The Cause of the Devastation of Hurricane Katrina

The Cause of the Devastation of Hurricane Katrina
The historical event of Hurricane Katrina, a category three hurricane with winds ranging from 111-130 mph, in August 2005 revealed major structural failures in the levee systems of New Orleans. Though not all structural failures are as catastrophic, the breeched levees led to loss of life, homes, businesses, highways, and left a trail of destruction that is still being repaired today. The result of this failure led to lawsuits, conspiracy theories, and court cases. Hurricane Katrina had a major effect upon our country and those results are still rippling on today. Though a city once devastated, major improvements to the failed system have been made and leave the city feeling safe once again. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with its fierce intensity, the lives of its inhabitants was forever changed. The winds rose and the waves crashed upon the only security system this, below sea level, city had against the many water systems surrounding it. Most people think that the waves simply rose up over the banks and levees of the city; however, evidence proves this thought wrong. The actual reason New Orleans was flooded was due to poor engineering. According to experts, two thirds of the tragic flooding could have been prevented. Thousands of homes could have been saved if the engineers responsible for building New Orleans?s levees had followed regulatory guidelines.
After the shock of Hurricane Katrina slightly diminished, the Congress ordered a congressional inspection of the federally build levee system. As they dug deeper into the cause of the levee?s failure, they began to discover flaws in the actual engineering of the levees. Three of the levees that had the most prominently negative effect on the city, and that allowed the most water to seep through, above, and below their walls, were the 17th Street canal, London Avenue Canal, and the Industrial canal. Between these three levees alone, the congressional inspection discovered more than fifty breeches in the structural design.
Once the speculations of a faulty levee system were proven correct, the blame inevitably fell upon the designer?s shoulders; the federal company of the U.S. army corps of engineering. This organization admitted to have fallen short of the specifications required for the levee. Five main studies were completed to determine the cause of the levee failure, two of which derived from LSU and FEMA.


The studies found: that the levees did not follow design specifications, there were incomplete sections, surrounding soil gave way, substandard construction of levee segments, and warning signs were ignored.
Many comparable breeches along the levees were found throughout the city. Sections of the wall that were incomplete and cracked prior to the hurricane were the first to fall. Many junctions of the canals were poorly engineered and were too weak to handle any great amount of pressure. The safe load for the canals was designed to hold around fourteen feet of water flow. In reality, the canals were only built to safely hold seven feet of flow. In most places the water never capped the tops of the canals, they simply broke when halfway full. One of the main causes for this was that the steel sheet pilings were seven feet less deep than the designs called for. This allowed for the already unstable soil to shift easily, and pull the unanchored canal walls with it. Also, inferior materials were found to be used throughout the entire protections system. Prior to the storm, residents along the 17th street canal claim they had been reporting flooding in their yards and homes for several months prior to the hurricane. The warning signs were ignored, and no repairs or inspections were made to the wall.
After Hurricane Katrina, many changes were made to the protection system. Levees were reconstructed with deeper steel pilings, superior materials were used, soil tests were performed, sections were completed, and the overall construction designs were improved. Along the 17th street canal, large, new pump stations were installed that will allow a greater capacity of water to be pumped from the canals. A dam has also been built between the industrial canal and the lake it borders. The dam allows more control over water flow, and protects the canal from storm surges.
In result to the many effects of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of lawsuits have taken place. For example, the Levee Litigation Group represent those who ?were injured, lost a loved one, lost property, lost employment, lost homes, or acquired moving costs due to the levee failures.? Millions even billions of dollars have been paid out to the city of New Orleans, and those effected by the failed levee systems. In addition to the blame and court cases, different conspiracy theories, all of which I believe are ridiculous, resulted from the breeched levee systems. Some believe that the levees were blown up in poor neighborhoods after the hurricane to protect the rich and middle class, and some blame President Bush.
In conclusion, Hurricane Katrina had devastating effects on the city of New Orleans. I believe the blame was portioned correctly onto the heads of the engineers responsible for building the levees. Not enough care or attention to detail was put into the construction of the levees, and resulted in death and devastation. When it comes to the safety of people, all measures must be taken and no cost spared. This historical event learned from that, and great improvements were made to the protection system in New Orleans.

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