Flood or Hurricane Protection?: The New Orleans Levee System and Hurricane Katrina

Why was the New Orleans levee system so vulnerable to failure in Hurricane Katrina?

4 min read

Hurricane Katrina came ashore slightly east of New Orleans. Tremendous rainfall preceded its arrival, filling up Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne even before its storm surge arrived. As a result, on the morning of 29 August 2005, many of the levees on the eastern side of New Orleans were already at the brink of being overtopped. When the storm surge came, ranging from 3 meters to 9 meters, it added force to flow, and weaknesses in the levee system were revealed, resulting in key breaches that compromised the entire system. About 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. The population was immediately reduced to a quarter of its prestorm numbers, and even today, more than two years later, the city struggles to redefine and rebuild itself in the wake of Katrina.

Where did the engineering fail in this massive disaster? In the design of the New Orleans levee system? In the maintenance of the system? In transitional engineering phases during the continuing construction of the New Orleans levee system? Who is responsible for this tragedy? How will it be prevented in the future?

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

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