Re: engineering questions re. Katrina

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Tue Sep 20 2005 - 09:55:50 EDT

Hi Ruth,

I am not an engineer, but I think I have some expertise in the area of New Orleans, as a geoscientist. Thus, I will yap my flap like I am want to do.



> -----Original Message-----

> From:

> [] On Behalf Of Keith Miller

> Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 10:29 AM

> The message below is from Ruth:

> > Is it humanly possible to engineer safety for the population of a

> > large city below sea level in a region subject to known

> periodic large

> > strong storms? If yes, what sort of engineering solutions

> are there,

> > and can they be implemented now in rebuilding New Orleans?



Of course it is possible. Money solves most problems. But if we don't want to spend the money necessary, then the job will be impossible. And ultimately, the dewatering of the delta (which is a natural geological process) will eventually sink New Orleans (xing or li an in chinese) under the sea. And this is the issue. Engineering can only delay the inevitable. Many of the sediments I regularly drilled in the Gulf of Mexico when I worked there were initially on the surface. Now they are thousands of feet below sea level. So any engineering solution will only last 100 years or so. I have seen estimates that by the end of this century, Louisiana will be under the sea south of I-10. One can't save New Orleans under these circumstances.

> Or should

> > the solution be sought in permanent relocation of the

> population that

> > lived on the Mississipi delta?


Move 'em or make New Orleans the American Venice. If we fix New Orleans,we will simply go through it again at some point in time.


Or is there some

> intermediate choice?

> > What sort of engineering solutions would help with

> evacuation, rescue,

> > and providing for basic human needs?


Use the busses that were supposed to be used in the evacuation plan to help the poor people. Those busses were not used but they are now underwater.


Are there

> technologies known or

> > conceivable to protect oil refineries, oil drilling platforms and

> > other vital industries close to the coast?

Yes, one can engineer anything IF you spend enough money. And that is the problem. Money is not there in infinite supply and if you spent that much money on an oil platform you would turn the project into a money loser.


Can we engineer an

> > electrical distribution system for coastal communities that is not

> > vulnerable to both flood and wind? What about water, sewage and

> > natural gas distribution?


How much do you want to spend?

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Received on Tue Sep 20 09:58:14 2005

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