PM's "Lessons of Katrina"


You won't like, or agree with, every conclusion -- especially not if you work for the mayor of New Orleans. But Popular Mechanics' ridiculously comprehensive cover package on the "Lessons of Katrina" is really worth a read.PMX0306leveefailpresc-lg.jpgEspecially nice is how Pop Mech leverages its DIY home-builder know-how to offer up fixes for future hurricane-fighting. Here's an example:

In 1965, the same year Hurricane Betsy swamped large sections of New Orleans (including the Lower Ninth Ward), the Army Corps of Engineers presented Congress with an audacious blueprint for protecting the city from a fast-moving Category 3 storm. The $85 million Barrier Plan proposed sealing off Lake Pontchartrain from the gulf with massive, retractable flood barriers. The goal: Stop storm surges 25 miles east of the levees that encircle New Orleans. After Betsy, the plan was expanded to include gates on two of the four drainage canals that slice into the city from Pontchartrain (two of which breached their floodwalls after Katrina). But, environmental groups objected to the impact that the Pontchartrain floodgates might have on wildlife and wetlands. The Sewer and Water Board of New Orleans vetoed gates on the canals. So the Corps instead built higher levees and floodwalls.Now, 40 years later, the Corps is again studying how to design gates for Pontchartrain and the New Orleans canals that will have minimal impact on the environment and navigation, but will still be able to block Katrina-strength storm surges. The report's due date: January 2008. Meanwhile, engineers are also studying how to strengthen the existing levees. One idea is to replace fragile I-wall barriers with more robust T-walls, which use three rows of foundation pilings that can withstand pressure generated by hurricane-force floodwaters. A wide concrete slab, or "skirt," on the protected side deflects overflowing water that could otherwise wash away supporting soil. T-walls held throughout Katrina without a leak.
Next month's cover story might not be half-bad, either. I hear they got some defense technology dork to look at the Pentagon's big weapons programs, and try to figure out who things are meant to fight.
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