Monday, September 1, 2008

Hurricane Gustav on News Orleans: A Narrow Miss

Gustav has made the landfall near Cocodrie, Louisiana, 72 miles southwest of New Orleans, as a category 2 hurricane. New Orleans has avoided a direct hit, what a relief!

Map to the left shows the levee system to protect New Orleans. The levee system was breached at numerous locations during Hurricane Katrina (category 3) three years ago. The levee system has since been repaired to or beyond the pre-Katrina protection level. However, the levee system planned by the US Army Corps of Engineers to protect the city from a "100-year storm" is still being re-built or newly constructed and will not be completed by 2011.

It should be pointed out that the strength (height and speed) of a surge at a specific location depends on the approaching angle of the hurricane as well as the type and length of the channel that the initial surge would have to travel through, not just the category number. Highly sophisticated computer models are available and can be used to forecast the flood level more accurately.

I applaud the coordinated efforts by Federal, State, and local authorities to successfully inform and evacuate residents in advance. Forecasting the flood level is not yet an exact science, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

For Gustav, the surge water has now entered the city canals, and some water is splashing over the top of the Industrial Canal (the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal on the map). May the levee system in New Orleans continue to hold and the water drainage/pumping system continue to function to minimize the property damages!

(Source of Map: 2006 Report by the US Army Corps of Engineers)