Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood- protection system should have kept most of the city dry.Then New Orleans died because it was poor, and because it had no political clout. Unable to pay for levees itself, unable to muster the political clout for "pork-barrel" funding for flood control or even to influence preservation of wetlands in southern Louisiana, New Orleans died because of the "American system." Because we believe in "every man for himself" and we are comfortable tolerating third-world conditions in our own national backyard if it means we who have the power are taken care of. New Orleans died because Chief Sitting Bull pegged us: "The love of possession is a disease with them."
...[W]ith the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals -- and the flooding of most of New Orleans.
In the weeks since Katrina drowned this low-lying city, there has been an intense focus on the chaotic government response to the flood. But Ivor van Heerden, the Hurricane Center's deputy director, said the real scandal of Katrina is the "catastrophic structural failure" of barriers that should have handled the hurricane with relative ease.
"We are absolutely convinced that those floodwalls were never overtopped," said van Heerden, who also runs LSU's Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes.
...[T]the researchers have strong evidence that Katrina's subsequent surge from the north was several feet shy of the height that would have been necessary to overtop the 17th Street and London Avenue floodwalls. It was the failures of those floodwalls that emptied the lake into the rest of the city, filling most of New Orleans like a soup bowl.
Or maybe it was just indifference; or incompetence; but surely, certainly, absolutely: it wasn't racism.
Because we all liked what New Orleans had to offer. We just didn't want to pay the real cost of it. We may be cheap. But we are compassionate.
That's our secret de Polichinelle.