Thursday, May 10, 2007

Serious weaknesses found in repaired New Orleans levees

Facing South:
With hurricane season less than a month away, experts from the United States and the Netherlands say flaws in New Orleans' repaired levee system could leave the region vulnerable to another disastrous breach like the one that occurred after Hurricane Katrina, which was the largest civil engineering disaster in U.S. history.

So warns a special report from National Geographic, which had Robert Bea, a University of California at Berkeley engineering professor and former chief engineer for Shell Oil Co., inspect the protective barriers. Bea found multiple weak spots in critical areas, according to the magazine:
The most serious flaws turned up in the rebuilt levees along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ship channel, which broke in more than 20 places when Katrina's storm surge pounded it, leading to devastating flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Bea found several areas where rainstorms have already eroded the newly rebuilt levees, particularly where they consist of a core of sandy and muddy soils topped with a cap of Mississippi clay. 'It's like icing on the top of angel food cake,' Bea says. 'These levees will not be here if you put a Katrina surge against them.' ...
More here.

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