On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!


From a Times-Picayune article on the recent flooding in New Orleans:

…In both New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, pumps operated without incident throughout the day Monday to drain water from streets and yards, but were unable to keep up with the intense rainfall.

“We had everything operating at full capacity,” said Robert Jackson, spokesman for the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board.

But in some areas, more than two inches of rain fell in an hour, while the city’s pumps can handle only a maximum 1 inch in the first hour of a rainfall and 1/2 inch every hour thereafter, he said…

If you can’t handle the rain from thunderstorms, how in hell are you going to handle a hurricane? Has anyone noticed the climate is changing and those being getting rain are getting a lot of it? Wouldn’t it have been prudent to INSTALL BIGGER PUMPS?


1 whig { 10.24.07 at 12:28 pm }

But the little pumps were cheaper.

2 Bryan { 10.24.07 at 1:15 pm }

They put in replacements with the same capacity as those that were lost, rather than increasing the capacity, as is part of the disaster mitigation law. When the Feds replace infrastructure as part of a disaster, the law says the local government is supposed to buy to reduce the problem that caused the loss.

3 Badtux { 10.24.07 at 1:59 pm }

The problem is that defective levees, not inadequate pumps, caused the Katrina losses. My understanding is that the Feds are thus refusing to pay to replace the pumps with anything other than what was already there. And actually most of the pumps are the same ones that have been there for the last hundred years. They’ve gone from being steam-powered to electric-powered over that time frame, and of course they had to be overhauled after being underwater for so many days (new bearings, basically, and new electric motors to replace the ones turned into a soggy mess), but same damned pumps.

It’s all about money, and how the Feds keep penny-pinching. They won’t pay for new pumps to replace old pumps that can be refurbished, and they use any excuse to keep from paying at all. Half of the NOFD is still sleeping in tents at night because the Feds keep finding any excuse to avoid having to pay for repairing the fire houses, for example…

Frankly, all of this could be dealt with if the Feds would simply FIX THE FREAKIN’ LEVEES. But the levees aren’t even up to pre-Katrina strength. Another Category 3 hurricane would slosh right over the levees again. If they’d simply fix the levees, the locals could handle everything else, because with fixed levees, businesses can justify investments which in turn will generate tax revenues as investment turns into revenue. But no business can justify making an investment when there’s a 90% chance that within the next five to ten years it would get wiped out again. Without the levees being fixed, everybody’s fucked.

4 Bryan { 10.24.07 at 3:14 pm }

The Feds are really avoiding admitting that the system they designed was garbage, and the flooding was the result of their failure which under law makes them responsible for 100% of the cost of everything. Katrina was effectively a cat 1 or low cat2 for New Orleans, because of distance and the fact that the storm passed to the East, not a cat 3. The damn system failed in a storm that didn’t even require an evacuation.

They should forget this “floodwall” crap and build real, drive along the top levees that can take a pounding. Levees that you can watch and see of there’s any erosion or weakening.

The people in California need to look and learn, because all they are going to get is promises.

5 Badtux { 10.24.07 at 7:42 pm }

Actually the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has admitted that the system did not meet design specifications and failed under a load it should have withstood. They had no choice. A combined LSU-UCB engineering team came out there and did a thorough failure and design review and pretty much ripped the Feds a new one, to the point where even the Bush Administration couldn’t cover it up.

The problem is that after admitting that the fundamental design was flawed, the only change they’ve made is to put gates at the mouths of the canals. MRGO will still funnel water over the levees of everything east of the Ship Canal, said levees were basically wiped out and have been rebuilt (where rebuilt) with silt and sand rather than good firm dirt, and the Corpse of Engineers, rather than admitting that MRGO cannot be made safe, has re-dredged it rather than filling it in as a menace. The levees on either side of MRGO would need to be about thirty feet higher to deal with the storm surge that MRGO funnels into eastern New Orleans, or there would need to be Dutch-style sea walls and sea gates at the mouth of MRGO to keep storm surge out of it, but the Corpse says it requires “study”.

In the meantime, I’d love to invest in New Orleans — lots of cheap real estate there, great food and music even though so much of it has been displaced elsewhere, a large cheap workforce in the surrounding area, etc. — but who can justify it, knowing that their investment will just get wiped out the next time that a hurricane side-swipes New Orleans? It’s all about the levees. And New Orleans is being f**ed by the Corpse of Engineers in much the same way they were f**ed by FEMA, except that the Corpse of Engineers is making sure there’s gonna be lots more corpses in the end due to their bungling and failure to design safe systems for countering storm surge.

6 whig { 10.25.07 at 12:01 am }

It seems to me that if the levees aren’t going to be built to an adequate level of protection, everything else about New Orleans is rearranging deck chairs. It sounds bad to say, but I can’t see how it’s any other way. But I think the idea is to make the case that New Orleans is a city worth saving, and I agree. The levees need to be repaired, and God willing they won’t get hit by another serious storm before the Bush administration is removed from office.

7 Bryan { 10.25.07 at 12:58 am }

MRGO is a total waste of taxpayer money. It is barely used, and as you say, Badtux, it acts as a nozzle for the storm surge.

I don’t know how it get it through to people that you have to have a port where New Orleans is located. You can’t move the river traffic anywhere else, it has to be transferred to deep water vessels there. Imports need access to the Mississippi, and exports from the Mississippi-Missouri river systems need a Gulf port. The French didn’t build on the site because they loved mosquitoes; they built there because it is the obvious spot.

It is a hell of lot cheaper to build levees than to rebuild the city. If we can spend 200 billion a year to blow up Iraq, we ought to be able to rebuild the Big Easy. Without decent levees, as you point out, it isn’t going to happen.

We are wasting time and money screwing around, and nothing important is getting done. The national infrastructure as a whole has be going down the crapper, and these people just do not give a damn. I wonder if they’ll care when we can’t export wheat and corn, and can’t import coffee or get oil from the Gulf wells.