Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Wrong Lesson From Gustav

A lot of people seem to be drawing the wrong lesson from New Orleans' survival of Hurricane Gustav.

Yes, the levees held. But Gustav was a category two hurricane when it struck. Even so, it nearly topped the levees along the infamous Industrial Canal, shown at right. The storm surge basically went right to the top of the levee, with wind-blown waves sloshing over.

So what would've happened with a Cat 3--or greater--storm? Clearly, anything larger than Gustav would've topped the levee and once again flooded the Ninth Ward and other particularly vulnerable communities in New Orleans. Whether the levees would've also collapsed--as they did in Katrina--once overtopped, we don't know, but we wouldn't want to be there to find out!

So, the right message from Gustav is this: New Orleans is still not protected from any hit by a hurricane greater than a category two. That should make plenty of people nervous, especially since we've got a long way left to go in this very busy hurricane season.

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