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Myths of Katrina
Jon Lebkowsky, 23 Sep 07

Popular Mechanics has an interesting special report, "Debunking the Myths of Hurricane Katrina," about popular misconceptions about the hurricane and its aftermath. PM notes that the rapid response by various levels of government was overshadowed by FEMA's lag; the hurricane itself was only a moderate storm, a category 3 at landfall, and the New Orleans floodwalls were, in fact, built properly. Good information here, including recommendedations for the future.

Most of the New Orleans floodwall failures occurred when water up to 25 ft. high overtopped the barriers, washing out their foundations. But three breached floodwalls--one in the 17th Street Canal and two in the London Avenue Canal--showed no signs of overtopping. Accusations of malfeasance were born after the Army Corps of Engineers released seismic data suggesting that the sheet-pile foundations supporting those floodwalls were 7 ft. shorter than called for in the design--a possible cause for collapse. In December 2005, PM watched Corps engineers pull four key sections of the 17th Street Canal foundation out of the New Orleans mud. The sections were more than 23 ft. long--as per design specifications. "I had heard talk about improper building before the sheet-pile pull," the Corps' Wayne Stroupe says. "But not much since."

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FEMA WAS the federal response and the agency failed and continues to fail in every way possible. Just last night I heard the reason our police are still working out of trailers over two years after the storm is FEMA. Also the reason that 80% of the flooding occurred was the failure of the 17th Street Canal. It was negligence pure and simple. We are NOT getting the government we pay for. In my case that is 38% of my yearly income. Am I mad? No, I am FURIOUS!

Posted by: doctorj on 23 Sep 07

The article referenced in Jon's post is from March of 2006 - that's 18 months ago. And much of the information in the article has been retracted or refuted.

However, there's a fantastic article in Popular Mechanics just a few weeks ago. Please check it out:

Posted by: WateryHill on 23 Sep 07

WateryHill: The article is older, correct, but we hadn't reported it before, and when I found it, I thought it was good for WorldChanging because it focuses on solutions as well as inaccuracies. Since I read your comment, I've spent some time searching for the retractions you mentioned and can find none. Could you post a pointer? The article seems well-researched and reasonable to me.

doctorj: The article doesn't let FEMA off the hook, but points out that FEMA's failure to respond tended to overshadow the quick and effective response by National Guard, Coast Guard, et al. PM says "the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest--rescue effort in U.S. history." That was in spite of FEMA et al.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 23 Sep 07

I was going to attempt a serious respomse until I followed the link in your post.
Come on? You're kidding right?
Do you expect us to believe the Cousin of the Director of Homeland Security?

I was in New Orleans during the storm and flood. I cringe every time that I hear Michael Chertoff's voice.
I am completely taken aback by your deliberate misdirection.
Here's a great link to Ben Chertoff.

Posted by: nolafugee on 24 Sep 07

BTW, the article to which Watery Hill linked is excellent and makes me further wonder why Jon would resort to such a journalistic shell game with the engineering facts, particularly on such a normally astute website as WC.
Jon, would you like to play a game of Solitaire?

Posted by: nolafugee on 24 Sep 07

If you want a conspiracy, here's more: I see via Wikipedia that Ben Chertoff helped start the progressive nonprofit Music for America - and my company hosted their web site! Sounds pretty shady, disregarding the fact that I don't know Ben Chertoff and didn't realize, before today, that we had that connection.

Given his background, I don't think Ben C. would have an interest in defending Michael C., cousin or no. For that matter, I don't think I have cousins that would defend *me,* so I don't accept your fundamental assumption.

I posted a pointer to the article because it's very good. If you've read my posts about Katrina (the first of which was before landfall), you'll know that I've been critical of the Administration and of FEMA, and I didn't see a lot in this piece to contradict my criticisms. I found out a couple of things I didn't know by reading the PM piece, and I appreciated the focus on solutions, which is where we at Worldchanging focus.

If you don't agree with PM's facts or conclusions, I suggest you present well-researched facts and conclusions to dispute the article. Got any?

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 24 Sep 07



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