Captain's Quarters Blog

« Dem Dirty Tricks In Maryland? | Main | Signifying Nothing »

September 21, 2005
Levee Failure Unexpected: Louisiana Engineers

Contrary to the media narrative of the past several weeks, the levee failure that flooded New Orleans should not have occurred with the storm surge that accompanied Hurricane Katrina. In fact, the debris pattern shows that the waters never overtopped the levees but that the levees collapsed before they met the thresholds of stress for which they were designed, according to state experts who have inspected the gaps:

Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood- protection system should have kept most of the city dry.

The Army Corps of Engineers has said that Katrina was just too massive for a system that was not intended to protect the city from a storm greater than a Category 3 hurricane, and that the floodwall failures near Lake Pontchartrain were caused by extraordinary surges that overtopped the walls.

But with the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals -- and the flooding of most of New Orleans.

Perhaps this explains why authorities appeared to relax the initial day after landfall, Monday, August 30. After all, the brunt of the storm, had turned east, and the calculations for a Pontchartrain surge would have shown a decrease in the potential for catastrophic overtopping. Their models show that the only overtopping that should have occurred was the one that flooded St. Bernard's Parish and the Lower 9th Ward, and that one due in part to the existence of a little-used Army navigation channel than amplified the design flaw in that area.

However, the evidence now shows that the north levee breaks that did most of the damage to New Orleans should not have occurred, given the level of the water and the pressure it generated. No one knows whether the failure came from the design or the construction, but these experts say that the north levees definitely should have easily held back Pontchartrain.

Perhaps that's why in those first few hours, federal and state authorities said that no one expected the levee failures ... because the storm turned out to carry an impact that the design should have contained, according to their data. Instead of a sign of ignorance or cluelessness, it may have been the truth.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 21, 2005 6:33 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Levee Failure Unexpected: Louisiana Engineers:

» Oops — They Got It Right In Reverse from A Knight's Blog
Captain Ed posts that experts are concluding that the breaches in the N.O. levees were indeed not foreseeable, as Bush & Co. indicated. What a surprise! The long and the short of it is that through the years, experts have predicted that the le... [Read More]

Tracked on September 21, 2005 7:20 AM

» Hump Day from NIF
Today's dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny ... still sick [Read More]

Tracked on September 21, 2005 8:56 AM

» Links and Minifeatures 09 21 Wednesday from Searchlight Crusade
Carnival of Vanities is up at the skwib. Recommended: Free Money Finance, [Read More]

Tracked on September 21, 2005 6:53 PM

» Katrina: A perspective from Wisconsin from Pull On Superman's Cape
[Read More]

Tracked on September 22, 2005 1:20 PM

Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!