:: Saturday, September 03, 2005 ::

I'm sure you're all ready for me to move on, but...
I can't let this Reuters article about the New Orleans levees pass without posting a bit and offering some comment. And then, I'm going to try very hard to stop blogging about Katrina -- at least for a while.
WASHINGTON, Sept 2 (Reuters) - The Army Corps of Engineers believed the New Orleans levee system would protect the city for 200 or 300 years, but it was not designed to guard against a storm as powerful as Hurricane Katrina that thoroughly overwhelmed it, the head of the agency said on Friday.

So why did the Corps think it would last so long? Read on. - AC

Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also said Bush administration funding cuts for the system of levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect the city had not contributed to the disaster.

"At the time that these levees were designed and constructed, it was felt that that was an adequate level given the probability of an event like this occurring," said Strock, whose agency handles the infrastructure of U.S. waterways.

Situated below sea level, New Orleans relied on a 300-mile (480 km) network of levees, floodgates and pumps to hold back the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.

The levees were designed to protect against hurricanes only in the lowest three of five categories of intensity, Strock said. Katrina was Category Four when it hit the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday. Emphasis mine. - AC

"We figured we had a 200- or 300-year level of protection. That means that an event that we were protecting from might be exceeded every 200 or 300 years," Strock told reporters. "So we had an assurance that 99.5 percent, this would be OK. We, unfortunately, have had that 0.5 percent activity here."

"The intensity of this storm simply exceeded the design capacity of this levee."
You pays your money and you takes your chance. In this case, the federal government took what looked to be a safe gamble, and lost.

I don't have any relatives along the Gulf Coast, so I don't have what you'd call a personal stake in this issue. (Actually, I do. We all do. But that's altogether another post.) But after seeing what happened in my home state of Missouri after the Flood of '93 along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and how rebuilding was allowed to occur along the floodplains, I'm just amazed at how nonchalantly we as a species go through life, seemingly unaware of the forces of nature.

It's all hubris, I suppose. There's no sure bet in life, and life's a gamble. Some bets are safer than others.

We pays our money and we takes our chance.

P.S. - I think I'm done blogging about Katrina for awhile. At least for the weekend. For those who can enjoy a day off from work on Monday, please say a prayer for those who would love the chance for just another routine Monday at the office, but won't have that opportunity again for a long time.

:: Andrew 15:04 + ::

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