What Went Wrong in New Orleans as it Relates to Hurricane Kathleen Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4582 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 9  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Weather

New Orleans' Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina touched land near New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005 and its storm surge ripped the levees built to protect New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain, which bounds it in the North (Wikipedia 2005). With hundreds dead and damage along the coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama costing more than $200 billion, Katrina is considered the most destructive and costliest tropical cyclone to hit the United States. More than a million people were displaced, resulting in a declaration of a humanitarian crisis on a huge scale since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Several sections of the levee system collapsed, prompting a mandatory evacuation of the people of New Orleans. A distance of 90,000 square miles was declared a federal disaster area, a size almost that of the United Kingdom, with approximately five million of the population without power. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff described these occurrences and the flooding of New Orleans as probably the worst catastrophe or set of catastrophes in the country's history

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The city lies 6 feet below sea level: the worst threat to the people of New Orleans is water (Galle 2005). It is bounded in the South by the Mississippi River and in the North by Lake Pontchartrain, dipping into the Gulf of Mexico, which is 100 miles to New Orleans. The Lake covers 630 square miles but measures only 25 feet deep. Its shallowness is viewed by experts as the city's greatest threat during a hurricane. The levee system that protects New Orleans from the Gulf has proved ineffective in warding off waves from the Lake, as evidenced by the aftermath of Hurricane Georges in 1998, Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Hurricane Katrina. The natural location of the city, the height of the levees, their design and funding are critical issues that must be addressed in view of the likelihood of succeeding hurricanes (Folkman 2005, Handwerk 2005).

Review of Literature

Galle, J.. Vulnerable Cities: New Orleans, 2005.

TOPIC: Term Paper on What Went Wrong in New Orleans as it Relates to Hurricane Kathleen Assignment

Galle writes that many did not feel there was a threat of a surge from the Gulf because of the complex series of levees between New Orleans and the Gulf, many of which were built and improved at the start of the construction on Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection Project in 1966. These levees have holes formed by three large canals used to pump water out of the city and into the Lake daily. But they are a flood threat in themselves, according to Galle, in case of a slow-moving Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane, which can raise a surge of water as high as 30 feet. At this height, water will go over the top of the levees and fill up the city, the author quotes Frank Hijuelos, director of New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Wikipedia. Hurricane Katrina, Media Wiki, 2005

This source gives account on Hurricane Katrina's hitting land near New Orleans on August 29, 2005 and breaching the levees protecting it from Lake Pontrchartrain. This damage on the major coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama made the Hurricane the most destructive and costliest tropical cyclone ever to hit the U.S. With damages costing more than $200 billion, it exceeds Hurricane Andrew as the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Hurricane Katrina displaced more than a million people, a humanitarian crisis of unparalleled scale since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The devastation of the levees led to federal declarations over an area of 90,000 square miles, a size as large as the United Kingdom, with an estimated five million plunged into darkness. Wikipedia quotes Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as saying that the ruins of the Hurricane can be considered the worst catastrophe in the country's history.

Carrns, A and McKay B. New Orleans' Levee System Has Been Key to Survival

The authors write that levees typically began as natural structures from silt deposited by large rivers, such as the Mississippi, when they overflowed their banks. The formal levee system dates back to the establishment of the Orleans Levee District in 1890. It was fortified along with most other levees in the U.S. after the destructive Mississippi River flood of 1927. Levees look like earthen dams but not as strong and nor permanent structures. Levees are engineered to withstand flood pressure for only a few days at a time. Their durability was questionable as regards the entire northern edge of New Orleans warding off the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. They were built by the federal Army Corps of Engineers after the 1927 deluge. Most of those along the main Mississippi River were federally constructed according to high standards and said to be quite strong. But those around the Lake were built privately or by the local governments without the same degree of engineering as others in other areas. Only 17 of the 79 levees broken down by the Mississippi River flood in the Midwest were federally built. The federal government claimed that it was rare for floodwaters to "overtop" levees because they usually seep underneath from the river and appear on the land slide. Sometimes, severe pressure leads to a phenomenon called "sand boils," wherein the soil within the levee liquefies, and then to structural failure. The federal government, however, said that improvements to New Orleans' levee system were done only on piecemeal basis because these were very costly. Designs were aimed at reinforcing the pumping stations with walls to prevent the backflow of water into the city during heavy storms. It has been noted, though, that reinforcements were built in only one of the three major drainage canals.

Bunch, W. Why the Levee Broke, 2005

Bunch writes that Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Floor Control Project or SELA in 1995 in response to a massive rainstorm in May 1995, which killed six persons. The Army Corps of Engineers implemented SELA and spent $430 million shoring up levees and building pumping stations and provided $50 million worth of local aid. At least $250 million worth of crucial projects had remained, as the conditions of the subsiding levees surrounding New Orleans deteriorated because of hurricane activity. But after 2003, funding began to diminish due to federal tax cuts in turn due to the diverting of funds to the war in Iraq.

Bourne, J Jr. Louisiana Wetlands, 2005

The author quotes climatologists as predicting more frequent occurrence of powerful storms this century and undermining chances of a strong storm hitting New Orleans. Nonetheless, Louisiana had already begun losing its protective marshes and barrier islands faster than any other place in the U.S. Despite almost half a billion dollars spent in the last decade, approximately 1,900 square miles of coastal wetlands have disappeared under the Gulf of Mexico and the State continues to lose approximately 25 square miles of land each year. Louisiana has the hardest working wetlands in America. It consists of bayous, marshes and barrier islands that produce or transport more than a third of the country's oil and a quarter of its natural gas.

Handwerk, B. New Orleans' Levees Not Built for Worst Case Events, 2005.

The author writes that the safety of New Orleans has depended on one of the world's most extensive levee systems, which according to Lt. Gen Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the Corps, was never designed to contain or resist a storm as strong as Katrina. He said that the levees could withstand only up to Category 3 and that, as the Category rises to 4 or 5, officials were to evacuate the people. he also denied that recent federal funding decreases or delayed contract had any impact on the strength of the levees in the face of the destructive hurricane Katrina. It was simply that Katrina was stronger than the protection they had put in place. Pitting the level of protection needed against what Congress and the public were willing to pay required the weighing of acceptable risks, which included the statistical likelihood of catastrophic events and their possible consequences.

Blenford, A. New Orleans: Nature's Revenge, 2005

Blenford writes that the city's extensive levee system was designed to withstand only up to Category 3 storm, but Katrina was a Category 5 disaster, the strongest in the Atlantic for a generation. The two levees built to hold back high waters gave way under the strain. Drawn by the storm, the Lake spilled into the city and the failure of the levee system was just narrowly avoided. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency considers a direct threat on New Orleans as among the biggest faced by the nation, along with terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Galloway, GE. Report on America's Wetland during the Coastal Louisiana Technical Summit, 2003

The Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana addresses loss rate for Louisiana's coastal wetlands to as high as 25,000 acres per year - 30% due to natural causes and the remaining 70% attributable to human effects on the environment. The findings of the Report include the establishment of clear, workable… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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