Two different reviews of the New Orleans area levee system by the Army Corps of Engineers raise troubling questions about the ability of much of the system to withstand surges caused by a major storm nearly 13 years after Hurricane Katrina. The reviews also question the ability of local levee districts to keep up with costly maintenance between storms, as required to remain eligible for the National Flood Insurance Program, records show.The reasons everybody knows this are clear enough. Anyone living in New Orleans during the post-Katrina saga should be well aware that even the new "risk reduction" system of levees and floodwalls is only rated to perform well during a "100 year" storm event. And, as everyone knows, this just ain't gonna be good enough.
One of the reviews, completed in 2011, gave the 350-mile levee system the second worst classification - "Urgent (Unsafe or Potentially Unsafe)" -- in the corps' Levee Safety Action Classification system. While preliminary because post-Katrina improvements were not finished, the classification remains accurate to this date, a corps New Orleans District spokesman confirmed recently.
The bad rating was caused instead by the potential threat of even stronger storms that could occur less often. In a 200-year event, levees throughout the New Orleans area would be overtopped, Needham's assessment said. There's a 14 percent chance of a 200-year event occurring in the lifetime of a 30-year home mortgage.Aaaand as everybody also knows, phenomena like coastal erosion and climate change are actually making those percentages worse. Which might explain, for example, why we're getting a tropical event in freaking May now.
Storms of that magnitude or higher would make a breach in the levee system likely, Needham's presentation said, which "would significantly increase consequences."
Scientists have concluded that the Katrina surge that overwhelmed the Mississippi Gulf Coast was a 400-year event, while the surge in Lake Borgne that overtopped St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans levees was a 200- to 250-year event.
There's a 5.8 percent chance of a 500-year event occurring during the life of a 30-year mortgage.
Yeah, it is raining now as I write this, actually. That alone is kind of a different atmosphere for the approach of a storm like this. Usually we're all walking around outside saying cliches about how oddly "nice" it is today. Instead we're all hunkered down before the hunkerdown. It's unusual but not without precedent. The NWS tells us there have been 14 named storms in May since 1951. But, still, we are correct to be thrown off.How will Alberto affect New Orleans?New Orleans is going to get rain, though just how much isn't clear yet. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for southeast Louisiana, noting the "potential for heavy rainfall and possible flooding" related to the storm. As of 8 a.m. Friday, NOAA predicts 2- 4 inches of rain is possible in the New Orleans area through Wednesday, though forecasters warn amounts could be double that in isolated areas. Forecasters expect heavier rainfall to occur along Florida's southwest coast and Alabama's Gulf Coast, where 6-10 inches is expected.
Showers and thunderstorms unrelated to Alberto are already forecast in the New Orleans area starting Friday. The area is under a flash flood watch until 7 p.m. Friday as a line of thunderstorms moves through the area. Rainfall of 4-6 inches is likely in swaths in parts of the New Orleans area, forecasters said.
For one thing it's only our new mayor's first month on the job and we aren't even sure if she's ordered her official city logo emblazoned tactical fleece yet. What even are the fashion rules at this stage of the pre-season? During last week's.. um.. not dry.. run flooding event, she was spotted in the command bunker decked out in seersucker. Because we aren't even quite to Memorial Day yet, this raises even more questions we will probably never get the answers to. As of this writing, there is still no indication as to when the next emergency press conference might happen so we assume there is time to get these wardrobe issues resolved.
We are very much looking forward to hearing what the mayor has to say, though. After the events of last week, she said certain things we'd like to get updated or clarified if possible. For instance, how is the unclogging of the bottlenecks coming along? Or, I guess, more to the point, has Mitch called in about this?
Much of what Cantrell had to say about funding focused on federal money that she said has been stymied by slow-moving design firms and other factors that have prevented the city from putting resources into capital projects. She sought to cast blame on her predecessor, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in discussing why projects had "languished in the design stage."At the end of his eight year term, there were still some problems Mitch was blaming Nagin for. Some of that was legitimate, even. But it's nice to see the tradition carried forward in any case.
Cantrell said her administration has been "unclogging the bottleneck we've seen within the administration that we've inherited," adding, projects "have been on hold for far too long, and we cannot tolerate that moving forward."
The fun thing about LaToya, though, is that she is much more prone than Mitch was to just saying whatever. Often she begins talking before the thought she wants to convey is fully formed which means a lot of the words that come out are just filler. For example, there are multiple trains of thought in this statement, each running in a completely different direction and never really getting to where it was supposed to take us. What does anything that follows the phrase, "in terms of paying," have to do with "paying"?
"Well, in terms of paying, it really speaks to, again, trying to be proactive and trying to building in incentives to help our people live with water and mitigating water on their properties and collecting water, keeping it from running into the drains," Cantrell said.There's definitely a main idea somewhere in there. The trick for the listener is picking out what it's supposed to be. Here, she seems to tell us that FEMA wants her to "push" already severely cost-burdened renters in New Orleans into buying insurance. If that is the case, then how on Earth does she bring herself to describe that as "help"?
Cantrell also outlined recent discussions she's had during recent meetings with FEMA. She cautioned that the agency doesn't respond to disasters until 72 hours out, and said officials urged her to tell residents to get homeowners insurance. She said she also asked about renters and was told "push them to get rental insurance."
"What we're seeing, really, at the federal level is that they're willing to help us, and they're ready to," Cantrell said.
A lot of success in politics issues from a person's ability to be vague. That talent comes in various forms. Sometimes it comes from a calculated obfuscating rhetorical style. Sometimes it comes from just not knowing that the hell you're talking about. Cantrell does a little bit of both but there are days when she definitely tends to favor the latter.
I had a chance to meet every NOPD Chief and Commander today. Health and Wellness starts with us so I brought them some frozen yogurt. I wanted them to know that they matter and we are all in this together. #CityOfYes pic.twitter.com/5hz1lefHEf— Mayor LaToya Cantrell (@mayorcantrell) May 25, 2018
Health and Wellness matters, guys. Eat your ice cream.
Hopefully the fro-yo helps boost preparedness too. But we'll have to wait until the next presser to ask about that.