Battling myths of the New Orleans flood
This is a very good article, and the author apparently spent much time in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood and worked hard on this article.
But Mr. Hertsgaard writes, “I was most interested in the Jourdan Avenue area immediately adjacent to the Industrial Canal, the epicenter of Katrina’s death toll. The horror there was set in motion when Katrina’s floodwaters loosed a massive barge from its moorings farther up the canal and sent it crashing into the east side of the levee. The levee gave way with a bomb-like crash and roiling water gushed through the breach. Within minutes, the flatlands north of Clairborne were drowning as the floodwaters quickly submerged nearly all the houses.”
A quick fact-check reveals the barge did not cause the flooding.
I founded Levees.org to battle the myths relating to the New Orleans Flood. A major city went under water and over 1,600 died, and we think it’s very important for the facts to be accurate.
There is no expert testimony that asserts that a barge contributed to the breaching of the east side of the Industrial Canal. Three major studies cite the mechanism of failure of the Industrial Canal east side south breach as caused by I-wall displacement after storm surge overtopped the floodwall.
From everything we have studied, the barge apparently was either swept through the opening or floated over the wall as portions of the wall were failing. For the unmoored barge to be sitting in the Lower Ninth Ward after being sucked through the breached wall was no more surprising than a rubber ducky. Both float.
Second, we maintain that it was not “Katrina” that devastated the Lower Ninth Ward. That would be like blaming an iceberg for the Titanic disaster. No one says that, of course, because that would be a gross oversimplification.
Saying Katrina flooded the city, though ostensibly correct, disregards what really happened in August 2005. Three of the major canal-wall breaches inside the city (17th Street, London Avenue and Industrial Canal eastside north) would have occurred in a far less severe storm. Some of the walls failed when the water was still five feet below the tops of the canal walls.
The death and destruction in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, was the worst civil engineering disaster in the history of the world since Chernobyl, according to Dr. Ray Seed, University of California–Berkeley. The storm was merely the precipitating factor.
New Orleans, LA
Feb 23 2011 - 5:40pm