Thursday, February 16, 2006

Protecting New Orleans - Popular Science Ideas

New Orleans Cat 5

By now you know that engineers had long predicted the cataclysmic flooding that struck New Orleans. But what you might not realize is that Katrina—a category-4 cyclone when it made landfall in Louisiana on August 29—was not the worst-case scenario. That would be a direct hit from a category-5 hurricane, which would send a storm surge over the city’s levees and submerge New Orleans in minutes. Anyone who had ignored evacuation orders would drown.

New Orleans needs more protection than levees alone can offer. But in Louisiana, a comprehensive flood-control program had been repeatedly rebuffed—by environmentalists who fretted over the effects on ecosystems, by fishermen who feared for their livelihood, by engineers dead-locked over competing proposals, and by administrators who dismissed the plans as too expensive.

Katrina changed everything. All ideas—no matter how costly or far-fetched—are back on the table. In the end, officials might opt for a Band-Aid approach. They shouldn’t. Relying solely on patched-up old levees is like asking the U.S. Border Patrol to fend off a full-scale military invasion.

Read the article or buy the February 2006 issue of Popular Science Magazine for more photos and artwork

The biggest reason for New Orleans’ weakness to storm surge is the erosion of the coastal wetlands. This erosion is natural, but has been drastically accelerated by man made shipping channels, canals and levees. The channels and canals breach the natural coastal barrier and allow saltwater to seep into the freshwater marshes, killing the plant life that is such a vital shield for the city. The levees prevent the sediment deposits from reaching vital areas, which is why New Orleans is sinking. There has to be a way to protect the city and revitalize the coastal wetlands at the same time.

I like the ideas Popular Science has come up with, for the most part. One question I have is regarding the “subterranean plumbing,” how do you plan on installing this system? Have you ever tried to dig a hole in New Orleans? Seriously, dig a hole just to install a basketball goal, there is water at the bottom of that shallow hole... that’s why no one is buried in the ground here, all in above-ground tombs.

Of course, one has to ask, “Where is all of this money going to come from?”

In 2002, NOLA produced a Special Report regarding the vulnerabilities and worst case scenarios that New Orleans faces. This article is loaded down with graphs, illustrations, and photos. Check it out!

One more thing, check out the above photo... do you think that satellite dish would still be there in a Category 5 Storm?

No comments :