Levees: a response to a USSF Katrina Plenary Article

I posted a comment to a DC Indymedia article on the Katrina Plenary at the US Social Forum to correct and ground some of the talk about levees in both the article itself (in what quotes it prioritized) and the well-intentioned commentors trying to figure out, like myself, what actually happened–how did the levee breach in the lower 9th ward.

“Comment on the Levees”

First off, I am not from New Orleans. I moved here post-storm and have lived here for the last year. However, as an independent reporter I’ve talked to many people and reviewed local media concerning the levee breaches. This only represents my own opinion, my own deductions.

A large barge left in the Industrial Canal, just west of the lower ninth ward, is likely the only culprit in the levee breach (other than the weakness of the levees through Federal neglect). To those that are not familiar with barges, this particular barge could hold almost two thousand tons of cargo and is the size of several modest homes (see the barge in the lower ninth and a description of varying accounts here: http://www.answers.com/topic/ing-4727). A barge of such a size pulled off of its moorings by the extreme water pressure and velocity in the canal(I was told it was very possible by a pile driver who works on the industrial canal), and sent headfirst across the canal into the eastern levee wall would likely sound like an explosion. And if it repeatedly hit the levee before breaking it, then that would account for some survivors’ testimonies that they heard multiple explosion-like sounds.

In addition, LSU researchers hold that the industrial canal was not overtopped by the flood waters coming from the Gulf, and therefore the soil holding the levees did not collapse as happened in other places during Katrina. As such, only the force of something like an explosion could account for the breach.

However the size of the levee breach is much wider than the barge, which begs some scientific answers as to whether, after the initial break, the levee could have become unstable on each side. In essence, a domino or ripple effect that brought down further sections of the levee.

We may never know all that happened exactly, but I just wanted to situate some of the previous comments into a grounded context.

Is it possible that the government blew the levees? Of course. Until there is verifiable evidence–video, satellite photos, etc.–no absolute truth can be attained. However, witnesses to the sound or sights of the levee breach deserve the right and dignity to speak on their experiences. And hopefully can respond persuasively to doubters.

Further, in 1927 New Orleans politicos and big business announced a Mississippi River levee explosion in St. Bernard Parish, a county of mostly poor white folks (see John Barry’s excellent history “Rising Tide”). Perhaps in today’s political climate they couldn’t say the same, but looking at the poor planning of everything else in the evacuation and recovery it is hard to know whether they could’ve pulled together even such a disgusting proposition.

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Published in: on July 6, 2007 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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