Friday, June 22, 2007

Today's Gem

From we learn:

NEW ORLEANS - Billions of dollars in repairs and improvements to the New Orleans area's 350-mile hurricane protection system since Hurricane Katrina have reduced the threat of flooding, property loss and death in portions of the area.

But risk will always be part of the mix, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials warned Wednesday.

"We will never be able to say there is no risk (associated with) living here,'' said Karen Durham-Aguilera, civilian director of the corps' Task Force Hope, the name given to the mammoth effort to repair and strengthen the hurricane protection in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.

"We have to responsibly say the risk will never go to zero. The risk will never be eliminated,'' she said.

The IPET risk and reliability report indicates large swaths of the city still are vulnerable to flooding in a major storm. If a 100- year storm were to hit today, parts of the hard-hit Lakeview and Gentilly neighborhoods would probably still take on at least 8 feet of water, the report shows.

However, vulnerable areas within those neighborhoods are smaller than they were before Katrina because of protection system improvements.

A 100-year storm means that such a storm has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. Katrina was a 400-year storm, or a hurricane with a 0.25 percent chance of occurring in any year.

Lt. Col. David Berczek, the risk and reliability program manager for Task Force Hope, said the repaired 17th Street Canal floodwall and a floodgate built near the mouth of the outfall canal should reduce the overall level of flooding that Lakeview experienced during Katrina by 5 feet if a 100-year storm was to hit the area again.

That flood reduction would cut estimated Lakeview fatalities by 70 percent, assuming no evacuation, and property loss by 32 percent.

Berczek said Gentilly's flooding, on the other hand, would only be reduced by 6 inches - despite the fact that the London Avenue Canal's breached floodwall was repaired and a gate was constructed at the canal's mouth to keep Lake Pontchartrain storm surge from entering the canal and overwhelming the floodwall again.

The half-foot reduction in flood water translates into a 19 percent fall in estimated fatalities, assuming no evacuation, and only a 5 percent drop in property loss.

Durham-Aguilera blamed the wide disparity between the possible future flooding in Lakeview and Gentilly on the fact that the Inner Harbor Navigation Channel, or Industrial Canal, remains the "weak link'' in the protection system. She said a control gate is planned, but not before 2011.

The vulnerable Industrial Canal also explains why the IPET report says the devastated Lower 9th Ward would see only a 2-foot reduction in the amount of floodwater it saw during Katrina if a 100-year storm was to hit. Such a reduction translates into a 29 percent drop in estimated deaths and a 4 percent drop in property loss.

Link said the risk and reliability tool is for "planning'' purposes, not "forecasting.'' The flood risk estimates have a margin of error of less than 1 foot to about 3 feet, depending on the area. The margin of error is about 1 foot.

Corps officials stressed they are not trying to tell residents where to live. Durham-Aguilera said insurers who have seen the report have responded favorably.

"The reaction we're getting from the insurance industry is - this is good because there's lowered risk,'' she said. "They are very pleased to see this.''

Camille was a Category 5 hurricane when it made landfall in August 1969, yet Katrina - a Category 3 when it hit in August 2005 - produced nearly 20 feet of storm surge, or at least 5 feet more than Camille. Katrina was larger in size than the more intense Camille, he said.

If Camille was a 150-year storm, then Katrina was a nearly 400- year storm based on its size, intensity and surge-generation capacity.

As for the Gulf, the corps said, the area off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama has shown to be four to six times more likely to generate strong storms and experience higher storm surge. That conclusion was reached after looking at the frequency of major storms since 1950.

Hurricanes Betsy in August 1965, Camille, Katrina and Rita in September 2005 passed through the area, which corps officials described as a gym or "training camp'' for storms.

The corps also noted that the moderate slope of the Gulf floor in that area is more likely to create larger storm surges for storms that track through the area and head toward the coastline.

The bottom in that area acts like a hurricane surge "runway'' or "ramp.''
I like how this is an "article" or "press release." To those of us who are following this story, the whole Corps of Engineers presentation smacks of a lot of B.S. You can say all kinds of nice things to make people feel good, but what they need and should be demanding is the truth. For the truth, answer this question:
If we move New Orleans, can I expect that the levees and additional flood prevention and remediation systems are going to keep my family and possessions safe in the event of a hurricane and its potential after effects? (I know that winds and rain will occur. I am not an idiot.) Will the system as it stands today protect me?

Any other commentary is simply window dressing and is not the truth.

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