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  • New Orleans Levees should have held

    If this theory ends up holding true, just think about the lawsuit against the engineering and construction companies.


    QUOTE
    Experts Say Faulty Levees Caused Much of Flooding

    By Michael Grunwald and Susan B. Glasser
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Wednesday, September 21, 2005; Page A01

    NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 20 -- Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood- protection system should have kept most of the city dry.

    The Army Corps of Engineers has said that Katrina was just too massive for a system that was not intended to protect the city from a storm greater than a Category 3 hurricane, and that the floodwall failures near Lake Pontchartrain were caused by extraordinary surges that overtopped the walls.

    But with the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals -- and the flooding of most of New Orleans.

    In the weeks since Katrina drowned this low-lying city, there has been an intense focus on the chaotic government response to the flood. But Ivor van Heerden, the Hurricane Center's deputy director, said the real scandal of Katrina is the "catastrophic structural failure" of barriers that should have handled the hurricane with relative ease.

    "We are absolutely convinced that those floodwalls were never overtopped," said van Heerden, who also runs LSU's Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes.

    In an interview Tuesday, Corps spokesman Paul Johnston said the agency still believes that storm surges overtopped the concrete floodwalls near the lake, then undermined the earthen levees on which they were perched, setting the stage for the breaches that emptied the lake into the city.

    Johnston said the Corps intends to launch an investigation to make sure it is correct about that scenario. But he emphasized that Katrina was a Category 4 hurricane when it smashed into the Gulf Coast, whereas Congress authorized the Corps to protect New Orleans against a storm only up to Category 3. "The event exceeded the design," Johnston said.

    The center's researchers agree that Katrina's initial surge from the southeast overwhelmed floodwalls along the New Orleans Industrial Canal, flooding the city's Lower Ninth Ward as well as St. Bernard Parish. They believe that a little-used Army Corps navigation canal known as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet helped amplify that surge, although they acknowledge that this surge was larger than the system was designed to control.

    But the researchers have strong evidence that Katrina's subsequent surge from the north was several feet shy of the height that would have been necessary to overtop the 17th Street and London Avenue floodwalls. It was the failures of those floodwalls that emptied the lake into the rest of the city, filling most of New Orleans like a soup bowl.

    On a tour Tuesday, researchers showed numerous indications that Katrina's surge was not as tall as the lakefront's protections. They showed a "debris line" that indicates the top height of Katrina's waves was at least four feet below the crest of Lake Pontchartrain's levees. They also pointed out how the breached floodwalls near the lake showed no signs of overtopping -- no splattering of mud, no drip lines and no erosion at their bases. They contended that the pattern of destruction behind the breaches was consistent with a localized "pressure burst," rather than widespread overtopping.

    The center has also completed a computerized "hindcast" of Katrina, which has confirmed the evidence before their eyes. Their model indicates that most of the surge around the lake and its nearby canals was less than 11 feet above sea level, and that none of it should have been greater than 13 feet. The Army Corps's flood-protection system for New Orleans was designed to handle surges of more than 14 feet above sea level.

    "This should not have been a big deal for these floodwalls," said oceanographer G. Paul Kemp, a hurricane expert who runs LSU's Natural Systems Modeling Laboratory. "It should have been a modest challenge. There's no way this should have exceeded the capacity."

    The center's researchers said it is too early to say whether the breaches were caused by poor design, faulty construction or some combination. But van Heerden said the floodwalls at issue -- massive concrete slabs mounted on steel sheet pilings -- looked more like the sound barriers found on major highways. He also suggested that the slabs should have been interlocked, and that the canals they were supposed to protect should have had floodgates to keep out water from the lake.

    Former representative Bob Livingston (R-La.), who helped lead the charge for Corps projects in Louisiana when he chaired the House Appropriations Committee, noted that the earthen levees along Lake Pontchartrain had all held, while the concrete floodwalls had failed. He was especially concerned about the 17th Street barrier, saying it "shouldn't have broken."

    "I don't know if it's bad construction or bad design, but whoever the contractor is has a problem," said Livingston, now a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

    Former senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) said he remembers numerous briefings from Corps officials about the danger of a hurricane overtopping the New Orleans levees. But he said he never envisioned a scenario like this one. "This came as a surprise," he said.

    The Corps has not identified the contractors who built the floodgates that failed; Paul Johnston said there will be a full investigation into the breaches.

    Congress authorizes flood- control projects -- after receiving recommendations from the Corps -- and the Corps oversees their design and construction.

    John M. Barry -- who criticized the Corps in "Rising Tide," a history of the Mississippi River flood of 1927 -- said that if Katrina did not exceed the design capacity of the New Orleans levees, the federal government may bear ultimate responsibility for this disaster.

    "If this is true, then the loss of life and the devastation in much of New Orleans is no more a natural disaster than a surgeon killing a patient by failing to suture an artery would be a natural death," Barry said. "And that surgeon would be culpable."[/b][/quote]
    "You can't handle my opinions." Moedrabowsky

    Jeffro is a hell of a good man.

    "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." - Robert Frost

  • #2
    Fuggit, it's still Bush's fault.

    Comment


    • #3
      QUOTE
      "If this is true, then the loss of life and the devastation in much of New Orleans is no more a natural disaster than a surgeon killing a patient by failing to suture an artery would be a natural death," Barry said. "And that surgeon would be culpable."

      [/b][/quote]


      [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/laugh.gif[/img]

      Where's that swing and miss picture
      Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

      Comment


      • #4
        QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 11:29 AM) Quoted post

        If this theory ends up holding true, just think about the lawsuit against the United States Government. [/b][/quote]

        QUOTE
        Congress authorizes flood- control projects -- after receiving recommendations from the Corps -- and the Corps oversees their design and construction.[/b][/quote]

        fixed

        Comment


        • #5
          Random question:

          If you're going to build levees in an area where big hurricanes are prone to hit, why would only build them to sustain a category three?

          Comment


          • #6
            QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 11:29 AM) Quoted post
            But with the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. [/b][/quote]

            VORP?

            Comment


            • #7
              QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 11:38 AM) Quoted post

              QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 11:29 AM) Quoted post

              If this theory ends up holding true, just think about the lawsuit against the United States Government. [/b][/quote]

              QUOTE
              Congress authorizes flood- control projects -- after receiving recommendations from the Corps -- and the Corps oversees their design and construction.[/b][/quote]

              fixed
              [/b][/quote]

              ++

              I dont believe the US Corps of Engineers would contract out to another engineering or construction company a project the size and scope of the levees protecting New Orleans
              “I’ve always stated, ‘I’m a Missouri Tiger,’” Anderson said March 13 after Arkansas fired John Pelphrey, adding, “I’m excited about what’s taking place here.”

              Asked then if he would talk to his players about the situation, he said, “They know me, and that’s where the trust comes in.

              Comment


              • #8
                QUOTE(Razzy @ Sep 21 2005, 11:45 AM) Quoted post

                QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 11:38 AM) Quoted post

                QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 11:29 AM) Quoted post

                If this theory ends up holding true, just think about the lawsuit against the United States Government. [/b][/quote]

                QUOTE
                Congress authorizes flood- control projects -- after receiving recommendations from the Corps -- and the Corps oversees their design and construction.[/b][/quote]

                fixed
                [/b][/quote]

                ++

                I dont believe the US Corps of Engineers would contract out to another engineering or construction company a project the size and scope of the levees protecting New Orleans
                [/b][/quote]

                I'm sure that they would actually do that. However, they are the ones overseeing the project based on an Act of Congress. They were entrusted to approve designs, construction methods, and completion of the levee system that met the requirements laid down for the project.

                IMO, it boils down to two questions. 1) Did the USACE approve faulty designs and construction methods? and 2) If they didn't (meaning the designs/construction met requirements), who then is responsible for those levees failing?

                I think, based on what the USACE had been telling Congress about needing to upgrade the levees to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, that at the time of construction, the levees met the requirements laid down prior to design and certainly prior to construction.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Man, this is great. About seven more avenues of possible blame have opened up.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:00 PM) Quoted post

                    I think, based on what the USACE had been telling Congress about needing to upgrade the levees to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, that at the time of construction, the levees met the requirements laid down prior to design and certainly prior to construction.
                    [/b][/quote]

                    The scientists quoted in the article tend to disagree. If, as they suggest, that this levee should have held based upon what happened during the storm, then we either have a design problem, a construction problem, or a combination of the two.

                    I'm pretty confident that the Corp did not design this particular levee. Those type of projects are generally put out for bid. If it comes down to a design or construction defect, you can absolutely bet that the government will go after the company that is responsible.
                    "You can't handle my opinions." Moedrabowsky

                    Jeffro is a hell of a good man.

                    "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." - Robert Frost

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 12:53 PM) Quoted post

                      QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:00 PM) Quoted post

                      I think, based on what the USACE had been telling Congress about needing to upgrade the levees to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, that at the time of construction, the levees met the requirements laid down prior to design and certainly prior to construction.
                      [/b][/quote]

                      The scientists quoted in the article tend to disagree. If, as they suggest, that this levee should have held based upon what happened during the storm, then we either have a design problem, a construction problem, or a combination of the two.

                      I'm pretty confident that the Corp did not design this particular levee. Those type of projects are generally put out for bid. If it comes down to a design or construction defect, you can absolutely bet that the government will go after the company that is responsible.
                      [/b][/quote]

                      Who approved the designs and final construction of the levee? The Army Corps of Engineers. So while the construction and design companies may have been at fault, the Government was equally at fault for not stopping the project to address the inefficiencies. Could it possibly be a case that, with today's technology, we have a more precise way of measuring the ability of levees versus what they had back when the levees were originally designed and constructed?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:58 PM) Quoted post

                        QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 12:53 PM) Quoted post

                        QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:00 PM) Quoted post

                        I think, based on what the USACE had been telling Congress about needing to upgrade the levees to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, that at the time of construction, the levees met the requirements laid down prior to design and certainly prior to construction.
                        [/b][/quote]

                        The scientists quoted in the article tend to disagree. If, as they suggest, that this levee should have held based upon what happened during the storm, then we either have a design problem, a construction problem, or a combination of the two.

                        I'm pretty confident that the Corp did not design this particular levee. Those type of projects are generally put out for bid. If it comes down to a design or construction defect, you can absolutely bet that the government will go after the company that is responsible.
                        [/b][/quote]

                        Who approved the designs and final construction of the levee? The Army Corps of Engineers. So while the construction and design companies may have been at fault, the Government was equally at fault for not stopping the project to address the inefficiencies. Could it possibly be a case that, with today's technology, we have a more precise way of measuring the ability of levees versus what they had back when the levees were originally designed and constructed?
                        [/b][/quote]

                        First of all -- we don't yet know the answers to those questions. Second, even if true, the contractor is not shielded from liability.
                        "You can't handle my opinions." Moedrabowsky

                        Jeffro is a hell of a good man.

                        "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." - Robert Frost

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 01:03 PM) Quoted post

                          QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:58 PM) Quoted post

                          QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 12:53 PM) Quoted post

                          QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:00 PM) Quoted post

                          I think, based on what the USACE had been telling Congress about needing to upgrade the levees to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, that at the time of construction, the levees met the requirements laid down prior to design and certainly prior to construction.
                          [/b][/quote]

                          The scientists quoted in the article tend to disagree. If, as they suggest, that this levee should have held based upon what happened during the storm, then we either have a design problem, a construction problem, or a combination of the two.

                          I'm pretty confident that the Corp did not design this particular levee. Those type of projects are generally put out for bid. If it comes down to a design or construction defect, you can absolutely bet that the government will go after the company that is responsible.
                          [/b][/quote]

                          Who approved the designs and final construction of the levee? The Army Corps of Engineers. So while the construction and design companies may have been at fault, the Government was equally at fault for not stopping the project to address the inefficiencies. Could it possibly be a case that, with today's technology, we have a more precise way of measuring the ability of levees versus what they had back when the levees were originally designed and constructed?
                          [/b][/quote]

                          First of all -- we don't yet know the answers to those questions. Second, even if true, the contractor is not shielded from liability.
                          [/b][/quote]

                          If I develop designs that I believe meet the requirements, and then the approved, how can I be liable for someone else not stopping the process? At some point someone has to be smart enough to tell me that the designs do not meet specifications, right? The minute faulty designs get approved by a higher authority, the liability rests with them. Unless, of course, I knowingly cut corners. I don't see what the need for the approval process is if we're going to blame contracting companies for something apparently not being done correctly when it was approved by the customer.

                          But, if that's the case, then the government will have one hell of a time getting stuff done when contractors are held liable after a federal agency approves any aspect of a project to go forward.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 01:19 PM) Quoted post

                            QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 01:03 PM) Quoted post

                            QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:58 PM) Quoted post

                            QUOTE(FAR52 @ Sep 21 2005, 12:53 PM) Quoted post

                            QUOTE(Iowa_Card @ Sep 21 2005, 12:00 PM) Quoted post

                            I think, based on what the USACE had been telling Congress about needing to upgrade the levees to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane, that at the time of construction, the levees met the requirements laid down prior to design and certainly prior to construction.
                            [/b][/quote]

                            The scientists quoted in the article tend to disagree. If, as they suggest, that this levee should have held based upon what happened during the storm, then we either have a design problem, a construction problem, or a combination of the two.

                            I'm pretty confident that the Corp did not design this particular levee. Those type of projects are generally put out for bid. If it comes down to a design or construction defect, you can absolutely bet that the government will go after the company that is responsible.
                            [/b][/quote]

                            Who approved the designs and final construction of the levee? The Army Corps of Engineers. So while the construction and design companies may have been at fault, the Government was equally at fault for not stopping the project to address the inefficiencies. Could it possibly be a case that, with today's technology, we have a more precise way of measuring the ability of levees versus what they had back when the levees were originally designed and constructed?
                            [/b][/quote]

                            First of all -- we don't yet know the answers to those questions. Second, even if true, the contractor is not shielded from liability.
                            [/b][/quote]

                            If I develop designs that I believe meet the requirements, and then the approved, how can I be liable for someone else not stopping the process? At some point someone has to be smart enough to tell me that the designs do not meet specifications, right? The minute faulty designs get approved by a higher authority, the liability rests with them. Unless, of course, I knowingly cut corners. I don't see what the need for the approval process is if we're going to blame contracting companies for something apparently not being done correctly when it was approved by the customer.

                            But, if that's the case, then the government will have one hell of a time getting stuff done when contractors are held liable after a federal agency approves any aspect of a project to go forward.
                            [/b][/quote]

                            Iowa,

                            It's generally a contractual item -- such that approval of the plans does not absolve the contractor from liability for defects in their design/construction. Now, if the Corp designed the levees and t he contractor simply built them to those specifications, then the contractor would be off the hook. But I'm pretty confidient that did not happen in this case. We'll find out as the investigation continues.
                            "You can't handle my opinions." Moedrabowsky

                            Jeffro is a hell of a good man.

                            "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." - Robert Frost

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Iowa,

                              It's generally a contractual item -- such that approval of the plans does not absolve the contractor from liability for defects in their design/construction. Now, if the Corp designed the levees and the contractor simply built them to those specifications, then the contractor would be off the hook. But I'm pretty confident that did not happen in this case. We'll find out as the investigation continues to unfold.
                              "You can't handle my opinions." Moedrabowsky

                              Jeffro is a hell of a good man.

                              "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." - Robert Frost

                              Comment

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