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West Bank Levees May Not Be High Enough to Handle Storm Surge.--

It seems that the levees in towns adjacent to New Orleans are not prepared to handle a big storm surge:

Flood control experts said Hurricane Gustav's surge may deliver the worst-case scenario for the West Bank because the hurricane protection system there remains incomplete and severely vulnerable in some spots, despite accelerated levee work in the past three years.

With predictions of storm surge topping 10 feet when the storm passes Grand Isle, West Bank officials admited privately that they are preparing for widespread flooding and for rescuing people after the storm passes.

Jerry Spohrer, executive director of the West Jefferson Levee District, said there's still a chance that levees may keep storm surge out of the West Bank's most populated areas. But those chances diminish the higher the surge goes as it approaches the West Bank hurricane protection system.

"At 7 feet, we're iffy," Spohrer said Sunday morning. "It's not so much that we don't have the elevation. When you talk about the pressure of that water, the waves of that water pressing against what's there, we're keeping our fingers crossed."

David Bindewald, president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - West, called Gustav the storm they have always feared. He said he's confident the system can withstand a 7-foot surge with some wave action.

"Beyond that, based on the numbers I'm hearing now, we lose the fight," he said. "We have to wait and see what we get."

The Army Corps of Engineers has not released storm surge predictions, but Jefferson Parish officials who have seen another set of models said a wall of water higher than the levee system could barrel toward the West Bank on Monday. . . .

Weak spots stretch across the system, from earthen levees at the back of Lake Cataouatche to floodwalls near Westwego to the Harvey Canal in the middle of the West Bank and to earthen levees guarding the Intracoastal Canal at the back of Algiers.

On the Harvey Canal, parish officials are questioning whether 8-foot-high sand baskets protecting the southeast bank can withstand any wave action, let alone overtopping.

A Harvey Canal gate at Lapalco Boulevard is designed to stop a storm surge of up to 11 feet above sea level from entering the northern half of the canal. Corps officials were preparing to close the mechanical structure Sunday evening or overnight. They will also start pumping water out of the northern portion of the canal when the tide is at 2 feet above sea level and rising.

If there's any comfort to be had for West Bank residents, it's that the area's levee system has undergone an unprecedented amount of improvements since Hurricane Katrina. That storm gave local leaders the urgency to demand that Congress fund levee work that has been more than 30 years in the making.

UPDATE: At WeatherNerd, they are quoting experts who say that the levees will probably hold (tip to Instapundit).

Joe Kowalski (mail):
I can't wait to see the finger pointing. "It's all the corrupt Democrat's fault!" or "It's all the incompetent Republican's fault!" or "It's the oil companies fault since there the ones pushing oil, causing global warming and making the hurricanes worse!" And while everyone tries to make the problem someone else's fault, nothing gets done until another disaster hits, and rinse and repeat.
8.31.2008 8:50pm
Anderson (mail):
Let's hope the storm contines to veer a bit to the left, as it's been doing the last 24 or so hours. I lived in Gretna in my early years, and it's spooky to read about the Harvey Canal and other landmarks. I wonder what, if anything, will happen to the Harvey Tunnel.

Joe K: "It's the corrupt Louisianans' fault" is the most correct finger to point, if one must single anything out. Their elected representatives have had decades to think about this problem, and always opted for the short-term.
8.31.2008 9:03pm
Guesty:
I used to live on the West Bank, and a heavy rain would sometimes flood the streets. Fortunately, the roads are sunk in and the homes are built up, but only by a couple feet. I also wouldn't expect it to "fill up like a bowl" like New Orleans did, and there's more marshland buffering in the west than there is to the eastern parts that really got trashed by Katrina.

The folks who live there probably won't go off looting and leave the old people to die in their homes, so don't expect it to be like Katrina in that respect, either.
8.31.2008 9:10pm
Big E:
How sad is it that I saw the words West Bank and immediatly assumed this was one of David Bermstein's posts?
8.31.2008 9:25pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

"It's all the corrupt Democrat's fault!" or "It's all the incompetent Republican's fault!"


Don't be silly. Everyone knows that all the problems on the West Bank are the Jews' fault.
8.31.2008 9:26pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Damn, Big E and Bill Poser beat me to it. I was going to ask whether the levees in Gaza were going to hold.
8.31.2008 9:49pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Dilan Esper,

The levees in Gaza are of a different sort. They are intended to keep Hamas in. The levees on the West Bank are intended to keep the water out.
8.31.2008 10:00pm
rustonite:
the link you provided in the update predicts that the New Orleans levees will probably hold- but the article you're quoting is talking about the levees in Jefferson Parish, which is not part of New Orleans.. you need to work on your geography, or read the articles more closely.
8.31.2008 10:44pm
Hoosier:
"The levees in Gaza are of a different sort. They are intended to keep Hamas in. The levees on the West Bank are intended to keep the water out."

What if we had Zionists build the levees?
8.31.2008 10:49pm
Mac (mail):
At full strength, the levees are only good for a 100 year flood. I have lived through several 100 year floods and a real doozy of a 500 year flood in Kansas City, Mo. and I am no where near 100 years old let alone 500 years. Believe me, I know what they mean when they say, "It's not the water, it's the mud!".

It seems to me that if people are going to be dumb enough to live or rebuild at or below sea level when they live next to said sea, it is only a matter of time until Mother Nature fills up the bowl no matter what we do. For once, the French were quite right when they told the Americans not to build where they were planning on building because it would flood. True then, true now. Lots of luck to them. They will need it. Not much sympathy, however. Not this time.
8.31.2008 11:59pm
Mac (mail):
Correction.

I got to thinking that I could be wrong about SCLC and Katrina. It could have been someone else, like the Southern Baptist Churches, now that I think about it. I did some research and can't find the stories I remember from that time. I am pretty sure that I am wrong.

However, the Salvation Army will get your money to where it will do the most good. I have no doubt of that.
9.1.2008 12:29am
FantasiaWHT:

It seems to me that if people are going to be dumb enough to live or rebuild at or below sea level when they live next to said sea, it is only a matter of time until Mother Nature fills up the bowl no matter what we do


Amen to that. Maybe if it happens enough times sufficiently close together, we'll give up on the idea. Sure is an idiotic place to have a city built.
9.1.2008 1:29am
a knight (mail) (www):
Jindal need to work on his timing,,,

We streamlined our state recovery processes, cutting red tape, and are pushing federal recovery dollars to local governments to rebuild critical infrastructure, all without forfeiting transparency and accountability. And we continue to focus on helping our hardest-hit communities complete their recovery efforts.

Bobby Jindal, "Fiscal Conservatism Helped Louisiana Beat Katrina", Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2008
9.1.2008 2:30am