New Orleans levee report blames Army Corps

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:37 PM GMT on March 23, 2007

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The Army Corps of Engineers is largely to blame for the disastrous flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, according to a 475-page report commissioned by the state Department of Transportation and Development that was released Wednesday. The five major findings of the report by "Team Louisiana":


Figure 1. Team Louisiana researchers discuss forensic developments at a section of the 17th Street Canal breach. Image credit: Team Louisiana.

1) The Army Corps failed to follow the 1965 Congressional mandate to protect against the "most severe combination of meteorological conditions reasonably expected." This mandate specified a "1 in 100 year storm" that the New Orleans levee system must protect against, which was set as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 107 mph. In 1972, the National Weather Service adjusted the expected "1 in 100 year storm" to be a Category 3 hurricane with 129 mph winds. This was adjusted again in 1979 to a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds. The Army Corp never revised their protection plans based on these new estimates, despite their mandate to do so and their awareness of the requirement to do so.

2) The New Orleans levees were built 1-2 feet too low, because the Army Corps used elevation estimates taken in 1929 to design the levees. The city has sunk over the years, and was already 1.3-1.6 feet lower than the 1929 elevation estimates in 1965 when the levee system was designed. Continued subsidence of the land resulted in levees that were up to five feet too low when Katrina struck. The Corps was aware of the subsidence issue, but did not correct for it. The levees being too low caused many of the failures that flooded New Orleans, the report asserts: Crown elevation deficiencies ranging up to 5 feet at the time Katrina struck resulted in prolonged overtopping of floodwalls and levees along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) and to the east in the Lake Borgne funnel that otherwise would have been overtopped only briefly. Prolonged overtopping led to catastrophic breaches into the Lower 9th Ward on the east and into Orleans Metro on the west, and contributed to the early failures of levees along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW)and MRGO. Early failure of the MRGO levee allowed the 32,000 acre wetland buffer between MRGO and 40 Arpent back levee to fill and overtop the 40 Arpent back levee while the surge was still rising, and resulted in catastrophic flooding in St.Bernard to an elevation of 11 ft.

3) The Army Corp did not follow existing engineering practice and guidance for construction of levees and floodwalls.

4) The free-flowing deep draft navigation channel on the east side (MRGO and GIWW channels) compromised system performance.

5) The levee system was "managed like a circa 1965 flood control museum", and was not maintained or upgraded properly.

The Army Corps yesterday issued a press release defending themselves, saying that all levels of government were involved in the poor decision making for New Orleans' levees, and the Corps should not be singled out for their failures. Regardless, the release of the Team Louisiana report will bolster the legal efforts to sue the Army Corps for damages from Katrina. These claims are currently at $400 billion and growing, including a claim of $77 billion from the city of New Orleans, and $200 billion from the state of Louisiana.

Next week, I plan to post a review of the Hurricane Katrina book by Team Louisiana's leader, Dr. Ivor van Heerden of Louisiana State University: The Storm: What went wrong and why during Hurricane Katrina--the inside story from one Louisiana scientist.

Jeff Masters

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297. Inyo
7:55 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
also, when discussing worst case hurricane disasters, don't forget that there is precedence for catergory 1 hurricanes hitting Los Angeles or San Diego. The winds would not be a major issue but if such a storm were to move over the area slowly, torrential rains would be unleashed over the mountains and possibly flood much of the city. Probably not as bad as a major hurricane in NYC, but nevertheless, California is absolutely unprepared.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
296. Inyo
7:48 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
Posted By: Bonedog at 1:54 PM GMT on March 26, 2007.
lightning10 hopefully with a cool down and possible La Nina you will start seeing monsoon moisture arrive in SoCal.


Bonedog, is La Nina associated with increased monsoons? The summer monsoons of the past few years have been strong and a big help for the Sierras and the Mojave Desert but not much on the coast. I do know that La Nina can increase the fog along the coast which will help a little.

then again, the El Nino didn't make it wet so the La Nina might not make it foggy.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
295. pcshell
4:26 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
planning around hurricane season is great lol heres to hoping they are wrong again and the gulf coast will get another unactive season (i am on the florida gulf coast)
294. pcshell
4:21 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
nola70119 thank you think its ready for a small wedding? i love the old architure there and how is your weather this time of yeari am in florida so used to humid
293. nola70119
4:06 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
PC I am in City Park every day, its slowly coming along.
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1560
292. pcshell
3:47 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
sorry should have clarified no i ment city park in new orleans figured a couple of posters on here seem very close i am in florida and now sometimes recovery can be slow even without the hurdles they faced
291. HIEXPRESS
2:57 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
Remember this song by Leon Everett, popular about 1981?

HURRICANE

Leon Everett

Thirty miles out in the Gulfstream
I can hear those south winds moan
Bridges are looking lower
Shrimp boats hurrying home
The old man down in the quarter
Slowly turned his head
Took another sip of whiskey
He looked at me and said

CHORUS:
Well I was born in the rain by the Ponchartrain
Underneath that Louisiana moon
I don't mind the strain of a hurricane
When she comes 'round every June
High black water she's the devil's daughter
She's hard an' she's cold an' she's mean
Nobody taught her that it takes a lot of water
To wash away New Orleans

Man come down from Chicago
Gonna set that levee right
He said it's got to be three feet higher
Or it won't make it through the night
The old man down in the quarter
Said don't you listen to that boy
The water be down by morning
So he'll be on his way to Illinois.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
290. Bonedog
1:54 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
lightning10 hopefully with a cool down and possible La Nina you will start seeing monsoon moisture arrive in SoCal.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
289. lightning10
1:50 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
Another dud storm today for So Cal. What els is new this season? I am sounding like an old broken record but its the truth. Tonight mostly cloudly equal chances for a rain shower and a slight chance of a thunderstorm. Most of the rain/thunderstorms staying just north of the area. Rain totals less then 0.25 inches. Very windy in deserts and mountains.

There isnt much to look
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630
288. Bonedog
1:46 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
If your meaning Central Park NYC this week looks to be georgious hitting upper 70s to 80 degrees tuesday then back into the 60s for the rest of the week.

As we exit winters grip the temps should moderate between 60 to 75 degrees most days upper 40s to 50s at night then as we get closer twords summer 70s and 80s daytime 50s and 60s at night. Twords the end of May look for 70s and 80s with lows in the 60s and 70s. Humidity starts to arrive around that time which can make for sticky days and nights.

After May summertime temps can run anywhere from 80s to 105. Night time can be as cool as 65 or as unpleasant as 75 humidity usually runs 50 to 60% most days with 90 and 100% happening frequently usually called a 3H day (Hazy, Hot, Humid)

These are just rough estimates as there are times we dont have a spring (cool temps right up till June) then the temps spike high and saty that way) other times we have a smooth transition (as is happening now).
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
287. pcshell
1:20 PM GMT on March 26, 2007
hey guys good morning kinda off topic wondering what the condition of city park is these days concidering a wedding in your beautiful city
285. Bonedog
11:55 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
I have another point of a NYC landfall. A few folks have stated how it would be a thread the needle for a direct hit but I add this. As was seen with Katrina, you do not need a direct hit to cause massive flooding. Even with an eastward landfall (LI landfall) you have the entire Long Island Sound (aka Lake Ponchatrain) that would be blown westward into the East River and Jamica Bay thus flooding the entire East Side. As NY folks now a standard Nor'Easter floods the East Side Highway so imagine what even a mild Cat 2 would do? Also with the shape of the NY Bight water would first be pushed northward impacting into LI then as the windfield gets closer the wind shifts more northeast then east thus pushing the surge westward into the NY Harbor all the while the LI Sound begins its westward treck into the above mentioned rivers. Add in the foward speed and you have one heck of a time. Also it was mentioned about elevation and during the LI Express a 1 minute sustained 180mph wind speed at 600 feet, take a look at a majority of buildings in the NY area are 40 stories or more thus the 600 foot elevation would be a large factor. Also as I type this I look at Boston and realize the entire North East Corridor would be affected and look at all the infastructure in that swath of area and the denisty of population and one can only imagine the effects of a landfall. Folks have mentioned major landfalls it would not take that even a strong cat 1 or mild cat 2 would absolutley devastate the area. Maybe not with complete loss of said infastructure but with loss of services due to wind damage, water inundation, loss of subway services, loss of rail service, electric untilites (most are above ground in the north east) and then factor in the attempt of evacuation and its impossiblity and you are looking at a major issue.

I have said it before and will reiterate my previous statments that any storm regardless of size or intesity that affects an individual is the worst case scenario but looking at the big picture any landfall in the NY area would have repructions felt throughout the country, especially the eastern seaboard.

Lets hope this never happens.
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
284. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
7:09 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
Severe Tropical Cyclone Kara now 80 knots (10 min) with gusts of 115 knots. The center pressure is 950 hPa and expected to increase to 90 knots (10 min) in 6 to 12 hours.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 44473
283. bluehaze27
4:51 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
In lieu of Dr. Gray's prediction I thought I'd post this one that just came out.
Forecaster expects very active hurricane season
17 storms, 9 of them hurricanes, predicted in Atlantic by private group
INTERACTIVE

Most viewed on MSNBC.com

Updated: 5:57 p.m. ET March 21, 2007
MIAMI - The Atlantic hurricane season will be exceptionally active this year, according to a British forecasting group, raising the possibility that killer storms like Hurricane Katrina could again threaten the United States.

London-based forecaster Tropical Storm Risk on Tuesday said the six-month season, which begins on June 1, was expected to bring 17 tropical storms, of which nine will strengthen into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

Four of those are expected to become more destructive "intense" hurricanes, TSR said.
The long-term average for the Atlantic is for 10 storms to form during the hurricane season and for six of those to reach hurricane strength.

The United States emerged unscathed from the 2006 season after it spawned a below-average nine storms, of which five became hurricanes. Experts had universally and erroneously predicted 2006 would be a busy year for Atlantic storms.

None of the hurricanes hit the United States, bringing welcome relief to beleaguered residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast, where Katrina killed 1,500 people, swamped New Orleans and caused about $80 billion in damage the year before.

But TSR said current and projected climate signals indicate that Atlantic basin and U.S. landfalling hurricane activity will be 75 percent above the 1950-2006 average in 2007.

TSR had predicted in December that Atlantic basin and U.S. landfalling hurricane activity would be just 60 percent above average this year. It raised the projected activity level because of the sudden dissipation in February of last year's El Nino weather phenomenon.

An unusual warming of the eastern Pacific waters, El Nino events tend to suppress Atlantic storm activity.

Other experts, including hurricane forecast pioneer Dr. William Gray and his team at Colorado State University, have also warned that the 2007 hurricane season is likely to be busier-than-average.

The relative calm of last year's hurricane season, which forecasters had mistakenly predicted would be busy, came on the heels of a record 28 storms and 15 hurricanes in 2005 and only a slightly less furious season in 2004.

Member Since: March 26, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 813
282. Caffinehog
4:13 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
Just to mention: Pretty much the whole Atlantic is seriously sheared now, as it is much of the winter. When strong cold fronts stop digging far south, that's when you should start looking for development. Judging from the weather here in Ohio, it appears that may be starting to happen... but we're not there just yet.
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
281. Caffinehog
4:10 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
CB, that's a nice low level circulation of Cuba, but it's being sheared to smithereens. Take another look and you'll see that the tops of the clouds are being ripped off and taken rapidly eastward.

That's shear. And its going to eliminate any chance of development in this system.

I admit, it does look ominous, though. If the shear was forecast to relax, I'd be concerned.
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
280. Caffinehog
4:01 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
I think at one point in '05, tropical moisture was being funneled all the way up to North Carolina. I'm not sure if it was the ITCZ, though!
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
279. Hellsniper223
2:03 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
Posted By: 882MB at 11:13 PM GMT on March 25, 2007.

Hey everybody, Iam forward towards hearing from the DR. Really expect him to increase his numbers, Have you seen the CARRIBEAN ITS FULL OF MOIUSTURE,COMPARED TO LAST YEAR BEING DRY!AND IT LOOKS ACTIVE WITH THE ITCZ OVER COLOMBIA AND VENENZUELA MOVING SLOWLY NOTHWARDS DURING HURRICANE SEASON I EXPECT IT TO BE OVER THE CARRIBEAN!


882MB... I dont' think that is possible. Then again, I could be wrong. I'm no specialist or anything.
Member Since: March 28, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
278. pottery
12:39 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
its been raining here, in Trinidad, today we got 17 mm , and 23 mm overall since Thursday. Not a lot, but unusual for this time of year for sure. Lots of moisture still around too, and the forecast is for showers this week. Good news for me !!!!!!
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23902
277. ajcamsmom
12:25 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
Is the weather this year at this time really different then it normally is? My dad tells me that it is always like this at this time of year...He is 70 years old and has always lived in S. Louisiana and has always paid attention...My husband tells me that this is normal weather and he should know, he is a big hunter and fisherman...I just don't know, up until Katrina...well, I never paid attention and last year went by so fast, I can't remember what the weather was like at this time of year...
276. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
12:05 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
Tropical Depression 13F
12.5S 161.0E - 30 knots 997 hPa

Tropical Depression is moving east at 10 knots.

Tropical Disturbance Summary
=============================
Overall organization has improved past 12 hours. Wind shear is minimum over the system as well as to east with the outflow developing to the south but restricted elsewhere.

The potential for Tropical Depression 13 to develop into a tropical cyclone is moderate.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 44473
275. catastropheadjuster
12:05 AM GMT on March 26, 2007
Hey where's everyone tonight?
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 21 Comments: 3652
274. 882MB
11:13 PM GMT on March 25, 2007
Hey everybody, Iam forward towards hearing from the DR. Really expect him to increase his numbers, Have you seen the CARRIBEAN ITS FULL OF MOIUSTURE,COMPARED TO LAST YEAR BEING DRY!AND IT LOOKS ACTIVE WITH THE ITCZ OVER COLOMBIA AND VENENZUELA MOVING SLOWLY NOTHWARDS DURING HURRICANE SEASON I EXPECT IT TO BE OVER THE CARRIBEAN!
Member Since: September 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 348
273. weatherboykris
11:02 PM GMT on March 25, 2007
No,I haven't heard anything from him.I suspect he'll probably increase his forecast,though.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
272. hurricane23
9:31 PM GMT on March 25, 2007
Posted By: plywoodstatenative at 3:08 PM EDT on March 25, 2007.

Not to take anyone away from the topic, but has Dr. Gray come out with anymore thoughts or ideas on wha this years hurricane season will be like?

New update comes out Tuesday april 3.

Can be found here.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13621
269. Hellsniper223
7:12 PM GMT on March 25, 2007
http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2006/dec2006/

I do believe this is his complete report.
Member Since: March 28, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
268. plywoodstatenative
7:08 PM GMT on March 25, 2007
Not to take anyone away from the topic, but has Dr. Gray come out with anymore thoughts or ideas on wha this years hurricane season will be like?
Member Since: November 15, 2005 Posts: 16 Comments: 4189
267. Patrap
12:36 PM GMT on March 25, 2007
7More From The Times-Picayune | Subscribe To The Times-Picayune
Corps plan for storms gutted to studs
More workers, gear to brace city for worst
Sunday, March 25, 2007
By Sheila Grissett


If a storm threatens New Orleans this hurricane season, onetime Marine and current Army Corps of Engineers crane supervisor Troy Davis will walk away from his day job, say goodbye to his family north of Hammond and rush to the 17th Street Canal, the new front line in a war to save New Orleans from a Katrinalike catastrophe.

He knows that it could be a dicey post, but he doesn't want to be anywhere else if another storm blows in.

"This is my job, and all the guys on my team have the same outlook," said Davis, who has been with the corps for 15 years. "This is also sort of like military service. We're not going to turn our backs and leave a mission."






Davis would be senior man on an all-volunteer crew of four that the corps is counting on to stop Lake Pontchartrain from plunging into the canal again and lancing the city's heart.

They are skilled mechanics, equipment operators and laborers, each able to do the others' jobs. Together, they are expected to drop 11 massive floodgates across the canal, help keep new drainage pumps running, and troubleshoot the unexpected.

Comparable teams will be stationed at the London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals, then ride out the storm in bunkers with foot-thick concrete walls that stand 12 feet above the water on both sides of each canal near its mouth. The flood defense is reinforced with high-tech information systems that include fail-safe communications gear and remote cameras to monitor gauges, engines and water levels creeping up levees, gates and floodwalls as a storm approaches.

The contrast with Hurricane Katrina couldn't be sharper.

As the storm passed and much of metropolitan New Orleans sank into watery ruin, there were no emergency personnel posted at the canals, no specific plan to confront a major break in federal hurricane defenses and no clear chain of command dictating which agency should lead the fight to stanch levee breaches.

In Katrina's aftermath, command of the 17th Street Canal was reduced to chaos as representatives of four levee districts, the corps and the state wrangled for authority to direct emergency repairs.

With dismally ineffective communications systems and the challenge of travel through the flooded region, 48 hours passed before a corps general and the state transportation chief could get to the site and settle the jurisdictional squabble by asserting federal authority. Consolidation of the state's fractious levee boards has gone a long way toward minimizing a repeat of that scenario. Next time, one person will speak for the consolidated levee districts east of the Mississippi River and another for those to the west, and both will answer to the state's transportation secretary, a member of the governor's Cabinet.

Extra hands on deck

Not only will fewer people be making early and critical decisions, there will be more personnel on hand to carry out orders.






Davis and cohorts are the front line in the city's flood defense, but by no means are they lone eagles.

Posted to their bunkers by the lake for all but Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, the corps volunteers will be quarterbacked by a canal "captain" berthed within the Orleans Sewerage & Water Board pump stations farther down each canal.

The corps' expanded disaster-preparedness plan is big on redundancy, both in terms of personnel and equipment stationed along a chain of command that stretches from the outfall canals to a corps bunker in New Orleans and another at Port Allen across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge. Then there is the corps' headquarters at Vicksburg, Miss., which will direct emergency operations until command can be re-established closer to the storm strike zone.

The failsafe redundancy is nowhere more evident than in the multiple communications and monitoring systems now in place to help corps personnel maintain contact with one another and with outside agencies -- and to keep close tabs on water in the three canals.

A key function of those overlapping communications grids will be to monitor water levels, making sure they don't exceed the "safe" level established for each channel: a maximum 6 feet of surge at the 17th Street Canal, 4 feet at London and 8 feet at Orleans.

Depth is a critical consideration. Flow rate is another. When the gates are closed, the huge pumps nearer the city's heart must not outpace the smaller temporary pumps the corps is installing to move water from the canal mouths out into Lake Pontchartrain. The canal floodwalls might not tolerate the pressure of water churning for hours on end, engineers said.

In addition to on-site canal crews, key positions have been added to the "bunker team" that stays behind in New Orleans, said Col. Richard Wagenaar, the district commander who had only eight employees with him on the ground during Katrina. Wagenaar and his group operated from the corps' Emergency Operations Center, in the agency's multistory Leake Avenue office, then at the height of the storm moved to a nearby bunker on high ground adjacent to the river. One of three new positions on the bunker team is that of "battle captain," a high-level corps' engineer who will coordinate emergency responses.

In addition, the Coast Guard, whose search-and-rescue sorties saved thousands stranded by Katrina floodwaters, will assign a liaison to the bunker team. A third new position will be filled by a specialist in geographic information systems.

In another departure from past practice, Wagenaar said 15 to 20 corps leaders will hole up at the corps' Port Allen lock 80 miles northwest of New Orleans. From there, corps vessels can return the executive staff by water if land transportation becomes problematic.






During Katrina, all corps managers were evacuated, along with most other agency employees, to operate the district remotely from Vicksburg, about 200 miles away.

"Vicksburg was too far. We need to get a leadership group back here sooner as first responders," Wagenaar said.

Wagenaar said he also hopes to avoid most of the jurisdictional confusion that led to some tense exchanges on the 17th Street Canal after Katrina as multiple agencies jockeyed to fashion and execute a plan to close the floodwall breach that was allowing Lake Pontchartrain to fill the city's bowl-shaped middle.

"At the end of the day, all emergencies are local; the process is designed to work that way," Wagenaar said. Unless federal law is changed, he said, local agencies will continue to be first responders to levee system emergencies within their jurisdictions. If overwhelmed, the locals will request state aid, and if the state also is outgunned, a request for federal help will be answered.

"In my opinion, you don't want every disaster to immediately trigger martial law or federal involvement," Wagenaar said. "So there's always going to be some gray area, and the question becomes: Do I step in if I see that local and state resources aren't sufficient, or do I wait for a request?

"You will always have to make that decision on the fly," he said, because no two emergencies are identical. And although Wagenaar applauds the "heroic" work of local emergency responders to the 17th Street Canal breach -- especially West Jefferson Levee District employees who engaged in road building -- he said he welcomes the streamlined chain of command achieved through levee district consolidation.

"What is not streamlined is dealing with the Sewerage & Water Board. They don't seem to work for anybody," Wagenaar said. Port Allen, lock crews

Although posting about 20 upper-level engineers and managers at Port Allen is a post-Katrina innovation, the site has long been a staging ground for equipment, supplies and skilled workers. The corps dispatched these same assets from Port Allen to New Orleans after Katrina to work round-the-clock shifts operating heavy equipment and filling the sandbags dropped by helicopter into canal breaches.

Small crews also will be kept on the job at locks in Algiers, Harvey and the Industrial Canal, in case it is possible to release floodwater into the Mississippi River.






"At the time of Katrina, the river was very low, so there might have been a window of opportunity to open the gate and let some water out," said Chris Accardo, the corps' operation chief. "It didn't happen and, even if it had, it wouldn't have made that much difference in Katrina, but we always keep skeleton crews on, just in case."

So long as communications hold, lock personnel can also provide critical eyewitness accounts of storm conditions.

"While I was in Vicksburg, I got a call from one of our guys stationed at the Industrial Canal lock, and he said water was going over the levees and into the neighborhood," Accardo recalled.

He said that account, coupled with the results of computer modeling that corps personnel was running, offered the first clue that catastrophe was in the wind.

"This was the first sign that this was going to be bad," he said. "So we knew it was going to be bad, but the big surprise to us was the failure of the outfall canals."

Equipment upgrades

If additional personnel are the meat of the corps' bulked-up storm plan, multiple communications systems are the bones. Corps personnel will carry State Police and Emergency Operations Center radios, as well as satellite phones, cell phones and Blackberries with out-of-state phone numbers that should stay in service if local cell towers go down. Backup communication systems and high-water vehicles also will be assigned to the corps members stationed as liaisons in the emergency operation centers of a dozen or so southeast Louisiana parishes -- another new level of post-Katrina positions.

The liaisons will give corps commanders a direct link to the local emergency preparedness officials, law enforcement and elected government officers who are housed or represented in the centers during storms.

"We'll have more people on the ground with (greater) ability to communicate" than during Katrina, said Wagenaar, who will take early retirement from the corps and leave his post July 20, a year short of the three years that district corps commanders of his rank usually serve.






Wagenaar declined to discuss his reasons for retiring early, but the upshot is that he will be handing off command on the eve of typically the nastiest stretch of any hurricane season. The most destructive storms to hit Gulf Coast states in the past 40 years -- Katrina, Andrew, Ivan, Camille and Betsy -- all struck during August and September.

But Wagenaar, who was on the job only 45 days when Katrina sideswiped New Orleans and leveled much of coastal Mississippi, said his departure wouldn't impair the corps' storm readiness.

"We are better prepared because of Katrina. You have some key leaders who went through Katrina as chiefs, and they're not going anywhere. They're going to be here for years," Wagenaar said, singling out Accardo and Chief Engineer Walter Baumy, co-authors of the new emergency plan. "You will have a solid core of expertise that remains here," Wagenaar said.

Canal walls now in plan

The New Orleans corps had a disaster preparedness and response playbook with the heft of a phone book when Katrina struck. But it was a general disaster plan that gave no special attention to the levees and floodwalls that would, in failing, doom much of New Orleans and parishes downriver.

Before Katrina, the corps had no reason to focus on a potential break in canal walls, Wagenaar said.

"In fact, the only discussion we had pre-K, during my 5 1/2 weeks on the job, was that a hurricane (that overtopped the system) could fill this city like a bathtub, and we'd have to de-water," he said. "There was never a discussion about levees or floodwalls being compromised." But he said the expanded plan treats the three canals and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal area -- where closed-circuit cameras have been mounted on corps locks to help monitor conditions -- as the "centers of gravity."

Accardo said he couldn't have been more stunned by news of multiple, systemwide breaches.

"The idea of dropping sandbags by helicopter into breaches wasn't part of our plan. The thought of floodwalls breaching? Not something we had reason to consider," he said.






"We monitored water levels in Lake Pontchartrain, but not specifically at the outfall canals. Prior to Katrina, there was no historical information to suggest that the outfall canal walls were suspect and required intense water-level monitoring," he said.

Now there's lots of it, including the findings of scientists who estimate that most of the water that inundated New Orleans and several neighborhoods in northeast Jefferson Parish came through crevasses that in less than three hours had breached the three New Orleans outfall canals

"Obviously, Katrina has taught us many lessons, and the outfall canals will be intensely monitored for future storm events," said Accardo, a Metairie native whose duties now include operating the new floodgates and the temporary pumps that will help push water over them while closed.

Exacting instructions for operating gates and temporary pumps at the three outfall canals fill some 100 pages, and the canals themselves have been lined with a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, system that uses sensors to transmit a wealth of information via computer screens, including changes in water levels along the length of all canals.

It is the SCADA inside the pump stations that canal captains will monitor as they synchronize the pumps near the gates and the bigger city pumps situated hundreds of yards -- sometimes a mile or more -- closer to the heart of the city.

With the gates closed against a surge, city operators must power down their stronger pumps to keep from overwhelming the lower capacity of the dozens of pumps set up at the mouths of the outfall canals. It is the pump operators who will make adjustments in response to information the canal captains collect from SCADA readings, Wagenaar said.

So critical is SCADA to protection of the canals that there are special backup generators in the pump houses just to keep the data system running. In addition, fiber optic cables backed up by a microwave system have been installed to keep SCADA data flowing as long as possible to pump stations and to the corps' riverfront headquarters and emergency bunker. Show time

The corps calls it T-5: the point, five days out, at which metropolitan New Orleans appears within the cone of a storm's possible landfall, as tracked by the National Hurricane Center.

The corps will activate its emergency operations at T-5, or 120 hours from a potential landfall, and the hydrology and hydraulics specialists working there will begin assessing computer models that project surge, wind and rainfall conditions.






At the same time, the canal crews responsible for lowering the floodgates and for helping run the corps' temporary pumps will be alerted and put on standby, as will be helicopter contractors who might need to transport canal crew members and other emergency personnel to New Orleans, including divers who might be needed to clear debris or silt from the gates prior to closing.

If the New Orleans area is still in the cone of uncertainty 24 hours later, at T-96, the canal teams will be activated and preparations for closing the gates will begin. On site, team members will review procedures and verify that all tools, fuel, equipment, and safety provisions are in position.

Simultaneously, the corps will activate helicopter companies under contract to provide air transportation to the corps after storms.

Helicopters were in such high demand as rescue vehicles after Katrina that Wagenaar was unable to get into the air for an aerial survey of damage until sometime after 9 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, about 15 hours after Katrina made landfall.

Next time, the corps' district commander will be airborne in a Coast Guard chopper immediately after the storm passes.

In addition, commercial choppers are also under contract to help the corps make emergency repairs.

"One of the biggest problems after Katrina is that we couldn't get marine-based equipment to the breaches because of bridges," Accardo said. "But we couldn't get all the helicopters we needed because they were, understandably, running off to do search and rescue. "At 2 a.m., I got a call from a guy in Denver who said he could supply two Russian helicopters able to lift a phenomenal amount of weight, but they would cost $100,000 a day," Accardo said. "Col. Wagenaar told me to get them if I could . . . That was the mind-set: Do anything possible to get the resources needed." Ultimately, the Russian choppers ran into customs problems and were not brought to New Orleans.

Like the canal teams and helicopter companies, the corps' dive teams also will be put on standby at T-96. Although the time to prepare could be reduced by unexpected changes in a storm track, the goal is to have all preparation and testing complete by T-36, the point at which the district commander, in consultation with the chiefs of emergency operations and hydrology and hydraulics, will decide whether to close gates in the three outfall canals.

Timing varies on gates






Wagenaar said the corps will follow a communications matrix to ensure that local and state officials are kept informed at all critical junctions, including gate closings.

The gates might not all be closed at once, depending on the risk of high water surging in from the lake.

"There are procedures, but there is no set answer for when the gates come down because it will be based on variables at each canal," Wagenaar said. "I may close six of the gates to hedge my bet and leave five others open for drainage."

The disaster plan calls for Wagenaar or his successor to be on the London Avenue Canal, where the decision to close is so critical because of the low safe-water level. From there, they will move to the 17th Street Canal.

As storm conditions worsen, the commander and operations chief will move back to the corps' riverfront Emergency Operations Center. The canal captains will be inside the pump stations, and canal crews will take refuge in bunker-type structures built at the end of equipment platforms on each side of the canal's mouth.

"It could be bad out there, but it's a massive building, and I don't foresee that a storm could take that structure away," Davis said.

In addition to sheltering the workers, two each east and west of the canals, the small buildings also hold sensitive electronics equipment within foot-thick concrete walls. The shelter floors are about 12 feet off the ground, and each will have flatboats, safety gear and provisions. Accardo said the dozen crew members volunteered for service on the canals and were selected not only because of their skills, but their character.

"We couldn't have better people out there to do these jobs," he said.

Category 4 or 5


Accardo said many of the volunteers have no children or have families living well away from New Orleans that won't be in harm's way.

"We'll force people to do the jobs that need doing if we have to, but we much prefer volunteers," he said. "The truth is, we wanted people who wanted to be in the fight, and we got them."

If the area is threatened by a Category 4 or 5 storm, the men probably would be pulled off site once the gates were down and the pumps running. They would return as soon as possible after the storm passed, Accardo said.

"Why have them in harm's way? These aren't really safe houses in the sense that Jefferson Parish is building safe houses," he said. "These are equipment houses designed to handle a hurricane, but not a major storm surge.

"And if you think about it, the more intense the storm, the longer it will be before the gates can come up, so the less important it would be to have the men on site," Accardo said. "In fact, it may be more important to have them here for tropical storms, because they can get the gates up sooner
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266. nola70119
1:22 AM GMT on March 25, 2007
In case anyone cares, SSTs in the Gulf are already above last year's, which were above the year before. My thumb in the air sense is that the atmosphere here in NOLA is in a more normal weather pattern than last Spring, which was mostly cloudless and quite windy.

I joined the suit against the Army Corps of Engineers as well.
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1560
264. Patrap
9:56 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
In Lakeview, Yvette Pereira, 54, died in her attic hours after the Coast Guard called her cellphone to say they were in the neighborhood but could not locate the house. An hour later, her 11-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who had been by Ms. Pereira's side for two days, was rescued.

Vanessa Pereira, Alexandra's grown sister and, now, her caretaker, had been evacuated but used her cellphone to stay in contact with her mother during the ordeal and made dozens of calls to find help. "I was just telling them stuff like, 'She's having a heart attack. She's with an 11-year-old child, you can't let this happen,' " Vanessa Pereira said. "The rescue people that were talking to me were crying.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
263. Patrap
9:54 PM GMT on March 24, 2007

NYTimes.com

December 18, 2005
Louisiana's Deadly Storm Took Strong as Well as the Helpless
By SHAILA DEWAN and JANET ROBERTS
NEW ORLEANS - More than 100 of them drowned. Sixteen died trapped in attics. More than 40 died of heart failure or respiratory problems, including running out of oxygen. At least 65 died because help - shelter, water or a simple dose of insulin - came too late.

A study by The New York Times of more than 260 Louisianans who died during Hurricane Katrina or its aftermath found that almost all survived the height of the storm but died in the chaos and flooding that followed.

Of those who failed to heed evacuation orders, many were offered a ride or could have driven themselves out of danger - a finding that contrasts with earlier reports that victims were trapped by a lack of transportation. Most victims were 65 or older, but of those below that age, more than a quarter were ill or disabled.

The results are not necessarily representative of the 1,100 people who died in the storm-ravaged part of the state. The 268 deaths examined by The Times were not chosen through a scientific or random sample, but rather were selected on the basis of which family members could be reached, and which names had been released by state officials.

Nonetheless, the study represents the most comprehensive picture to date of the Louisiana victims of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures. The Times conducted more than 200 interviews with relatives, neighbors and friends of the victims, and culled information from local coroners and medical examiners, census data, obituaries, and news articles.

The interviews add narrative and nuance to what has been a largely anonymous or purely statistical casualty list. Relatives were able to explain that what might have been listed as a simple drowning was really a tragic end to a rescue, or that medical care just a few minutes earlier might have meant the difference between life and death.

In New Orleans almost three-quarters of the black victims examined by The Times and almost half the white victims lived in neighborhoods where the average income was below $43,000, the city's overall average. In New Orleans, the median income for whites is almost twice what it is for blacks. Many, if not most, were Louisiana natives, and virtually all were members of the working class - nurses, janitors, barbers, merchant marines.

Among them was Althea Lala, 76, who suffered a heart attack while trying to saw through her roof. Prosper Louis Flint, blind, diabetic and dehydrated, was one of at least 19 people who died in the hot sun on Interstate 10, according to the state health department, waiting for help to come. Donise Marie Davis, 28, fell to her death from the rope of a rescue helicopter. Todd Lopez, 42, pushed his girlfriend's family into an attic before the water overtook him. Paul Haynes, 78, told his wife, "Marge, don't worry about me. I know how to survive."

State officials have released the names of only 512 victims - fewer than half the estimated deaths in the state - and have provided just a skeletal demographic breakdown, showing that most were 65 or older, about half were black and about half were female. Despite repeated requests, neither state officials nor the coroner of Orleans Parish, where the bulk of the deaths occurred, have released causes of death, and Louisiana death certificates are not a matter of public record.

More than 60 families told The Times that they still did not know how or in some cases even where their loved ones perished. As a result, a full portrait remains impossible.

The Times's examination encompassed about 175 of the approximately 360 New Orleans residents so far identified, along with about 60 people who died in the surrounding parishes and about 50 evacuees. One in the group was the victim of a criminal homicide.

"It's ironic that you can survive a storm," but still die, said Velda Smith, who lost her sister-in-law and three teenage nieces to the floodwaters. On the day they drowned, she said, "everything was fine. The sun was shining." Then the Industrial Canal's levee broke, prompting a panicked call by one of her nieces to their father. The girls, Kendra and Kendricka Smooth and Doneika Lewis, were spending the night at their aunt Ersell Smooth's house on Flood Street in the devastated Ninth Ward.

"The girls were hysterical," Ms. Smith said. "The water was rising so fast. Then the phone went dead. They did not know how to swim." By the time their father got to his own front door, the water was already rising in his house. He, his wife and four other children made it to a neighbor's house and were airlifted to safety.

Because of bodies that washed away or have not yet been found, a full accounting of the dead may not be available for months or even years. But more than 1,400 victims from along the Gulf Coast have been counted, including some who evacuated and whose deaths may later be determined to be unrelated to the storm.

Bodies were found floating alongside refrigerators, wedged under furniture, lashed to telephone poles or covered by makeshift shrouds. School buses arrived at shelters with some of their passengers already dead. The deaths tell of individual stubbornness, helplessness and selflessness, shortsighted government policy, and the hardships of poverty, aging and disability.

Some victims became emblematic of the horror in New Orleans and the inefficiency of the government response. There was Vera Smith, whose improvised grave proclaimed, "Here lies Vera. God help us." Ethel Freeman, slumped in her wheelchair under a plaid blanket outside the convention center. Xavier Bowie, a lung cancer patient whose girlfriend cried over his body in the street. Alcede Jackson, who lay on his front porch, in full view, until Sept. 12, and still has not been released by the central morgue. And withered, frail Edgar Hollingsworth, 74, whose rescue more than two weeks after the hurricane provided a rare glimmer of good news. Two days later, he died.

For each of those, hundreds died in obscurity. In the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where a deadly wall of water surged down streets and swept houses off their foundations, Karnettia Jacko, 26, slipped from her husband's grasp and sank into the murky water, relatives said. Her mother, 51-year-old Brenda Andrews, grabbed for her daughter and fell in as well. As the rest of the family watched from the roof, their bodies bobbed to the surface.

In Lakeview, Yvette Pereira, 54, died in her attic hours after the Coast Guard called her cellphone to say they were in the neighborhood but could not locate the house. An hour later, her 11-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who had been by Ms. Pereira's side for two days, was rescued.

Vanessa Pereira, Alexandra's grown sister and, now, her caretaker, had been evacuated but used her cellphone to stay in contact with her mother during the ordeal and made dozens of calls to find help. "I was just telling them stuff like, 'She's having a heart attack. She's with an 11-year-old child, you can't let this happen,' " Vanessa Pereira said. "The rescue people that were talking to me were crying."

Ms. Pereira said she lost more than her mother and her home - she lost her "false sense of protection," the notion that the government would be there to help in a crisis.

While the state's list of victims shows that a vast majority died alone, 31 families in the Times study lost more than one member. Anna Bonono, 85 and sick with cancer, died with her 80-year-old brother and caretaker, Luke Bonono. Their house was destroyed. "The house had been the family home for years," Rosalie Bonono, a niece, said. "It's like this family has been erased because of one hurricane."

Water - rising as fast as a foot every 10 minutes - overtook many who thought the worst had passed. In St. Bernard Parish, just east of the city, Joan Emerson, 57, was on the phone with her son at midmorning on Monday when he heard her screaming, then the phone went dead, a family friend said. Her body was found 18 days later.

In Arabi, the St. Bernard town adjacent to the Lower Ninth Ward, the water came so fast that Kenneth Young did not have time to save his wife of 56 years, Gloria, who was partly paralyzed and bedridden, relatives said. He stayed with her until the last possible moment, watching her drown before he narrowly escaped to the attic, where the couple's daughter waited.

Of the 126 people who were not in a nursing home or hospital, yet did not evacuate, only 25 families said transportation was an issue - although there could be many more such victims, because the Times study was less likely to include the homeless or those with no driver's license or other official documents. Others said the victims refused to leave because they had survived earlier hurricanes, were worried about their property or pets, or were simply obstinate. At least one victim tried to leave town, got stuck in traffic, and returned home.

Clarence Fleming, 64, had two amputated legs, but still told each of his family members he was riding with someone else and stayed in his home in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. Hannah Polmer said her 64-year-old mother, Rachel Polmer, simply felt safest in her own home. "Elderly syndrome," the daughter called it. Not including hospital patients or nursing home residents, two-thirds of those who did not leave were over 60. Thirty were ill or disabled.

Many said that mandatory evacuation orders came too late, or that leaving, even with transportation, was not a simple matter for older residents. LeShawn Hains could not find a special-needs shelter for her mother, Gilda, who was on oxygen and had heart and lung trouble. Eddie Cherrie Jr. stayed behind with his mother, Onelia, who relied on a walker and blood pressure medication. "It's true nothing stopped us from leaving," he said. "But also, it's not that easy to leave with a 91-year-old woman."

They survived the storm but were later taken by helicopter to the airport, where officials separated a badly dehydrated Ms. Cherrie from her son, leaving her to die alone, he said. Mr. Cherrie said if the levees had not broken, she would have survived. "That's malfeasance," he said.

For many, routine maladies turned fatal. Melvin Alexie Jr., 47, developed a mastoid infection in his ear after the storm. His father took him to Charity Hospital, which he said was too overwhelmed to help. A trip to a Federal Emergency Management Agency center proved fruitless as well, and Mr. Alexie died on Sept. 13 in Gretna, a New Orleans suburb. Edward Starks, 58, ran out of insulin at the convention center, his aunt, Dorothy Guy, said.

For others, help simply came too late, according to relatives. Earl Balthazar, 72, slipped out of his life jacket and drowned just as help arrived. Eunice Breaux, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, was trapped with 15 other people on the third floor of a home. Five days after the storm, a boat finally came and dropped them off on a levee, where Ms. Breaux, 76, died. Her death certificate says she drowned, a finding her family disputes.

Many family members said that although their older relatives were nearing the end of their lives, they had the right to peaceful, dignified deaths.

Louis Orduna Sr., a decorated World War II veteran, was 90 but in great shape, said his nephew, Jack Bunn. "His son begged him to get out," Mr. Bunn said. "He refused to leave. He felt he'd be safe there - he had no idea."

The water was up to his roof within nine minutes of the levee break.

"Every tooth in his head, every hair on his head was still there," Mr. Bunn said. "To go like that, drowning like a rat, it's terrible. It's not the way an individual like that was supposed to go."

Shaila Dewan reported from New Orleans for this article, and Janet Roberts from New York. Reporting for this article was contributed by Lara Coger, Micah Cohen, Brenda Goodman, Lily Koppel and Lee Roberts. Research was provided by Donna Anderson, Jack Begg, Nick Bhasin, Happy Blitt, Alain Delaqu�ri�re, Sandra Jamison, Toby Lyles, Jack Styczynski, Carolyn Wilder and Margot Williams
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
262. Patrap
9:49 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
August 29th 2006 Bell Ringing Remembrance..17th St. Canal...Reading of the Lost.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
261. Patrap
9:42 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
17th St Canal Breach Repair area 1 year after failing to the hour...August 29th, 2006 8
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
260. Bgoney
9:25 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, funding in the Corps was shifted from basic infrastructure and levee maintenance, to the restoration of "aquatic ecosystems." This may have affected New Orleans levees and possibly disasters to come.
259. Trouper415
9:18 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Thanks for the update Dr Masters. I agree that the Government needs an overhaul. Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina should be a number one priority for government response. And with a debt that large it's going to become harder and harder to give very large amounts of aid, creating many more stresses elswhere in the countries programs.

PEACE ON EARTH
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 637
258. Patrap
9:11 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Dunno Kris..im Only 47..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
257. Patrap
9:10 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
8mm footage of Betsys flooding in Chalmette,St Bernard Parish..1965 Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
256. weatherboykris
9:07 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Didn't the 1915 storm also flood New Orleans?
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
254. Patrap
9:01 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Corps of Engineers ..In their own words,..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
253. Patrap
8:59 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
The Army Corps yesterday issued a press release defending themselves, saying that all levels of government were involved in the poor decision making for New Orleans' levees, and the Corps should not be singled out for their failures. Regardless, the release of the Team Louisiana report will bolster the legal efforts to sue the Army Corps for damages from Katrina. These claims are currently at $400 billion and growing, including a claim of $77 billion from the city of New Orleans, and $200 billion from the state of Louisiana
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
252. Patrap
8:58 PM GMT on March 24, 2007

3) The Army Corp did not follow existing engineering practice and guidance for construction of levees and floodwalls.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
251. Patrap
8:57 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
2) The New Orleans levees were built 1-2 feet too low, because the Army Corps used elevation estimates taken in 1929 to design the levees. The city has sunk over the years, and was already 1.3-1.6 feet lower than the 1929 elevation estimates in 1965 when the levee system was designed. Continued subsidence of the land resulted in levees that were up to five feet too low when Katrina struck. The Corps was aware of the subsidence issue, but did not correct for it. The levees being too low caused many of the failures that flooded New Orleans, the report asserts: Crown elevation deficiencies ranging up to 5 feet at the time Katrina struck resulted in prolonged overtopping of floodwalls and levees along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) and to the east in the Lake Borgne funnel that otherwise would have been overtopped only briefly. Prolonged overtopping led to catastrophic breaches into the Lower 9th Ward on the east and into Orleans Metro on the west, and contributed to the early failures of levees along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW)and MRGO. Early failure of the MRGO levee allowed the 32,000 acre wetland buffer between MRGO and 40 Arpent back levee to fill and overtop the 40 Arpent back levee while the surge was still rising, and resulted in catastrophic flooding in St.Bernard to an elevation of 11 ft.
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250. Patrap
8:56 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
1) The Army Corps failed to follow the 1965 Congressional mandate to protect against the "most severe combination of meteorological conditions reasonably expected." This mandate specified a "1 in 100 year storm" that the New Orleans levee system must protect against, which was set as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 107 mph. In 1972, the National Weather Service adjusted the expected "1 in 100 year storm" to be a Category 3 hurricane with 129 mph winds. This was adjusted again in 1979 to a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds. The Army Corp never revised their protection plans based on these new estimates, despite their mandate to do so and their awareness of the requirement to do so.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127371
249. Bgoney
8:55 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Strange how very little blame was put on the government of LA. What did they do for the last 30 or 40 years.
247. Patrap
8:49 PM GMT on March 24, 2007
Low cloud channel..click to enlarge Link
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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