Katrina: A Week After Storm, Levee Break Is Fixed
A mere week after Hurricane Katrina hit–and less than that after it broke from the storm surge–the levee in New Orleans has been plugged by the Army Corps of Engineers.
A week after Hurricane Katrina, engineers plugged the levee break that swamped much of the city and floodwaters began to recede, but along with the good news came the mayor’s direst prediction yet: As many as 10,000 dead.
Sheets of metal and repeated helicopter drops of 3,000-pound sandbags along the 17th Street canal leading to Lake Pontchartrain succeeded Monday in plugging a 200-foot-wide gap, and water was being pumped from the canal back into the lake. State officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say once the canal level is drawn down two feet, Pumping Station 6 can begin pumping water out of the bowl-shaped city.
Some parts of the city already showed slipping floodwaters as the repair neared completion, with the low-lying Ninth Ward dropping more than a foot. In downtown New Orleans, some streets were merely wet rather than swamped.
“We’re starting to make the kind of progress that I kind of expected earlier,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said of the work on the break, which opened at the height of the hurricane and flooded 80 percent of the city up to 20 feet deep.
The leader of National Guard troops patrolling New Orleans declared the city largely free of the lawlessness that plagued it in the days following the hurricane. And he angrily lashed out at a reporter who suggested search-and-rescue operations were being stymied by random gunfire and lawlessness. “Go on the streets of New Orleans Ã¢€” it’s secure,” said Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. “Have you been to New Orleans? Did anybody accost you?”
While there has been much justified criticism of the federal response to the disaster, the levee repair seems an amazing success story. Given how much mayhem was going on in the streets a couple days ago, restoring law and order this quickly is impressive as well.