Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I take severe umbrage at the sentence, “The physical damage of Hurricane Katrina is well known” (“Post-Katrina mental health woes,” Web, Saturday).

Hurricane Katrina wasn’t what put New Orleans in a fetid toxic soup, left its residents in dire straits and caused billions of dollars in damage. Katrina came and went, and New Orleans survived. Some serious wind damage and inches of rain hadn’t been catastrophic. Nor was Katrina “the big one.” It was a Category 3 storm, and the eye missed the city.

What brought New Orleans to its knees were broken levees that had been shoddily designed and constructed under the purview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We call it “the federal flood.”

Poor design was the culprit. Levees were too low in areas. Overtopping (bad enough) also contributed to erosion at the foot that washed out underlying structure. Levees weren’t armored. Sand was used instead of solid clay. Sheet pilings driven in to hold them were too short to hold. This flood was more an act of man than an act of nature. Had the levees been properly engineered and built, we likely would have seen a totally different outcome.

This event was too destructive and has cost the residents of New Orleans (and the rest of the country) far too dearly to keep perpetuating the myth that Katrina flooded the city.


Salem, Mass.

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