Details continue to emerge about the New Orleans flooding during Katrina

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Anthony Bertucci calls in the status of the floodwall at London Avenue Canal’s upper breach near Robert E. Lee Boulevard. Bertucci is from New Orleans District’s Construction Division.

USACE’s Anthony Bertucci calls in the status of the floodwall at London Avenue Canal’s west breach near Robert E. Lee Blvd. Bertucci is from New Orleans District’s Construction Division.

New details continue to emerge about why New Orleans flooded so horrifically during Hurricane Katrina.

A carefully researched story by Pulitzer prize winner Mark Schleifstein describes how immediately after the flooding event, independent levee investigators were told incorrect information by “various members of the corps New Orleans district.”

For example, Drs. Raymond Seed and J. David Rogers–the lead investigators for a study funded by the National Science Foundation–were told that the design of the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals was “forced” on the Army Corps of Engineers against their will.

This and other wrong information caused the investigators to conclude that the Orleans Levee Board was partly to blame for the collapse of the canal walls during Katrina.

A new article published last Thursday in Water Policy (the official journal of the World Water Council) contains a retraction of those wrong conclusions.

Drs. Seed, Rogers and others now say it was the the Army Corps of Engineers that doomed New Orleans because the corps had made a tragic miscalculation on a large-scale study they did in the 1980s.

“The corps misinterpreted the study’s findings, concluding that sheet piling that extended deeper would not significantly increase the stability of the I-walls under the short-term loading conditions during a hurricane, meaning the amount of time high water would be on the wall would likely only be a few hours.”

The paper also reconfirms that responsibility for the infamous annual “drive by levee inspections” belonged solely to the corps, and at the end of the day were irrelevant anyway.

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