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Hurricane Katrina: The New Orleans Levee Failures

1220 words - 5 pages

Most of the destructions from the events of August 29th 2005, when Katrina Hit the City Of New Orleans, were not only caused by the storm itself; but also, by failure of the engineering of the levee system protecting the entire infrastructure of the city. The years of poor decision making and avoidance of the levee system led to one of the most catastrophic events in the history of the United States. Throughout our research, we have identified three key players in charge of the levee system design, construction and maintenance. These three organizations are the Unites States Corps of Engineers, the New Orleans Levee District and the Louisiana Department of Transportation. The consequences of the hurricane showed the organizations negligence in the design, construction and maintenance of the protective walls. Later independent sresearch showed that more than 50 levees and food walls failed during the passage of the hurricane. This failure caused the flooding of most of New Orleans and all of ST. Bernard Parish. The Unites States Corps of Engineers had been in charge of the of the levee system and flood walls construction since the 1936 flood act. According to the law, the Louisiana Department of Transportation is in charge to inspect the overall design and engineering practices implemented in the construction of the system. Once the levee systems were finished, they were handed over to the New Orleans Levee District for regular maintenance and periodically inspections. The uncoordinated actions of these three agencies resulted in the complete failure of a system that was supposed to protect the people of New Orleans. The evidence is clear that this catastrophic event did not happened by chance. The uncoordinated response of these three agencies led to the death of more than 1500 citizens of New Orleans.
The USACE was directed to design the protective system for the most sever recipe of meteorological conditions. The USACE used the “standard project hurricane” model to design the system. These models are subject to change over the years due to different data and methods of research. During the years, some of the changes to these hurricane models were adopted by USACE but other revised criteria to the models were left out. Independent research showed that the USACE ignored the updated criteria of for the hurricane safety standards needed for the levees and flood walls structures. The construction of the walls height also raises some questions. According to the instigation of the America Society of Civil Engineers the USACE approved and system design relative to a water level reference datum, Mean Sea Level. This level was denoted to have a zero elevation. Furthermore, the evidence provided by the ASCE shows that the USACE used a geodetic (land base) vertical datum that was assumed to be equivalent to the water level datum. This assumption was wrong. This technical confusion led to the structures to be built 1 to 2 feet below the needed...

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