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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Orleans STILL at risk

BATON ROUGE, La. — Despite a massive effort to repair and upgrade flood defenses
since Hurricane Katrina, storm surge could pour over levees in New Orleans if a
strong Category 2 or higher hurricane strikes the city, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration said Monday.

While the forecast uses what
officials say is the most accurate and complete picture yet of the region's levee
heights, they said they weren't surprised by findings that reaffirm the area
surrounding New Orleans is among the nation's most hurricane-vulnerable.

IMHO this is outrageous! The Army Corps of Engineers has spent several BILLION dollars, can't give a reasonable accounting for how the money has been spent and the existing levees can only hold back a weak level 2 storm??? As I see it, this is further example of corruption and incompetence in the running of this city, state and everything asociated with it.

On Monday, the corps was unable to provide a breakdown on how much has been spent so far on work to repel storm surge. Since Katrina, Congress has given the corps about $7.1 billion to work with and it is considering giving the corps $5.7 billion
more.

"We have a long way to go," said Randy Cephus, a corps spokesman in New Orleans. "There still remains risk and even once the system is complete, there will always be risk." Before Katrina hit nearly three years ago, levee heights were woefully out-of-date and in many places far lower than officials thought they were, Dokka said.

But, unfortunately, the new measurements, incorporating post-Katrina levee upgrades, confirm an old story: the region remains at risk. "In general, the pattern hasn't changed remarkably," said Stephen Baig, a storm surge expert with NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

"Somewhere between a Category 2 and Category 3 overtopping occurs."
The NOAA storm surge estimates do not take into consideration possible engineering failures, like the levee breaches that caused most of the misery in New Orleans
during Katrina, which was a category 3 upon landfall south of New Orleans.

State officials were not surprised by the latest findings. "All
of coastal Louisiana is vulnerable and will continue to be vulnerable," said
Jerome Zeringue, a top levee aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal.


What really bothers me is that the levees that we are talking about are mounds of dirt covering a concrete core. How do you spend $7 billion on mounds of dirt? We should be installing the high tech, sophisticated flood control systems that are seen in the Netherlands and in the Thames River in the UK. For a major US city to be relying on such an antiquated system is just mind boggling.

Additionally no effort has been made to raise the elevation of the city, least not the 9th Ward where the worst flooding took place.

I'm glad the newest technology was used to measure and model the risk from a storm surge, but the time is well past that updated and new technology is needed to protect against a potential storm. Action is needed, not just wastefulness and then complaining when something goes wrong, especially when the risk is so well known in advance.

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