Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where the levees broke

New Orleans was a working vacation. The DHS User's Working Group meets a few times a year, always a different location. Typically some tours are planned for exposure to local response challenges to help our group understand technology needs...One of our tours this trip was to the very spot the levees failed, and the nearby pumping station. This is a giant sluice gate on the levee built since Katrina.

Bad picture, but I was trying to stand on the barricade and not fall into traffic; the actual spot the levee breached is blocked by the cab of the passing pickup. Note the water level, in a dry month, relative to the neighborhood.

The cemeteries are all crypts. The water table is too high for burial. You can see what levels the floodwaters stained the crypts. These are great, spooky cemeteries.

Looking up the canal. Lake Pontchartrain is just on the other side. The pumping station is to the left, an abandoned (soon to be demolished) condo complex to the right. Here's how it works---New Orleans is in a giant bowl, much of it below sea level. The three main canals normally drain water from the city into the lake. When it rains a lot, the lake rises and the canals flow backwards towards the city. They can close the sluice gates and pump the water away from the city. This station can pump 9,200 cubic feet of water every second, with 12' of head pressure. That's a lot----at that rate you could pump Lake Cuyamaca dry in ten minutes.

Want to buy a house? The levee in the backyard is the one that failed. You can still see lots of the Urban Search and rescue marks on the exterior walls; some were from task force 8 (my team, from San Diego) but I didn't get any pictures of them unfortunately.

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