The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which has risen magnificently to the occasion ever since the storm, now has posted a fascinating animated graphic about the first few hours of the disaster. It's astonishing how rapidly everything happened. As the animation proceeds, watch the clock in the lower left corner. All of the critical levee overtoppings and breaches occurred within four hours. It took the flood waters over a day to reach their fullest extent and depth, but by 10:30 am on August 29, the city's fate was sealed. Link is here.
Note that the legend at the bottom of the page has a symbol, a jagged red dot, clearly indicating where levees were breached. Breached, not overtopped by high water, but where the structures crumbled and failed. What's striking is that there are so many of these failures, widespread throughout the area. These levees, and especially the 17th Avenue and London Avenue floodwalls, were supposed to stand up to a category three hurricane, which is what Katrina was by the time it got here, strongly suggesting system-wide failures of design and construction.
Like everyone else here, I know who I hold responsible: The Army Corps of Engineers. Since the storm, the T-P has been running a series of investigative reports about the Corpse and the levees it designed and built, and it gets worse with each story. For example, when they were designing those floodwalls in the mid-80s, they were basing their designs on elevation maps published in the 1950s, even though everyone knew there had been subsidence in the area since then, and that designs based on those land elevation figures would be faulty. Seems the Corpse didn't much care.
It continues to this day. They kept telling us that by the start of hurricane season they would restore flood protection in critical areas, the areas affected by levee breaches, to pre-Katrina levels. Uh, well, everyone says, since that clearly wasn't enough, couldn't we maybe aim to do a little better? Nunh-unh, says the Corpse, we can't do that because we're not authorized to do that. They seem determined to hide behind that word, "authorized." When you ask why they didn't revise the plans and build higher in the 80s and 90s when subsidence indicated the need, they reply, no, we can't do that, we weren't authorized to do that. Authorized by whom? By legislation mandating better flood protection for New Orleans that was passed by Congress in the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in 1965. They want us to believe that in thirty years they couldn't go back to Congress and ask for an update to meet changing needs? And these are the people we're counting on to save our skins this season?
By the way, the Corpse now admits that it will not make that deadline for restoring flood protection. Absolutely nobody is surprised.