I think you misunderstood my lede... Or at least in context.

I mentioned and linked one of the few reports on the fact the levees failed and were not overtopped. -- I even bemaoned the lack of coverage about it. I 'm not saying the MSM never covered that.

But the MSM meme is still that Katrina overwhelmed the whole system. That is incorrect.

My point was that EVEN IF you are one of the few people who understood the flooding was man made, most people think the surge was high enough that the weight of the water pushed down (flawed) walls.

This video really debunks that. (unless someone can expalin how the video shows somehting else) It shows the water hadn't even climbed the walls.

I think my lede can best be explained by saying the MSM would have you belive that w/o Katrina New Orleans would never have flooded. (Katrina flooded NOLA) This video basically tells us that any event that put more than (about) 2 feet of water in that canal would have doomed us.

Trust me the MSM has never told that story.

-----

On Pop Mech and the 25 foot surge in New Orleans, I respectfully call BS. I have not (now granted I'm one hobbiest) seen a surge reading from the lake greater than 4.3 feet. -- Which is nothing.

If we get winds out the south for a few days the water "stacks up" in the lake about that high. (I'm also a fisherman)

Now, to the EAST of NOLA they saw big suge but even in the parish they had like 18 feet. TTBOMK the highest confirmed surge was 23 in Mississippi but that's beyond my scope.

Bottom line is that even if the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal hadn’t been breached, New Orleans would have experienced significant flooding.

Absolutly True, but there's "significant" and then there's "significant."

Flooding 2000 homes is "significant." But flooding a town so bad that all the copper telephone lines in the whole city need to be pulled up and replaced is "significant."KnowhatImean?

--

On the rest, yes, we need systemic approach to the whole thing. After Betsy the Corps (and others to be fair) did not take the time to study the failures and learn from them. By job (as I see it) is to make a little noise to do my microscopic part to make sure that doesn't happen again.

If we're going to kill 1200 people and destroy a city we sure as hell better at least get some science out of it.

(typos sorry)

Anyway, since the geogra... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Anyway, since the geography is always changing—for the worse—wouldn’t the damage and impact data from these previous storms be of only limited use for comparative purposes?

GREAT question. But the answer is no.

2 quick examples.

1) Betsy shoudl have shown us that pumping stations on the OUTSIDE of the outflow canals would have been a better idea than canals running thru the city. After Betsy there was surprisingly little investigation into the failure chains. If there had been Katrina might have been a 3 days event.

#2) We leanred form Katrian (well we knew it before, but we LEARNED it form Katrina) that "armoring" levees is of big import.

(in as few words as possible) As the water went over the earthen levees (mostly to NOLA'S East I talking) the levees basically dissolved. (near instanatly)

Armoring levees is to but concret on the sloped sides so if the water comes over the top SOME water gets in. As opposed to ALL the water getting in.

Any time there are engineering failures it helps prevent future ones. IF you learn the lessons.

And, it's just ridiculou... (Below threshold)
Paul:

And, it's just ridiculous to say "look at the Jeep", or to point out the mud on the streets after the water has drained as if it was some indication of the turbidity of the water at the top of the walls. That mud is the collected sediment of 5 to 9 feet of water that stood for many days.

Close. No Cigar.

Look at the wall behind the jeep. See that brown line? (actually lines as the water rose and fell) You can still see it all over town now - a year later.

One of the local Newspaper columists even asked "Whould somebody please erase that damn brown line?"

Why not come down and visit and I'll give you the tour. Then you can speak with authority.

Kyle,As has been p... (Below threshold)
Cybrludite:

Kyle,

As has been pointed out repeatedly, the storm surge did not reach that high this far west.

Paul,Thanks for yo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Paul,

Thanks for your excellent work. In researching the storm surge in New Orleans it looks like you were right, and it was nowhere near 25 feet. I don’t know where PS got their data from. However, Katrina holds the record in the U.S. for the highest storm surge. Here’s this from wikipedia:

In the United States, the greatest recorded storm surge was generated by 2005's Hurricane Katrina, which produced a storm surge 9 meters (30 feet) high in the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and in the surrounding coastal counties.

New Orleans dodged a bullet when Katrina made landfall to the east of it’s predicted path. Had it gone off course to the west the same amount this monster storm surge would have been coming up the Mississippi and trying to flow thought the Industrial canal into Lake Pontchartrain. More levees would have failed and the water would have been much deeper. That’s the scenario the government should be preparing for as it’s the one that almost happened.

Thanks for your hard work on Katrina’s impact on New Orleans. I’ve learned a lot. Sometimes directly from your pieces, but also searching the web in response to things you have posted. Now if we could get about another 100 million folks to do the same thing, then maybe New Orleans could get the money it needs to build an adequate levee system.

Paul-I'm with you 100% on t... (Below threshold)
Martin Morgan:

Paul-I'm with you 100% on the levee collapse, but I'm having a hard time visualizing that the Lake down there was only at a somewhat normal level the whole time.

I live in Madisonville on the north shore, slightly west of the 17th canal and my house at 10+ feet MSL barely escaped flooding and the Mandeville Lakefront was completely submerged, far from a normal event.

I'm not going to say you ar... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

I'm not going to say you are right or wrong in your conclusion, what you said looks ok. Except, I saw all that about the levee being undermined, not overtopped during the time of the original coverage, it was broadcast more than once. I don't know for sure, but basically I only watch Fox News, so I'm sure that's where it was on. Question? AJ Strata says the city and state were responsible for the maintenance of the levees at that point because they were within the city, Is that right or not. Not the Corp of Engs. One other point, who is "congress" that kept it secret? that would be 535 people. 535 people can't keep a secret.

Kyle,"True enough, b... (Below threshold)
J-Ho:

Kyle,
"True enough, but any surge would be due to an intrusion of seawater - relatively clear water. I don't know how much it would be diluted and if a very temporary rise in levels would leave a mark, but that's the point: I don't know, and I don't think you do either."

My remarks were primarily concerning the 17th st. canal that Paul and the video referenced (not the industrial canal or the mrgo or even St. Bernard.)

True, there was an intrusion of seawater into the lake. But to say "any surge would be due to an intrusion of seawater" is incorrect. As Katrina passed, the winds turned and pushed water from the lake south against the city. Sure, there was obviously some intrustion of seawater. But, as I understand it (and I look at the lake everyday) - the majority of the water that pressed in from the North was lakewater being pushed against the city by the SOUTH BLOWING WINDS as Katrina passed, not from storm surge.
Paul, am I wrong on this?

Jim

that would be 535 people... (Below threshold)

that would be 535 people. 535 people can't keep a secret.

I don't know, 100 people seem to be keeping the identity of the Secret Holder under wraps.

Besides, only a committee or two would have known.

Martin, frankly, I don't kn... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Martin, frankly, I don't know how to answer you... The video is what it is... now maybe there was some form of optial delusion happening but I'd be hard pressed to find it.

I know what you mean in a way... I would have lost a LARGE LARGE bet on whether you could see the weeds on the east bank of the canal. I was stunned when I saw the video.... Stunned.

I can not give you a reason the water in the canal was so low. But it was...

When does it end? How many... (Below threshold)
moseby:

When does it end? How many times do we rebuild NO? Why should the rest of America pay for this? I learned when I was 5 to rebuild my sand castles away from the incoming tide....

Mac,Notice that Wi... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Mac,

Notice that Wikipedia factoid was not sourced.

Color me skeptical.

I had heard confirmed (I think) 23 feet. Admittedly that's further east than I go but I will tell you this...

In all the rumor specualtion and otherwise I heard after the storm, I never heard 30 feet. I would have remembered that.

google awaits. ;-)

I don't know, 100 people se... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

I don't know, 100 people seem to be keeping the identity of the Secret Holder under wraps.

which "Secret Holder"?

The point was, it wasn't a secret to begin with.

J-Ho,I lost track ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

J-Ho,

I lost track of what you guys are saying but I'll say this.... ANYTHING that the water touched was marked. As you drive thru town there is no doubt how high the water got... None. Period.

I could go out today and take 1000 pictures of the water line. Even a year later.

Paul,Sheesh, you'r... (Below threshold)
Big D:

Paul,

Sheesh, you're unnecessarily abusive. I guess you didn't skip out on everyone's favorite engineering class, Arrogance 101. Good on you.

Unfortunately you can't even read and answer my first question correctly. New Orleans was built by greedy developers 300 years ago? Actually just the old portion, the Crescent City, was developed back then. Since, all the way into the 1970s, the city has relied on reclaimed wetlands for growth. But I'm sure the Corps made them do it.

Hmmm. Yes. the Corps the Corps the Corps. Evil incarnate. Of course there is this:

"For years, it was common knowledge in Louisiana and Washington that New Orleans could be destroyed by a hurricane. But decision makers turned away from the long-term investments that might have averted a catastrophe, pursuing instead projects with more immediate payoffs. Some of those projects made the city more vulnerable." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/08/AR2005100801458_pf.html

Ouch. You mean the Corps was just a tool? But who swung that hammer? "Local officials often resisted proposals to protect their communities from storms because they did not want to pay their share of federal projects."

This is sure not looking very good: "The Corps budget consists almost entirely of "earmarked" projects requested by members of Congress, and its priorities are set almost exclusively by the annual race for appropriations. Louisiana's congressional delegation traditionally dominated that race, but eyes were usually on prizes that had nothing to do with hurricane protection."

What the? "And when Corps engineers finally took up hurricane protection in the 1960s, they designed projects based on economic analyses that did not take into account the cost of human lives but promoted development of low-lying wetland."

But who made them do that?

"The Corps was required to recommend the project with the most economic benefits -- no matter who received them -- compared to the cost to taxpayers. It could not consider whether the benefits would be fairly distributed, or the value of wetlands the projects might destroy, or even the value of protecting people from death."

"The Corps aimed to protect New Orleans from the Gulf with levees much shorter than the river levees, plus two huge floodgates designed to keep storm surges out of the lake. But the economic rationale for the plan would be derived by reclaiming pristine wetlands at the city's outskirts, extending the levees beyond New Orleans to "hasten urbanization and industrialization of valuable marsh and swampland." A subsequent report would find that only 21 percent of the land protected by the Corps project was already developed; the rest was soggy, vacant and well below sea level, just waiting for subdivisions. Katrina would put those lands back underwater."

"Local officials resisted the goal of Category 3 protection for their communities as overly extravagant. In 1982, the Orleans Levee District urged the Corps to "lower its design standards to provide more realistic hurricane protection." The levee district, stocked with political appointees, could spend freely on private investigators, riverboat gambling and a $2.4 million Mardi Gras fountain. But it said it could not afford its share of protection from a 200-year storm, suggesting that 100-year protection would be fine."

But politicians in New Orleans couldn't possibly...be corrupt....

"They could have built the Hoover Dam around New Orleans with the money they brought home," said one former aide to Johnston, the senator. "But they always pissed it away on politically attractive projects."

Sputter....sputter. But it was the Corps....

Look Paul, you've won the argument. The Corps is a merry band on arrogant idiots. But I find it quite humorous that you are trying to prove that the Corps caused the disaster. And one of the facts you rely on is that they admitted it. How about focusing on those who have yet to admit any responsibility?

The Corps certainly has some responsibility for what happened. But don't kid yourself that they were the cause of the disaster. That was a complex mix of politics, corruption, greed, incompetence, weather, geography, etc. etc.

And at the center of it all? New Orleans and Louisiana politicians and the people who elected them.


Paul-I said I don't doubt y... (Below threshold)
Martin Morgan:

Paul-I said I don't doubt you with regard to the 17th street canal-I grew up in Lakewood South btw so I know it well. I agree the video shows a normal canal level.

I'm talking about the Lake level itself. If you look at that first large photo you can see a pretty large debris pile thrown against the Hammond Highway bridge. Note, however, it stops AT the bridge, proof itself the water never surged over the bridge which is barely, if at all, higher than the levee walls.

But there's no doubt the lake itself was at higher than normal levels. Just go out to the boathouses at West End (outside the levee) and check out the water lines. Water has never been higher in those things before.

So, although I see no flaws in your analysis inside the canal-I can't agree this was a normal lake level. I'm no engineer but it seems clear there were forces coming up the canal (see debris pile) not there normally. I just think we should factor that in.

P.S. Don't forget that very... (Below threshold)
Martin Morgan:

P.S. Don't forget that very Hammond Highway bridge had been the subject of a yearslong traffic inducing rebuild to be "floodproof" completed just months before Katrina.

All the more ridiculuous that the breach happened INSIDE the flood barrier.

Indeed, I 've heard speculation that it was the heavy construction on that bridge which might have further weakened the levee.


Q: if the storm surge was n... (Below threshold)

Q: if the storm surge was not 25' but only 4or5', and the winds were only cat1, then how come everything past the levees, such as the dock, jaeger's, joe's crab schack, all other structures are gone completely, and you can clearly see surge marks of at least 12-14' above street level (maybe 20-25 above sea level) at all the raised dockhouses in the marina? any explanation? thanks.

Times-Picayune (New Orleans... (Below threshold)
Martin Morgan:

Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

July 1, 2005 Friday [60 DAYS BEFORE KATRINA!]

SECTION: METRO; Pg. 1

HEADLINE: Hammond Highway bridge flood-proofed;
2-parish link ready for storm

BYLINE: By Sheila Grissett, East Jefferson bureau

BODY:
The second deck of the new Old Hammond Highway bridge spanning the 17th Street Canal was poured this week, another critical element in retarding hurricane-driven storm surges that historically close the road connecting Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

Although $3 million over budget and 18 months behind schedule, work finally has progressed to the point that Hammond Highway west of the bridge and Robert E. Lee Boulevard to the east could stay open longer this storm season if needed by evacuees fleeing a hurricane, said Army Corps of Engineers officials overseeing the project.

"All flood-proofing is in place on the bridge . . . and (it) is sealed," said Al Naomi, senior supervisor of the corps' Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity hurricane protection system. "Things are progressing."

Read more: http://www.poe-news.com/forums/sp.php?pi=1000990285

I agree with the Impaler. T... (Below threshold)
Martin Morgan:

I agree with the Impaler. That debris pile at the bridge is certainly the remains of Brunos restaurant et al.

Martin I tried to post agai... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Martin I tried to post again just minutes later but the dang phone kept ringing...

I'm an idiot. The videeo was shot at 9:10ish well before the height of the storm surge. (THe surge is on the backside of the storm)

Duh!

As for the debis, it was floating. I ahve a pic if you care.

And don't forget Sid-Mars!<... (Below threshold)
Paul:

And don't forget Sid-Mars!

Paul:Very interestin... (Below threshold)
dutchcivilengineer:

Paul:
Very interesting post but i'm still not convinced the levvy collapsed by coincidence.
You say the canal seemed level, but if there is a strong flow into the breach, the same quantity flows through the canal from the lake; from this follows that there MUST me a lower level at the breach than at the lake (water only flows when there is a difference in level/pressure) therefore before the levvy broke the waterlevel at the levvy was higher than in the video (no flow = levels equal).
The levvy may have been leaky and in a bad state but it is most likely Katrina gave it the last push.

P.S. from what I've seen many levvees/dams looked very poor according to Dutch standards...

Hi, folks, I'm new here. I ... (Below threshold)
Gator:

Hi, folks, I'm new here. I got the link from a political web-site.

I read Paul's work and found it quite interesting, although somewhat flawed. John Moore's comments were dead-on. The failures, and remember, there were three flood wall failures in Orleans Parish -- the 17th Street Canal, the London Avenue Canal, and the Industrial Canal -- were not coincidental. They were caused by Katrina's vicious storm surge. I do agree, however, that the 17th Street Canal floodwall wasn't overtopped. It failed due to poor design and negligent geotechnical work. Also, it has been widely reported that some homeowners with backyards abutting the floodwalls had reported "leaking" in the past. The New Orleans Sewage and Water Board or Levee District, whichever entity that received the information, should have done a better job in addressing the problem. Plenty of blame to go around.

Very interesting p... (Below threshold)
Paul:
Very interesting post but i'm still not convinced the levvy collapsed by coincidence. You say the canal seemed level, but if there is a strong flow into the breach, the same quantity flows through the canal from the lake; from this follows that there MUST me a lower level at the breach than at the lake (water only flows when there is a difference in level/pressure) therefore before the levvy broke the waterlevel at the levvy was higher than in the video (no flow = levels equal).

I'm repliing specifically to the part I bolded.

Not really. The water had to flow to a lower level than the surrounding water level. (Think waterfalls)

Consider this... A lake 40km x 90km and from that a canal 50 meters across and 4 meters deep.

Now put a dam and a flood gate 1 meter x 3 meters across that flows down like a waterfall. If you open the floodgate the water level in the feeder canal will not be measureably lower.

Any water lost is replaced by the lake. And the lake won't run dry because the storm (and several rivers and the rain) is still pushing water into it.

The key part is that the land is lower than the water level. (see the pictures)

P.S. from what I've seen many levvees/dams looked very poor according to Dutch standards...

heh- Yeah we know.

the 17th Street Canal, t... (Below threshold)
Paul:

the 17th Street Canal, the London Avenue Canal, and the Industrial Canal -- were not coincidental. They were caused by Katrina's vicious storm surge.

Um No, they were all victims of engineering malfeasence. In the case of the London Ave canal there was a thin layer of mud on the bottom that formed a seal keeping the water way from the sheet pilings.

As the water rose (and potentially becuse of wave action) that thin layer was displaced and water seeped into a 40 foot deep sandy area under it and washed it out.

That casued the wall to fail. If you drive in that area you still see sand in the street from the water coming in. The water actually came UP thru the ground behind the wall and heaved part of it out the way.

The kicker is that the thin layed of mud sealing the water away from the sand was never measured by the Corps. They used a number they got out of a Corps manual rather than do a soil sample.

But other than that you know much more about it than me.

geeze.

After watching the video I ... (Below threshold)
George:

After watching the video I have come to my own conclusion as to why the levees broke.....I think maybe a homeless guy was takin a bath and farted.causing a surge

Paul,The size of the... (Below threshold)
dutchcivilengineer:

Paul,
The size of the lake is not relevant.
You need a difference in height from one point in a canat to another to have a flow; the bigger the flow, the bigger the difference. The width of the breach was not tiny compared to the width of the canal, and there has passed quite a large volume of water through that breach, so the difference in level would not be small.

Gator you was pwned!!!... (Below threshold)
Tammy:

Gator you was pwned!!!

Paul:I don't disag... (Below threshold)
Gator:

Paul:

I don't disagree with your opinion that there was engineering malfeasance. Hell, it was downright criminal.

I don't know how much reading you've done on the floodwall failures, but it was reported that the sheet pilings for the 17th Street Canal were driven into a peat-like material, which contributed to the failure. Also, the pilings weren't even as deep as the canal as dredged, which also contributed to the failure. The I-wall design didn't help either.

I disagree with your opinion that the failure of the 17th Street Canal was a coincidence. If so, then were the other failures coincidences? The failures were caused by engineering malfeasance coupled with an inordinate amount of pressure from the water and/or debris.

I don't know why you had to get so huffy. I'm not an engineer, but I've read an awful lot about the failures. [I live in LA, and I had family members who lost their homes and dozens of family, friends, and business associates who were displaced.]

The width of the breach ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

The width of the breach was not tiny compared to the width of the canal, and there has passed quite a large volume of water through that breach, so the difference in level would not be small.

Sure the size of the lake is important. If it can not feed a dynamic system the level drops. (Althought it is only important until the supply of water is no longer the limiting factor.)

Let me say this... Let's say teh lake was 3 feet above normal levels when the wall broke. Assuming an infinate supply of water from the head of the canal, how much could it drop the level?

I dunno, you're the CE, do the math for us. I contend just by looking at the size of the whole and the size of the canal, it couldn't have reduced the hieght of the water in the canal any signifigent amount.

If the math says otherwise, I'll revisit it.

But it is impossible to belive the water was (say) 8 feet high and just that small whole made it go to 2 feet. The lake would rush in.

Oh, and "Tammy." A... (Below threshold)
Gator:

Oh, and "Tammy."

As I said, I'm new here. I don't know any of you folks. But it's obvious that you know very little about "debate" and "discussion" if you think I got "pwned."

I suggest you go play on a flame board with the children.

Gator I get so huffy becaus... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Gator I get so huffy because someone who has very limited knowledge of the topic comes and says things that are not accurate.

To answer the question abotu how much I've read... Well, you can't imagine. About 3 months of my life 14 hours a day. ... yeah I was over the top.

But thanks to 12 step progeam I'm down to about 10 hours a week.

Let me say this in generic terms....

The levee system failed in 50ish places. ALL of them were designed to stand up to a direct hit from a "project hurricane" that on the S-S Scale (which did nto exist then) we'd call a Cat 3.

They crumbled. While the intercoastal canal levee is ~almost~ forgivable, the rest failed dramatically before their time.

The 17th street canal is the one that gets the most ink becusae it caused 70% of the flooding.

Remember also when you compare the 17th to other structures, it failed BEFORE the storm arrived. Not so many others which hung around long enough to put up a fight.

What an absolutely amazing ... (Below threshold)

What an absolutely amazing coincidence that the flooding ocurred during Katrina. Truly unprecedented odds.

This is all ridiculous. Sure, the levees were ready to go and should have been fixed long ago so that why? So that they could withstand a storm like Katrina, which they clearly did not. Water had been seeping underneath the levees walls. Could not the rains from Katrina have exacerbated this problem, causing failure? The rains reached NOLA before the official landing of Katrina. From what I've read, the rain was extensive. That seems a more probable explanation. In fact, I believe it is part of your explanation, yet you somehow divorce the breaking of the levees with the weather associated with Katrina.

What an absolutely amazing ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

What an absolutely amazing coincidence that the flooding ocurred during Katrina. Truly unprecedented odds.
This is all ridiculous.

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

Oh sure, because no engineering failers have ever happened without a hurricane. No dams have ever broken, no bridges ever fell. Life is wonderful in this place called perfect.

Gator I get so huffy bec... (Below threshold)
Gator:

Gator I get so huffy because someone who has very limited knowledge of the topic comes and says things that are not accurate.

I assume you're referring to me as "someone who has very limited knowledge." If so, you're dead wrong. I've read almost everything printed on the subject. I'm not an engineer, but in my business, I interact with engineers on a regular basis and know a little more about civil engineering, in general, and geotechnical engineering than the average joe. Frankly, I simply don't believe that the failures were pure coincidences. There are some very good posts above about the magnitude of the storm surge. John Moore has an outstanding post that is extremely accurate, IMO.

As I said, I absolutely believe that the negligence in the design and construction of the floodwalls was damned criminal. I refuse, however, to discount the effects of the water driven by the storm.

Are you an engineer? Did you lose a home in New Orleans? That's a guess on my part, given your admitted obsession with the subject. My BIL lost his house in Mid-City. Gone. Wiped out.

If you knew so much about i... (Below threshold)
Paul:

If you knew so much about it, why do get so many thigns wrong?

Nope. Didn't lose a thing to flooding.

Just hate bad enginnering that kills 1200 people and destroys a city.

I'm funny that way.

I'm not sure if anyone hear... (Below threshold)
John:

I'm not sure if anyone heard about or saw the video showing the presidential confrences which took a few days before the hurricane hit. In the video, it shows the FEMA director, bush, and someone else (they were all in seperate locations, it was a video confrence) and in that video, brown voices concern about the levies breaking. Also, the corps had applied i think 8 months earlier for a government grant to repair and upgrade the levies. The grant was denied. Personaly, i thought everyone knew the levies broke. I did not knwo the vast majority thought the water just overflowed. I could've swore it was reported all over the news that the levies broke. But yea, i think this article is a little misleading. But then again, since i could not locate the links, half the people here are going to dismiss my argument anyhow. Wait wait, i found one link. This is the video showing brown and other experts voicing their concern about the chance of the levies breaking. http://video.yahoo.com/video/play?p=bush+brown+conference&toggle=1&cop=&ei=UTF-8&b=0&oid=00a002ccc4516a8e&rurl=feeds.feedburner.com&vdone=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fvideo%3Fp%3Dbush%2Bbrown%2Bconference%26toggle%3D1%26cop%3D%26ei%3DUTF-8I wish i could find the link that talked about the corp grant rejection.

Remember Gator the 17th fel... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Remember Gator the 17th fell BEFORE the storm surge really got there. By 9:30 AM the game was over and it was really probably over an hour (or 2) before that that structure was past the point of no return.

"Oh sure, because no engine... (Below threshold)

"Oh sure, because no engineering failers have ever happened without a hurricane. No dams have ever broken, no bridges ever fell. Life is wonderful in this place called perfect."

I didn't say that. I said the odds of a major hurricane striking a city and that city's levee system failing at the same time, completely unrelated to the effects of the storm, are astronomically high, perhaps unprecedentedly so, and that the more probable explanation is that the rains from the storm exacerbated the weaknesses of a levee system that was long overdue for a rebuild. I truly don't see how you can say Katrina had nothing to do with the levee breaches.

John that video was covered... (Below threshold)
Paul:

John that video was covered EXTENSIVLY in the archives.

It's not a matter of whether the levees broke, it is a question of when and why.

Search the archives. Been there done that.

That AP "retracted the video story. Search the archives.

I truly don't see how yo... (Below threshold)
Paul:

I truly don't see how you can say Katrina had nothing to do with the levee breaches.

Becasue she didn't get until a few hours after the wall fell?

For the record I'm not saying it had ntohing to do with it. I'm say that from the shape of the wall, many other minor weather events would have casued it also.

THis was jsut the one that did.

We'll just have to agree to... (Below threshold)
Gator:

We'll just have to agree to disagree.

You'll never convince me that the failures were coincidental. That defies common sense.

As for getting so many things "wrong," most of the facts I posted came from renowned civil and geotechnical engineers quoted in the papers, most of whom were highly critical of the engineering work done. Several of them were quoted concerning the pressure that the water in the canals would have put on the floodwalls. I'll take those opinions over those of laymen posting on a blog any day.

We'll agree on the criminal negligence of the engineering.

Glad to hear that you didn't lose a house.

Gator just becasue the odds... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Gator just becasue the odds are against something doesn't mean it didn't happen. ... (not to beat you up) But by your argument nobody ever got hit by lightning -- the odds are too long.

Look, the wall came down (according to the video) when the water was basically at normal levels. Why is that so hard to belive that it was ready to fail and it happned to fail before a rather standard issue storm.

The odds are not that impractial.

"Remember Gator the 17th fe... (Below threshold)

"Remember Gator the 17th fell BEFORE the storm surge really got there. By 9:30 AM the game was over and it was really probably over an hour (or 2) before that that structure was past the point of no return."

Had it been raining during that time? Were the clouds causing that rain part of the larger weather pattern comprising Katrina? Can you really state that those rains had nothing to do with the levees failing? I can maybe understand if you don't classify the storm front that preceded the storm surge as part of Katrina. Then sure, "Katrina" was not instrumental in the levees failing, but the storm preceding "Katrina" certainly was.

Again, I'm not saying that Katrina caused perfectly intact levees to fail. I'm saying Katrina made a bad situation worse.

BTW Gator, I meant to menti... (Below threshold)
Paul:

BTW Gator, I meant to mention, I had a customer who had a communications tower that was hit by lightning 7 times. All the lightning geeks came out and tried everything they could to ground it etc so it would not happen. Kept happening.

The strikes started just after a guy named John started working there. TURNS OUT, John had been hit by lightning HIMSELF 2 times before he started workign there.

After he left the company (well for the next 5 years I know about) they never had another hit.

John was never in the building at the time of a strike.

Moral: Stuff happens.

(I always think of this story when peopletalk about long odds)

John, you said:"Pe... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

John, you said:

"Personaly, i thought everyone knew the levies broke. I did not knwo the vast majority thought the water just overflowed."

I agree with you, as I stated above. But what they're saying is that people thought the levee broke because of water overflowing, not because it was undermined. But As I said above, it was widely reported "at the time" that the levee had been leaking and broke because of undermining. I personally never even heard it reported that they broke due to being overflowed. I wish someone would give me a link of that version.
I also wish I could find some original links to the Fox News reports that they failed due to undermining. It wasn't a secret and the Corp of Engineers WERE NOT RESPONSIBLE for maintenance.

>Had it been raining during... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Had it been raining during that time?

Does it only rain during hurricanes?

If you're arguing the rains preceeding Katrina caused it then you should have no trouble accepting the fact that rains a week before the storm -or a week after- would have caused it too.

"For the record I'm not say... (Below threshold)

"For the record I'm not saying it had ntohing to do with it. I'm say that from the shape of the wall, many other minor weather events would have casued it also."

Oh, I didn't get that from the post. I guess we actually agree, then.

>I personally never even he... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I personally never even heard it reported that they broke due to being overflowed. I wish someone would give me a link of that version.

Did you try www.TheWholeFreakingInternetANDCableTV.com ?

See also my link above "congress's fault" I explained it at length. Funny thing was, nobody believed me then either.

(heck see also "no longer a voice in the wilderness" post too)

It's all in the archives.

"If you're arguing the rain... (Below threshold)

"If you're arguing the rains preceeding Katrina caused it then you should have no trouble accepting the fact that rains a week before the storm -or a week after- would have caused it too."

Exactly, but the rains directly preceding Katrina's storm surge were, as far as I've read, part of the larger weather pattern known as Katrina.

I think we're just splitting hairs at this point. Also, I live in California and was never under the assumption that the water overflowed the levees.

>Exactly, but the rains dir... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Exactly, but the rains directly preceding Katrina's storm surge were, as far as I've read, part of the larger weather pattern known as Katrina.

OK color me confused.

My point was that a "normal" rain (or high tide or or or) could have caused the break.

So you seem to agree but then you don't????

>Oh, I didn't get that from... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Oh, I didn't get that from the post. I guess we actually agree, then.

OH so we do agree... I think. lol

www.TheWholeFreakingInterne... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

www.TheWholeFreakingInternetANDCableTV.com

internet says that is a bad link. But I'll concede some or even many may have reported it that way. All I really said was that I had never seen it.

The only version I saw on tv at all in August and September 2005 was the version about the ground underneath being undermined, had been leaking, etc and failed for that reason, never that it failed due to overflowing.

>www.TheWholeFreakingIntern... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>www.TheWholeFreakingInternetANDCableTV.com

>internet says that is a bad link

read it, it was a joke.

What I'm saying is that fro... (Below threshold)

What I'm saying is that from what I understand, the levees were in such shape that a Category 5 hurricane was not necessary for them to fail. What I got from your post here is that you posit that Katrina was not responsible for the levees failing. I still don't agree with that. I'm saying, as I think you are, that ANY large storm could have caused the levees to fail, and that it just happened to be this one, and not from the storm surge topping the levee walls, but from the rain eroding already damaged levee walls.

>What I got from your post ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>What I got from your post here is that you posit that Katrina was not responsible for the levees failing. I still don't agree with that.

THat's not what the post was supposed to say... ;-)

>I'm saying, as I think you are, that ANY large storm could have caused the levees to fail, and that it just happened to be this one, and not from the storm surge topping the levee walls, but from the rain eroding already damaged levee walls.


Mostly. Any -decent- sized event that put water in the canal would have done it...

I persoanlly don't belive that the rain had much effect. The water seepage was from the canal, it didn't need rain water to get it any wetter.

What I believe -from a ton of study and this video- is that if you had the wall in the lab and kept the lake at a constant level eventually that seepage would have undermined the wall and it would have come down with no further catalyst. (1 month, 1 year, 1 decade, I dunno)

BUT it wasn't a lab. I further belive that -the next- time the water got to (say) 3 feet (you pick the number) that wall would have come down.

If you belive, as I do, that all the above is true, the fact Katrina was the thing that did it is why I say it was a coinsidenece.

**and in case it got lost in the shuffle, I'm only talking about the one wall**

P

Another note about the rain... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Another note about the rain...

Remember the battle was lost 8 feet to 18 feet below ground. The rain didn't "erode" that deep.

You can argue the rain softened the earth behind the wall but that's beyond my scope of knowledge... No soil sample etc.

I persoanlly don't belive t... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

I persoanlly don't belive that the rain had much effect. The water seepage was from the canal, it didn't need rain water to get it any wetter.

The rain would have wet the normally dry side. That may have had some effect.

Still can't figure out how 535 members of Congress and 8 (or was it 9) firemen knew about this "secret" that wasn't a secret and no one found out. I think it was because everyone already knew it.

Okay, I went back and read ... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Okay, I went back and read a lot of the C or Engs stories in the archives and other Katrina stories so I see where this orig post must have come from. The only thing I don't understand is, as I pointed out before, how did anyone head down this track in the first place. At the time of the hurricane, all the stories were about the levee being undermined due to soft earth. Never, not once did I see any news on TV that blamed it on overflowing causing the undermining(in the year 2005). Apparently these stories all got misplaced somewhere along the line with people trying to fix blame. Somehow the stories became the version about overflowing causing undermining. As I said I never heard or saw this version myself, so I just always assumed everyone knew the real reason. So now this "big secret" that never was even a "small secret" is out. Baffles me.

Congress first authorized c... (Below threshold)
Murphy Stoffelis:

Congress first authorized construction of the Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity, Louisiana Hurricane Protection Project in the Flood Control Act of 1965 to provide hurricane protection to areas around the lake in the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and St. Charles. Although federally authorized, it was a joint federal, state, and local effort with the federal government paying 70 percent of the costs and the state and local interests paying 30 percent. The Corps was responsible for project design and construction and "local interests were responsible for maintenance of levees and flood controls".


The question also has legal ramifications. Sovereign Immunity says citizens can not sue the government for damages unless there is negligence or Congress allows the government to be sued. If the public assumption is that Katrina was responsible for the flooding, Congress would never allow the government to be sued.

It would appear that the Army Corps of Engineers are not going to be “on the hook” for this one, but it will be the local government that has squandered the funds given to them by the federal government and the local taxpayers. But look at it this way, they sure have a nice Mardi Gras statue don’t they?

It would appear that the... (Below threshold)
Paul:

It would appear that the Army Corps of Engineers are not going to be “on the hook” for this one, but it will be the local government that has squandered the funds given to them by the federal government and the local taxpayers.

HUH? The Corps did the faulty enginnering and they even admitted it. I linked it 4 times and even blockquoted it. THEY ADMITTED THEY FLOODED NEW ORLEANS.

Now if you want to live in your own fantasy world where that is not true, OK... Heck maybe you can get a room next to John Mark Karr.

I didn't get any further th... (Below threshold)
denis:

I didn't get any further than the first paragraph of your post. The storm was a Category 3 not 1. Let's move on from this right now.

For Enforcement,I ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

For Enforcement,

I don't know what you saw and what you didn't a year ago but suffice it to say I got so annoyed by it that I made a whole post about the Corps spinning reporters convincing them it was overtopped.

I'd also point you to the comments where the sheep watching the news could not accept they were being lied to. Go up and down the archives a few posts.

I got into near violet confrontations with posters who were telling me I had no clue what I was talking about.

If course I was right the whole time but whatever...

>I didn't get any further t... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I didn't get any further than the first paragraph of your post. The storm was a Category 3 not 1. Let's move on from this right now.

Did you follow the link or were you just happy to wallow in stupidity?

And BTW-- Ignorance is when... (Below threshold)
Paul:

And BTW-- Ignorance is when you don't know something. Stupidity is when you're unwilling to follow the link to learn.

Let’s hope we’re not dealin... (Below threshold)
Murphy Stoffelis:

Let’s hope we’re not dealing with a complete idiot here (although a rude one at that), have you ever heard of “force majeure”? Would you care to research history about how many times levees have been compromised on the Mississippi river alone? The undermining of a levee (piping) would be due to lack of maintenance. Please keep your insults to yourself.

"If" this is true?... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

"If" this is true?

"The Corps was responsible for project design and construction and "local interests were responsible for maintenance of levees and flood controls"."

And the levee was designed and built back in the '60s or '70s
And I were on the jury, the cause would have to be attributed to "local interests" for improper maintenance.
My reasoning, with the knowledge of the substrates there, any design would have to have a provision that proper maintenance was the key.
Nobody could or should expect any levee built on an ever shifting substrate to be "permanent" so maintaining it, constantly being on the lookout for signs of leakage or failure would be key to preventing failure. All indications were that it wasn't maintained at all. So poor design? yes. even poorer maintenance? yes.

OK, if the locals are respo... (Below threshold)
Paul:

OK, if the locals are responsible and not the Corps can you please explain this to me:

Corps Takes Blame for New Orleans Flooding

A contrite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility Thursday for the flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and said the levees failed because they were built in a disjointed fashion using outdated data.

This is the first time that the Corps has had to stand up and say, `We've had a catastrophic failure,'" Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps chief, said as the agency issued a 6,000-page-plus report on the disaster on Day 1 of the new hurricane season.

Corps said it will use the lessons it has learned to build better flood defenses.

Words alone will not restore trust in the Corps," Strock said, adding that the Corps is committed "to fulfilling our important responsibilities."

$19.7 million report includes details on the engineering and design failures that allowed the storm surge to overwhelm New Orleans' levees and floodwalls Aug. 29.

of the findings and details on floodwall design, storm modeling and soil types have been released in pieces in recent months as the Corps sought to show it was being open about what went wrong. But the final report goes into greater depth.

I'll keep my insults to myself if you can keep your stupidity to yourself. Deal?

And to think, I've only linked it 4 times and quoted it once already in this single post.

Paul you said:"I d... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Paul you said:

"I don't know what you saw and what you didn't a year ago but suffice it to say I got so annoyed by it that I made a whole post about the Corps spinning reporters convincing them it was overtopped.

I'd also point you to the comments where the sheep watching the news could not accept they were being lied to. Go up and down the archives a few posts.

I got into near violet confrontations with posters who were telling me I had no clue what I was talking about. "

I follow you, it is unfortunate, it appears, that the Corp of Engineers made any statement trying to convince anyone. If they had kept their mouth shut all the original stories, that it was undermined from below, would have stayed predominent. That being the case, it would have, or should have been properly blamed on poor maintenance, not design, which it was and the issue would have died there.
So all the business about level in the canal would never have been an issue. I guess by the time the Corp was making their statements, I wasn't paying attention because I already had a good understanding of what had happened.

You don't claim, do you, that you didn't see the news reporting back at the time the levee failed that it was due to undermining, not overflowing?
If that is the case, you should have been watching Fox News.

And I credit you with being extremely knowledgeable about the issue. That's why I'm a little surprised if you didn't see that in Aug and Sept.2005

OK, if the locals are respo... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

OK, if the locals are responsible and not the Corps can you please explain this to me:

Seems they spoke out of turn. As I said before, they should have just kept their mouth shut. Don't see why they took the hit, or why they felt like they had to take the hit.
I wouldn't find agaist them in a civil suit if I were on the Jury.
I would disallow their statement as not being relevant.

That being the case, it ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

That being the case, it would have, or should have been properly blamed on poor maintenance, not design

Can you tell me which body cavity you pulled that factoid out of?

There were probably a dozen engineering mistakes in the design. Not the leasst of which where:

-For starters, they used a safety factor of 1.3... the same as they use for cows.

-They failed to do many soil tests, instead getting numbers out of a book.

-They used the same soil strength numbers for the toe of the levee as for the centerline of the levee. DUH!

-They used outdated weather data to define the risks and when better data was availible they ignroed it.

-They built a full sized working prototype of the damn wall and it failed but they built the real one anyway. It failed in the EXACT same way the prototype did.

You're talking out your ass.

----

I guess by the time the Corp was making their statements, I wasn't paying attention because I already had a good understanding of what had happened.

That has got to be the funnest thing I've ever seen on a blog.

>Seems they spoke out of tu... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Seems they spoke out of turn.

You are a true work of art. The Corps denied it for 9 months then after all the experts pounded them for those 9 months, they finally admit it and you say "The spoke out of turn."

Congrats. I thought I had met every moron in the blogosphere in my Katrina posts. You sir have shamed them all.

Now I see the real reason I... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Now I see the real reason I didn't pay attention when the guy from the Corp was talking, according to your post back then, it was Sept 24. Well, I live in south La and Hurricane Rita had already killed my power and it stayed out for a couple weeks, so I missed all that.
Wish they had kept their mouth shut and let the blame fell where it should've.

If you will kindly read bac... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

If you will kindly read back, I haven't said one thing to insult you are even suggest that you don't know what you are talking about. I even gave you credit for being knowledgeable. I only said if I were on the Jury, they wouldn't lose.
But unfortunately, for some reason, you have resorted to the fault of many, if you can't argue the facts, attack the messenger.

It sounds as if they should have had you review their plans prior to construction.

If I wanted to insult you, when you said you thought you had met every moron, I would say, you must've been looking in the mirror, but since I don't insult people, I won't say that.

Dude, I'm sorry if I hurt y... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Dude, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings but when I say the same thing 15 times and back it up with links, I sorta get a wits end.

I don't know what else to tell you. The proof is all over the place if you dare read it. At this point there's not much more I can do for ya.

Good Luck

Hey Paul, ease up on Enforc... (Below threshold)
Worried:

Hey Paul, ease up on Enforcement, he wasn't the one making the dumb statements, look back it was some guy nameed Murphy, Enforcement makes a good case for what was on the news 'at the time' not later.

Yeah ya gotta point -to a p... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Yeah ya gotta point -to a point- but he did ok on his own.

I mean... The Corps makes a... (Below threshold)
Paul:

I mean... The Corps makes a 6000 plus page report and he says he'd throw their statements out for being irrelivent?!?!?!?

Work with me here. lol

Thanks for saying this;... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Thanks for saying this;

"Dude, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings but when I say the same thing 15 times and back it up with links, I sorta get a wits end."


You didn't need to say it 15 times, I fully understood all the time what you were saying.

let me paraphrase it, you didn't like what the people from the Corp was saying because you didn't feel like they were telling the truth. They weren't. In fact, as I claim, had they told the truth, what the real cause of the failure was, then I don't believe they were to blame.
Apparently the levee held for many years, I don't know when they were built, but at least 30 years. I'd say if they held up that long with piss poor maintenance, either they were very lucky, or the design was good enough even with the substrate they had. Just let me ask, if it ticked you off when they weren't telling the truth, then why didn't it tick you off equally when they accepted the blame. They weren't telling the truth then either.

you also said:The proof is all over the place if you dare read it. "proof" of what? whose "proof"
The proof that they weren't to blame?
That would be my proof.

Paul,Nice work on ... (Below threshold)

Paul,

Nice work on this. I grew up in Metairie and "rode" out some hurricanes (esp. Betsy). This is surely a complex story, and you have done yoeman's work on this. Have a Dixie beer (if they still make it).

I accept the Cat 1 status. But when I visited last Thanksgiving and Christmas, I noticed a hellacious amount of roof damage (judging by the blue tarps). Do you think this storm caused more than "typical" damage for a Cat 1, have construction standards declined or was I possibly thinking it was worse than in the past but it really wasn't? I got out to Lakeview and took a lot of pictures. I haven't seen anything quite like it. I have a great picture of an overturned outhouse, with "Thanks for the levees, Army Corps of Assholes" written on it.

For Enforcement, just stop.... (Below threshold)
Paul:

For Enforcement, just stop.

I ran your IP and the one of "Worried" I let you off the hook even though you where playing games. I even played along....

I was going to let it end nice... but you just wouldn't let it end. When you say:

"I don't know when they were built, but at least 30 years. I'd say if they held up that long with piss poor maintenance"

the game is up. The floodwalls where finished in the late 90's. They were not even 10 years old.

You have no idea what you are talking about but you insist on crying "maintenance" at the top of your lungs.

Get over it. The Corps issued a 6000 page report that outlined -most- of the thigns they screwed up.

No amount of your posting (or your pretending to be someone else) can change that.

Now you and "Worried" both go to bed.

Hey, the special on the "wh... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Hey, the special on the "when the levees broke"
is on HBO right now. Very interesting, it wasn't a levee failing after all, it was an I-wall, the city wouldn't give them the property to build a 'levee' so they had to build an I-wall. Still should have to meet minimum requirements. They didn't say when they were built.

Riiiight,Here's th... (Below threshold)
Murphy Stoffelis:

Riiiight,

Here's the guilt right from the report!

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been building levees along the Mississippi River since the late 1800s. The artificial, reinforced soil embankments are designed to curb periodic and destructive floods.

But determining the level of protection needed versus what Congress and the public are willing to pay for isn't often easy.
Acceptable risks must be weighed, including the statistical likelihood of catastrophic events and the possible consequences if they do occur, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.

The designs were developed to deal with a specific hazard level, the Standard Project Hurricane as defined in 1965; however, little consideration was given to the performance of the system if the design event or system requirements were exceeded.
The storm surge levels in the IHNC exceeded the design levels, and lower structure elevations, reduced over 2 ft by 35 years of subsidence, contributed to the amount of overtopping that occurred.

There was no evidence of government or contractor negligence or malfeasance. With the exceptions noted below, the system was generally built as designed, and design approaches were consistent with local practice. However, several factors described below significantly impacted the system’s performance during Katrina.


Now, go and read the report before you shoot off your mouth. I'll take the word of 12 Engineers with P.H.D's over yours any day...

I said I didn't know when t... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

I said I didn't know when they were built, I guessed due to them being "authorized in 1965"
If the Empire State Building stood for 10 years and then blew over, would you blame the designers?

Paul I agree that the levee... (Below threshold)
martin morgan:

Paul I agree that the levee broke before the point of maximum surge. Fascinating. A point I had never considered.

I'd like to see more follow-up investigation into the three years of Corps work done on the bridge about 200 feet from the breach, and finished 60 days before the storm.

All of the heavy equipment was parked on the levee very near the breach site that whole time.

Barry I was talking to some... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Barry I was talking to some roofers from Florida. (They said they still had biz in Florida but wanted to see what was up in NOLA) I asked about the number of roofs damaged vs a "typiclal" storm in Fla.

He said that it looked about the same as most.

That surprised me... We have not had a big storm to "cull" the old roofs in quite some time. AND Florida has had tougher building codes for some time. More nails per shingle etc.

I -thought- we'd have more roofs damaged but he says no. BUT this is one guys opinion and frankly he didn't seem to have put much thought into it.

-

Also another tidbit, we had a hail storm a few years back and many people got new roofs. One local roofer told me that can work against you in a storm.

As a roof ages the tar shingles melt together and form a big mass. A newish roof hasn't had time to do that. So you want a middle aged roof for a hurricane. - Who knew?

Don't know if that answered your question but that's about all I know about roofs and hurricanes. ;-)

>All of the heavy equipment... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>All of the heavy equipment was parked on the levee very near the breach site that whole time.

Interesting idea but a non-starter... (see that wikipenda image above)

On the Orleans side of the canal, the houses are built with their backs facing the wall. In other words you look out your back door and see a 13 foot tall concrete wall.

The break was several blocks from the bridge. For the heavy equipment to have been parked on the break, they would have had to have driven it thru people's back yard.

I-wall (not a levee) was fi... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

I-wall (not a levee) was finished in 1998 and it was reported that the contractor stated that he didn't build it to specifications but it was accepted anyway by the Corp of Engineers. Leaking started soon after, wasn't corrected. Seems like a lot of blame to go around, but I will now concede I would put most of it on Corp., but even then if it wasn't in conformity to their specs. If they were approved specs and it met those. then?

Nahanni pretty much nailed ... (Below threshold)
me:

Nahanni pretty much nailed it, people can paint anything they want, thats the problem, no real understanding, just a picture of what someone else wants you to buy. it's too bad people buckle under pressure & blame others for their own bad decisions, a fools paradise with a political agenda

Thanks, Paul. That makes se... (Below threshold)

Thanks, Paul. That makes sense. I was really struck by the blue tarps. Geez a real Cat 3 or 4 would have been more horrific (if possible).

My mom had to have her roof replaced (original asbestos roof from house built in 1941). There was a lot of rangling with State Farm (which only wanted to repair a portion after three or four contractors said the whole thing must go). After a contractor took photos at a good angle showing how the wind had lifted up tiles that would let water into spaces S.F. adjustor couldn't see (and I helped her write a letter to insurance commissioner when the adjustor and the contractor almost got into a fist fight in front of my 77 yr. old mother), S. F. relented.

A few comments more...... (Below threshold)

A few comments more...

As an engineer, I find expecting the flood protection system in NOLA to work to be absurd. There are too many points of possible failure - meaning that the probability of engineering mistakes making it into the final construction was very high; the probability of initial assumptions or even measurements being wrong was high; the probability of some construction not meeting design specifications was high - especially in the corrupt NOLA environment. That there were many failures shows how high these probabilities were. Add to that the fact that only a single point of failure in any particular structure would cause a whole lot of flooding and this whole project looks hubristic.

When you the consider that the political and funding situation described by Big D, it's obvious that there's plenty of blame to go around, and its even more clear that the project was doomed. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence (at least from this distance) that NOLA did not take hurricanes seriously. The city's disaster plan failed to meet FEMA standards. Furthermore, it wasn't carried out. Emergency generators were below expected flood levels. Inadequate provisions were made for maintaining radio communications.It goes on and on. The local government, true to its national reputation, is a disgrace and in fact disgraced itself in this event. I have rarely seen a place so unprepared for an inevitable disaster.

I went to bed the night before landfall knowing that New Orleans would be underwater the next day. It was inevitable. My shock was in hearing that it hadn't flooded - a widespread news report that turned out to be wrong.

As for the statement by the COE. Consider the politics: If they take the blame, whose head rolls? The engineering was done long ago. There's nobody to hit. Congress gets off the hook. Local government (which has great power through congress over COE funding) gets off the hook. Of course GOE took the blame - they could get away with it, and nobody else could or would. Do I think COE made mistakes? Yes. Was it inevitable that they would make those mistakes? Yes - that's how big government agencies work - especially under the circumstances.

As for the strength of the hurricane, the only winds mentioned with the S-S scale are the maximum sustained winds anywhere in the storm (meaning really the left eyewall). This storm did have high category 5 surge, but the levels in the canals were, as Paul mentioned, not extremely high, but they were some number of feet above normal - enough to put a lot of stress on the walls - stress which goes up nonlinearly with water height.

I think the idea of rebuilding NOLA is absurd. 122 BILLION dollars has gone into that disasater. That's not just pocket change. It makes a lot more sense to preserve the core of the city (it isn't a coincidence that the French Quarter is a high area - anything that old had to have been built on high ground). It makes sense to preserve a shipping port. Beyond that, if NOLA residents want it rebuilt, they damned well ought to pay for it themselves, rather than blaming the system the rest of us paid for when it inevitably failed, and then wanting us to put it back together again.

BTW, Paul, I'm not from MS. I'm in Arizona.

John Moore,And jus... (Below threshold)
Cybrludite:

John Moore,

And just who is going to drive from Baton Rouge or wherever every day to work at the port? To have the port you need the city. Or should we just shut down all of the Midwestern agribiz that relies on the River for affordable shipping and let most of the region go back to looking like west Texas? Oh, and be prepared to take it in the kiester on gas & electricity since a full third of your oil and natural gas comes through us.

>I-wall (not a levee) was f... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I-wall (not a levee) was finished in 1998 and it was reported that the contractor stated that he didn't build it to specifications but it was accepted anyway by the Corp of Engineers

Dude, when you pretended to be someone you where not you lot credibility...

When you start quoting Spike "Whitey blew up the Levee" Lee, you just consigned yourself to eternal damnation.

Good Night.

>As an engineer, I find exp... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>As an engineer, I find expecting the flood protection system in NOLA to work to be absurd. There are too many points of possible failure -

I feel the EXACT same way about California.

>meaning that the probability of engineering mistakes making it into the final construction was very high;

Well as long as the Corps is on the job, ya got me there.

>the probability of some construction not meeting design specifications was high - especially in the corrupt NOLA environment.

But the final report said there was not a single problem with the local construction. I love you gusy who refuse to accept what even the Corps has - that they screwed up- and still try to blame omnipotent "corruption."


>When you the consider that the political and funding situation described by Big D,

DING! You just quoted a sorce who makes shit up out of whole cloth. Next you'll quote Spkie Lee.

Your credibility just plunged to -50

But nice try.

I was linked to your site f... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

I was linked to your site from another blog. I read what you had to say, it sounded good, but I had some questions, so I brought them up. I can say that after asking and with your answers, I now understand you and your motive.

1. You are an arrogant a*shole.
2. you are more than clueless, You don't have a f*cking clue
3. You think you have a tracking program that works in stating that me and someone else is the same. You wasted your money on that software. It fed you garbage. If you think it works, send me the numbers in my street address. The failure to do so will prove my point.
4. You certainly are not an engineer. An engineer wouldn't let you wipe his a*s.
5. You won't have to be concerned with me posting on your site again. You don't need to block me. I won't be sending, I'm sh*tcanning you. you ain't worth my time. Keep it up, your readership will go to zip.
6. I didn't quote Spike Lee. that's another example of your ignorance.
7.You trigger on key words and fly off on a tangent without even reading the context. That makes you a clown.
8. Your purpose seems to be to "blame someone" other than the ones that are to blame, the ignorant a*sholes that elected and re elected Ray Nagin.
9. you get your news from some such source as CNN or MSNBC that are even more clueless than you. Whoops, that's not possible. Oh well, about the same as you then.
Adios, MF

greg,the tradeoff ... (Below threshold)
kentuckyliz:

greg,

the tradeoff of risk and cost will become a prominent reality for anyone trying to rebuild in NOLA...as the insurance companies will either refuse to issue homeowners policies in NOLA, or the rates will be sky high.

High risk --> high cost

Sigh:-------------... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Sigh:

----------------
Hey, the special on the "when the levees broke"
is on HBO right now. Very interesting, it wasn't a levee failing after all, it was an I-wall, the city wouldn't give them the property to build a 'levee' so they had to build an I-wall. Still should have to meet minimum requirements. They didn't say when they were built.

Posted by: For Enforcement at August 29, 2006 11:33 PM
---------------

6. I didn't quote Spike Lee. that's another example of your ignorance.

Posted by: For Enforcement at August 30, 2006 06:13 AM

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

Have another drink dude, have another drink.

3. You think you have a ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

3. You think you have a tracking program that works in stating that me and someone else is the same. You wasted your money on that software. It fed you garbage. If you think it works, send me the numbers in my street address. The failure to do so will prove my point.

Kenneth I not only know who you are, I know what you were doing in Norfork VA in the winter of 1957 - 1858.

Is there anything else you'd like me tell you?

How long did that take? 5 minutes?

Ohh, ohh, can I play?... (Below threshold)

Ohh, ohh, can I play?

For Enforcement, er, I mean Kenneth; the numbers in your street address are 5630. And the comment from "Worried," that's from you as well...

Kenneth I not only know who... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Kenneth I not only know who you are, I know what you were doing in Norfork VA in the winter of 1957 - 1858.

Boy that must have been a difficult search, you have my email address and that info is in my AOL profile. And it took you five minutes to look up a profile on AOL? My 6 year old grandson could have done that.


1858.? How old would I have been in 1858
and I notice you didn't send the numbers in my street address.

Are all your numbers on your site this accurate?
Probably.
I don't see any that are any more accurate. You trust software that can't get just those kind of basic numbers right?
Oh, you're not gonna blame the software, you're gonna blame yourself for getting the numbers wrong? my point exactly.
By the way, the years in the profile were correct, you just copied them wrong.

Sorry, I forgot, in No. 1 to add "ignorant"

besides, I'm not reading you anymore.

Nope. Didn't read the assho... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Nope. Didn't read the assholes on line account. It's called google.

But nice try.

BTW Did you notice Kevin was nice enough to supply the digits of your address?

You was pwned.

Below is a cut and paste fr... (Below threshold)
For Enforcement:

Below is a cut and paste from just up above, you will see in it that I say I live in S. La. Well just for the record, that street address you gave the numbers for are in N. Ga.

Now for all you people that read and believe this lying maniac, I have never lived in N. Georgia. Never. And this truly demonstrates that Paul doesn't even read the posts that he flies off and makes up stuff about. In short if you're believing anything he writes, you need to get a life.

And for the Dummy named Kevin, you aren't even close.
You could've at least narrowed your search to S. La.
For God's sake Paul, is everything on your blog made up to kiss your a*s?

Paul said "Nope. Didn't read the assholes on line account. It's called google.
Surrreee it is.
well as a result I've changed my profile on AOL so fuzzball's can't try to use it as proof of anything.


Pasted from above:
Now I see the real reason I didn't pay attention when the guy from the Corp was talking, according to your post back then, it was Sept 24. Well, I live in south La and Hurricane Rita had already killed my power and it stayed out for a couple weeks, so I missed all that.
Wish they had kept their mouth shut and let the blame fell where it should've.
Posted by: For Enforcement at August 29, 2006 10:37 PM

<a href="http://www.dnsstuf... (Below threshold)

Bullshit

That's your IP address and the one used to for the post by "Worried."

And now you're banned...</p... (Below threshold)

And now you're banned...

Once again, yeoman work by ... (Below threshold)
Mikey:

Once again, yeoman work by Paul. Is his latest analysis definitive? Nope. Incredibly interesting? You betcha.

Paul gets a lot of crap for being, well, Paul. But is he right? Sure, his paranoid insults can be galactically off-putting. But is he right? Granted, his if-you-don't-live-in-NO-then-shut-the-eff-up posturing can get old. But is he right? Clearly his Nagin apologias can be viewed as the literary equivalent of blue dress residue. But is he right?

He might be. He very well might be. If our options are limited to a) the MSM or b) Paul, which column you gonna order from?

Yeah. That's what I thought.

Paul, I saw a link for your... (Below threshold)
Nita Rene:

Paul, I saw a link for your site mentioned on Texas RainMaker's blog. You've done a great service letting people know the real story of the levee breach! Thank you.

As I posted on Texas Rainmaker's blog, I think both of you should include your hurricane blog information in the Hurrican Digital Memory Bank http://hurricanearchive.org/about or email info@hurricanearchive.org for more info.

“Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank contributes to the ongoing effort by historians and archivists to preserve the record of these storms by collecting first-hand accounts, on-scene images, blog postings, and podcasts. We hope to foster some positive legacies by allowing the people affected by these storms to tell their stories in their own words, which as part of the historical record will remain accessible to a wide audience for generations to come."

Actually the Corps first ad... (Below threshold)

Actually the Corps first admitted it was their fault on April 6 not June 1.

Sorry I don't have the link but it was in the Times Picayune

I live in Louisiana too, in... (Below threshold)
Rachel S.:

I live in Louisiana too, in the Alexandria area. I survived Andrew's remnants, Lili in '02 and Rita. We're still full of evacuees. Another story that the major media is not covering is also related to the levees. The levees are sinking faster than the Corps thought they would and that also contributed to the breaches. An independent scientist went and did measurements back May I believe it was, at 1,000 different points. The Corps only measures at 100 different points. The scientist found that the levees were sinking nearly a foot faster than everyone believed they were. Quite damning to the Corps on many counts.

Having lived in LA all my life, with a good chunk of it over on the Mississippi River Delta, many of us are already not fond of the Corps. They're not giving much of a reason for us to ever trust them again. South Louisiana fared MUCH better in Rita than N.O. did in Katrina. The idiots in N.O. oughta go take a look in the swamps and see how Cajuns build to withstand hurricanes. Their method works. And we've put our lives and homes back together WITHOUT the feds, thank you very much.

Paul, It doesn't ma... (Below threshold)

Paul,
It doesn't matter who I quote, it's the content. The poster simply did a good job of summarizing what has been widely reported elsewhere. NOLA is notorious for corruption. Do you deny that?

Furthermore, you took my analysis of conditional probabilities, excavated from it one item, and then attacked the whole thing.

You also ignore the political pressures present on the COE to cause them to play down any responsibility other than their own, because they were the safe scapegoat.

Do you really think that a system like New Orleans', built under the conditions it was, would be expected to stand up to the event?

However, let's put all the blame on the COE for the sake of argument. What is it that is being blamed? Some foolish engineer? Nope, lots have moved through there during the many decades the system has been under design and construction. An evil administrator? Oops, same comment. So just who the hell are you blaming?

And then, why don't you explain WHY the COE let these failures happen and how you could prevent the same causes from producing the same results. And I don't just mean the one I-wall break - I mean the many failures all around the system.

Are you an engineer? Do you understand the huge amount of work that has to be done, and the lack of certainty about the conditions and lack of total scientific knowledge about the problem?

Also, in blaming the COE, you point out that leaks had been reported for a long time. Is NOLA so devoid of engineers and political power that the entire city was helpless because the COE didn't fix it? Didn't anyone go to local universities and ask whether there just might be a problem? How about the crusading press? Good grief, if I knew of leaks around my neighborhood, I'd be raising hell until independent civil and hydraulic engineers convinced me it was not a problem, or until the problem was fixed. Why didn't this happen?

Have you ever done any big engineering project? The *fact* that there many failures, of several different kinds, amply supports the thesis that the system was bound to fail. FURTHERMORE, the system was not designed to protect against a category 5 storm surge, a surge that in fact happened and was definitely responsible for some of the flooding, if not the case you looked at.

So NOLA, sitting in a prime target area for a cat-5 storm, happily went along knowing that when the cat-5 came along, it would flood the whole damned place, and the rest of us would pay big bucks to bail it out. How different would your story be if the storm had not swerved at the last minute and presented the weaker side to NO? What would you be saying if the CAT-5 had not suddenly lost wind speed and slightly changed course (the center missed NOLA by 12 mi)? No matter how good the engineering, NOLA would have been under water.

You have done nothing to prove that all of the fault is with the COE. You have extensively analyzed one particular failure, with commendable effort, and provided information about that event.

As for California, the comparison is flawed. Big eathquakes there are normal, and unlike NOLA, people expect and prepare for them. I've been through one and I didn't live there long. But California doesn't bet all of its safety on a single system. It has many ways of protecting against the inevitable earthquake damage, and its citizens are paying properly high insurance premiums because of the unavoidable damage. I would no more suggest putting $122 billion into CA than I would NOLA, even though CA is vastly more important to the economy (by itself, it is something like the 7th largest GDP in the world).


.......

Cybrludite - I strongly suspect that housing workers for a port is a problem that can be solved for a lot less than rebuilding NOLA and its flood control system. Build someplace a bit higher - not all of NOLA flooded, and you don't need much of the original area in which to house the workers. Or, build in a smaller area where you can put a really big cat-5 level redundant protection system around it. Then build a road to the port.

You don't need the large population of NOLA to run the port.

All I want from NOLA is the port, and the Preservation Hall still operating. The rest, you guys can pay for yourselves.

@MikeyPaul gets... (Below threshold)
Tammy:

@Mikey

Paul gets a lot of crap for being, well, Paul. But is he right? ... But is he right?

He might be. He very well might be.

Have you looked at his track record?

He's been all over this story since before there was a Katrina. Look at that link about life in the Superdome. If Paul was in charge of FEMA it probably never would have happened.

Is he right on this one? I don't know. But I do know he's been more right than anyone else I've seen yet.

That's what matters to me.


@John Moore

All I want from NOLA is the port, and the Preservation Hall still operating. The rest, you guys can pay for yourselves.

All I want is fools like you to shut the hell up. We can't have everything in life.

I don't see how this is suc... (Below threshold)

I don't see how this is such a huge deal. I mean, yeah it's terrible, but it's man made. People design flawed stuff.

If you've ever worked closely with a group of engineers you know that. At first I thought this post was going the way of the truthers.

It's a terrible horrible tragedy. I know people in New Orleans. I had friends displaced. I watched in horror as this stuff happened, but the statement "the corps flooded New Orleans" is simply false.

that is right along the lines of saying "bush lied".

I watched in horror as t... (Below threshold)
Paul:

I watched in horror as this stuff happened, but the statement "the corps flooded New Orleans" is simply false.

Heh- I should write a script to post this every 10 comments or so....

Corps Takes Blame for New Orleans Flooding

A contrite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility Thursday for the flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and said the levees failed because they were built in a disjointed fashion using outdated data.

"This is the first time that the Corps has had to stand up and say, `We've had a catastrophic failure,'" Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps chief, said as the agency issued a 6,000-page-plus report on the disaster on Day 1 of the new hurricane season.

The Corps said it will use the lessons it has learned to build better flood defenses.

"Words alone will not restore trust in the Corps," Strock said, adding that the Corps is committed "to fulfilling our important responsibilities."

The $19.7 million report includes details on the engineering and design failures that allowed the storm surge to overwhelm New Orleans' levees and floodwalls Aug. 29.

Many of the findings and details on floodwall design, storm modeling and soil types have been released in pieces in recent months as the Corps sought to show it was being open about what went wrong. But the final report goes into greater depth.

==================

I'm so confused. Help me out here. You said:

"I mean, yeah it's terrible, but it's man made. People design flawed stuff." ...

I watched in horror as this stuff happened, but the statement "the corps flooded New Orleans" is simply false.


So say that it WAS man's fault but then you say it wasn't the Corps. Can you tell me who DID design those flawed floodwalls? Cuz I'll be pissed at them instead.

Paul, I think you make a go... (Below threshold)
Vern:

Paul, I think you make a good case for what has happened but you have to admit that it is awfully coincidental for the break to have occurred at the exact time that Katrina was in town. Have you been able to come up with any reasons or a mechanism that would have caused something to get pushed past a limit or threshold so that the break and the hurricane became simultaneous events?

Yes and no Vern...... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Yes and no Vern...

What I mean is that some atypical weather event would be the eventual casue.

The question as I see it is how atypical?

A good spring tide (Not a tide during spring but when both the Sun and the Moon align to push the tides) might have done it. That's "atypical" but less "atypical" than a hurricane.

Maybe I should be more precise and say that when I say it was basically coincidental I mean it was coincidental that this "big monster storm" that everyone predicted would swap the city was the thing that killed the wall.

There is video of a scoocer shot I saw on youtube the other day.... The guy takes the shot, it hits the goalies shoe, bounces off one side the net (the pole) hit the pole on the exact oppsite side of the net THEN goes into the net.

Sure the guy that took the shot "made" the shot but he didn't really. Fate did.

Katrina was obviously the proverbial straw but it was "coincidental" that this storm everyone predicted would flood the city was that straw.

IMO the next decent amount of water was going to take the wall down. It just happened to be Katrina.

I'm not normally a fan of w... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I'm not normally a fan of wizbang, but commend this type of reporting. Facts are good. Keep up the good work.

Interesting story, confusin... (Below threshold)
tara:

Interesting story, confusing, but still very interesting. Thanks.

A great post, lots of infor... (Below threshold)
Mikey:

A great post, lots of informative comments, a wide variety of views. Great stuff.

Some have touched on the issue of 'where do we go from here?'. (I live near Sacramento, as some other commenters do, and thus have an interest in levee failures.) Are any of the official players in Louisiana's little drama (COE, Congress, local & state officials, FEMA, etc.) changing? Isn't funding as problematic over the decades to come as it ever has been? Isn't rebuilding focusing on Category 1-3 hurricane-worthy efforts -- with Category 4-5 efforts off the table? Correct me if I'm wrong, people.

So, what are we buying with all these federal and state funds for NO? What are we attempting to buy? Why? When? Just because a Category 4 is possible doesn't mean it will occur. But if it does...?

In deference to Paul, I won't bring up Nagin. That's easy money. Or Landrieu. Or Blanco. Or the Louisiana Congressional delegation. Or...well, you know the drill.

Where does NO go from here?

JD wrote:... (Below threshold)
Mikey:


JD wrote:

I live near Sacramento. We have a similar ticking bomb with the Sacramento River levee system, built and maintained by our friends at the ACoE, but no one can get a straight answer on what or when they will be strengthened past 100-year storm strength. And yet, the Sacto City Council cheerfully goes on allowing more building in the major floodplain that would go 15-20 feet deep should the Sacto or American or East Main Canal let go.

As a Sacramento resident, I can confirm JD's insight. Depending on the location of the break(s), 50-100 square miles of California's capital will morph into Waterworld quite quickly. But hey, you can count on the following:

- prohibitions on body surfing on city streets (its for the children)
- Jimmy Carter and Sean Penn are electrocuted while salvaging touch-screen voting machines
- the Kings move to Las Vegas (Maloofs' desire all along)
- same sex marriage (flooding doesn't discriminate, you homophobic bigot)
- state worker pay will be unaffected (natch)
- insurers of island & levee owners in the Delta will suffer an industry-wide bout of amnesia (double natch)
- illegal aliens will be issued drivers licenses and boating certificates (just because)
- No Child Left Behind becomes a punchline for 387 new jokes
- It's Bush's fault

In deference to Paul, I ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

In deference to Paul, I won't bring up Nagin. That's easy money. Or Landrieu. Or Blanco. Or the Louisiana Congressional delegation. Or...well, you know the drill.

Mikey if people would get thier heads out of their collective hind quarters, they'd see I've been quick to bash all of the above - when it was deserved. (or when it was the topic of that day's news)

What wears thin is when no matter what the point of a Katrina thread, people devolve into partisan dumbshit and that's all that gets said. -- For the record I've been asking people to drop the partisan BS since before the storm.

Katrina was not a partisan battle. And it really does about a million of your fellow Americans a disservice when that is what it becomes.

Of course these comments are not aimed at you Mikey, it was merely an explaination as to why it sets me off.

Nagin, Bush et al are all fair gain IF IF IF it is germane to the conversation but in the whole scope of the event they where bit players. Both of them did a horrible job. But frankly no matter who was in those chairs, the outcome would not have changed much.

P.S. (The PERCEPTION might have changed but not the reality.)

Paul wrote:... (Below threshold)
Mikey:

Paul wrote:

What wears thin is when no matter what the point of a Katrina thread, people devolve into partisan dumbshit and that's all that gets said. -- For the record I've been asking people to drop the partisan BS since before the storm.

I take your point, Paul. We commenters often get off-topic, and I acknowledge your frustration on that score. (Hell, I'm one of the worst Nagin-bashers.) You do yeoman work, and I find your research provocative and thought-provoking. We may or may not accept your conclusions, but you certainly generate dialog.

Anyhoo, how's this for on-topic: Has the COE published their "new" design data? That is to say, if underlying data for the original design were faulty, are we confident the current design work (or repair, upgrade, describe it as you will) is based on up-to-date and accurate info?

I am extremely angry and ... (Below threshold)
Kevin:

I am extremely angry and hurt, but not surprised. My older brother, Charles drowned in the flood, I watched his body decay as it floated in that funky water for 3 days tied to a utility pole. I also have the video to prove it!!

The fatal flaw in Paul's ar... (Below threshold)
Steve:

The fatal flaw in Paul's argument is the following statement:

"So as a recap, the video we have is roughly 30 minutes after it started leaking and about an hour and a half before it gave way all together"

If one reads the IPET Draft Final Report Chapter IV, inlcuding the Appendices, one finds that the eyewitnesses reported that the floodwall was leaning over by about 6:30 AM, that the maximum surge level in the canal of about 10.8 feet above sea level occurred about 9:30 AM (based on guages and photos), that the floodwall was breached by about 9:00 AM, and that the video was shot at about 11:20 AM. An earlier part of the video showed that the parking lot of the building from which the video was taken was flooded by about 9:00 AM. Lakeview was already flooded by the time the video of the breach was recorded and the surge in the canal was back to an elevation of about 5 feet above sea level (near the base of the floodwall). Thus, the critical flaw in the argument is to assume that the video was shot shortly after the breach.

Regarding the Coast Guard pilot's report of seeing the levee suddenly give way, the timing is not clear. The National Geographic video states that the Coast Guard did not arrive in New Orleans until after 2:00 PM and the pilot reports seeing the levee give way and remove a house at some later time. From studying the entire breach site, if this report is true, the Coast Guard pilot was probably observing the section of levee/floodwall south of the area seen in fireman's video. In that area to south it does indeed appear that the levee and floodwal had moved outward to the east and removed a house in front of this section.

In short, the video is discussed in some detail in the IPET report where it is stated that the video was taken at about 11:20 AM, well after the breach and at time when the water level in the 17th Canal had returned to a level close to the base of the floodwall.

To all those who NEED ANSWE... (Below threshold)
Joyce Byers:

To all those who NEED ANSWERS & JUSTICE!

ABSOLUTELY the Corps of Engineers knew the Levee would eventually breach. Just ask Asst US Atty Curtis Collier of New Orleans if I didn't report to him about the BAD GUYs who were building with substandard materials and that the levees were weak in 1986! It is incredible to me that all this secrecy on substandard building has been hidden by the FBI and the Corps of Engineers. The Corps did business with the LB Foster Co in New Orleans. Many employees were corruptly making kickback deals. Just ask Jerry W. Fisher of Pearl River LA or Tom Demaye or L Palmisano. Ask about Fisher's connection to the Industrial Canal Project. My former Atty in 1986 is the current Judge Pat Hedges (Widow of Mr Hedges who was the GUESS WHO? What was his position when Mrs. Hedges told me that I'd lose my children if I didn't keep my mouth shut? For the sake of justice for all those that lost their lives and property or loved ones; for all those still suffering; and for all those who may still lose all over again in the NEXT FLOOD because of the weak sections of the levee, go interview Fisher, Demaye, Palmisano, Gray, Hedges, etc! Good Luck, but THEY will try to stop you.

The fatal flaw in ... (Below threshold)
Paul:
The fatal flaw in Paul's argument is the following statement:

"So as a recap, the video we have is roughly 30 minutes after it started leaking and about an hour and a half before it gave way all together"

If one reads the IPET Draft Final Report Chapter IV, inlcuding the Appendices, one finds that the eyewitnesses reported that the floodwall was leaning over by about 6:30 AM, that the maximum surge level in the canal of about 10.8 feet above sea level occurred about 9:30 AM (based on guages and photos), that the floodwall was breached by about 9:00 AM, and that the video was shot at about 11:20 AM. An earlier part of the video showed that the parking lot of the building from which the video was taken was flooded by about 9:00 AM. Lakeview was already flooded by the time the video of the breach was recorded and the surge in the canal was back to an elevation of about 5 feet above sea level (near the base of the floodwall). Thus, the critical flaw in the argument is to assume that the video was shot shortly after the breach.

HUH? You think about as clearly as everyone else who works for the Corps.

The video was not shot at 11:30. The firemen said they saw water shortly after 9:00 rushing into Lakeview. They immediately went and got the video camera.

You say Max surge was 9:30. That's when the firemen where watching and taking video. If you're right, then you just proved my entire post. This was max water. (thanks for proving that btw)

I love when you guys from the Corps hang yourselves.

"Thus, the critical flaw in the argument is to assume that the video was shot shortly after the breach."

Dude, you can see that the wall just started falling in the video. Are you blind or do you assume the readership is blind?

Regarding the Coast Guard pilot's report of seeing the levee suddenly give way, the timing is not clear.

Wrongo Bongo... go read the Senate report. He called it over the radio. The Senate has the audio tape.

In short, the video is discussed in some detail in the IPET report where it is stated that the video was taken at about 11:20 AM,

I do not remember that form the report but if it is the report, then it is just another lie from the Corps. (added to the other 10,000 or so) The guy who shot the video said it was just after 9:00AM. (go watch the video)

There was nobody from the Corps within 20 miles of the break (as per the Senate report) .. how do they know when the video was taken if not to ask the photographer?

You must fit in well working for the Corps... You lie without compunction and you're not even smart enough to make the lies believable. Typical Corps material.




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