Re: engineering questions re. Katrina

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Tue Sep 20 2005 - 11:30:45 EDT

On 9/20/05, Glenn Morton <> wrote:

> 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.
  It is not just money but the issue of corruption raises its ugly head. The
so-called Levee boards spend money on things completely unrelated to fixing
the levees. More money was spent in Louisiana on Army Corps of Engineer
projects during the Bush administration than during the last five years of
the Clinton administration. But, as we have tragically seen the projects
were not on the critical levees. According to a September 7, front-page,
Washington Post
Senator Landrieu overrode the engineering judgment on the $184 million
project on the Port of Iberia. She forced the project to be re-scored an
emergency Iraq spending bill. Furthermore, one key difference between New
Orleans and the Netherlands is population densities. When the dikes failed
in the '50s mostly farm land was flooded. When the engineering trade off is
done not only is the risk of failure needs to be accounted for but also the
net affect of the failure. This is just normal engineering practice. But,
politicians override this engineering judgment even when budgets are
adequate to the task. What happened in New Orleans underscores the
Scriptural connection between government corruption with poverty and human
> > 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.
> I don't think we need to force anything. Polls of evacuees show half
will not return. What we do need to do is consider repealing FEMA paying a
quarter of a million per home to rebuild on known flood plains, seismic
faults, etc. What is rebuilt should be done is to put below-sea level homes
on stilts and make garages out of them. Maybe just make a park out of the
Ninth Ward and have them live with the richer people who are on higher
ground. With half the population gone this would be doable. We need to think
outside the box and not just rebuild the same thing in place. We also need
to make sure that temporary housing is not overly dense causing crime and
other problems. This happened (and is still happening) with Hurricane
Charley. Rather, individuals should open their homes one family at at time.
If the evacuees want to stay in their new communities then this makes the
problem easier to solve. It also delivers people from the crushing poverty
in New Orleans. It seems to me that delivering the poor from poverty may be
one of the reasons God had for Katrina. As mean sea levels and sea surface
temperature rise we need to get more people away from the coasts and also
away from the political corruption that makes poverty worse.

  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.
 Buses were not a problem when they needed to get the politician's voters to
the polls. :-(
> 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?
> One irony is that the phone system is now more vulnerable than it used
to be. Even during a hurricane you could plug in a Western Electric phone
and you would get a dial tone even after a hurricane. With fiber optic
networks that use regular power and cell towers that do the same the phone
network is now more fragile. Furthermore, by using cordless phones, cell
phones as land lines and VOIP consumers add to the problem.

  How much do you want to spend?
 I am an engineer so my answer is always MORE. :-)
Received on Tue Sep 20 11:32:46 2005

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