Did Katrina save 50,000 lives in New Orleans?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Paul over at Wizbang has been doing a bang up job on Katrina. He was on the scene as it happened and has blogged various angles over time. Using videotape taken at the time of the breach and his own photographic evidence, he lays out the case that Katrina per se was only the straw that broke the camel's back, and the levees at the 17th Street Canal were ready to go. He discusses this in The Katrina Video Congress Didn't want You to See. He says that the levees were already being eroded for up to a year before Katrina. He shows videotape evidence that the "surge" of water was not great, as the levees broke earlier than has usually been reported.

This involves issues around Sovreign Immunity. To wit:
We've all heard the story, in the early morning hours of Aug 29, 2005, the Category 4 Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, overwhelming the New Orleans levee system and flooding the city. If you read Wizbang, you've known since early October of 2005 this story was fatally flawed.

In the months since Katrina, we've learned that the storm was a Category 1 by the time she hit New Orleans. No "Super Hurricane," just an average storm. We've also learned that the New Orleans Hurricane Protection System was not overwhelmed by Katrina, it collapsed. Causing the Corps of Engineers admit they flooded New Orleans not Katrina... An admission that got scant little media coverage. The Great Flood of New Orleans was not a natural disaster but a man made one.

The reason the Corps finally had to admit responsibility was that the floodwall that failed -flooding 70% of the city- basically collapsed under its own weight. It was undeniable. The Corps tried for months to claim the water came over the top of the floodwall and washed it away from the backside. (Which would make it Congress's fault) Everyone who has seen the break or looked at the surge data knew this was a lie; that the wall suffered a catastrophic failure before the water reached the top. Almost a year later, the Corps admitted that the floodwall suffered from multiple fatal design flaws and failed prematurely.

What was not really told to the public however is how high the water got up the walls before they failed. - This is an important question to a city rebuilding ~$250 billion in infrastructure. It is commonly assumed by the public that the water must have been quite high.

The question also has legal ramifications. Sovereign Immunity says citizens can not sue the government for damages unless there is negligence or Congress allows the government to be sued. If the public assumption is that Katrina was responsible for the flooding, Congress would never allow the government to be sued.

Perhaps that explains why Congress confiscated a video of the floodwall collapsing and refused to let the public see it until (a perfectly timed) 10 months after the storm. - Well after the storm passed but a few months before the current 1 year anniversary hype.

You've probably never seen it, but we have video taken by New Orleans firefighters as the 17th street canal floodwall was actually in the process of breaking during Katrina. It answers the question of just how prematurely the walls failed. The video was obtained by the National Geographic channel and aired a few weeks ago. (it took me a while to blog it, so sue me)

The video -if you understand it- is shocking. Sadly, no one at National Geographic or even the local TV station got the significance of the video. -- Because they were looking at the wrong thing.

I'm going to explain what is on the video that no one caught and I'll do my best to give you a good understanding of the whole thing.

Before I type their whole story, watch the firefighters' story as told by a local TV station a couple of months ago. As you watch the video, don't worry about the pictures for now, we'll get to them. For now, listen to the reporter and the firemen tell their story.

He suggests that the levee could have broken at another time, a typical summer storm, when people would have just been going about their business instead of most people having evacuated. Read the whole thing.


chuck said...

Paul at Wizbang did a good job after Katrina and it is great to see him follow up with the latest.

You do have to wonder why the Congress held secret hearings. It seems to me the whole thing was the public's business. We elected those bozo's to represent us, not to play shell games.

Syl said...

Sue the government? which one? The federal government held back funding for many 'projects' including wetlands restoration. But that was because the money wasn't being used for its intended purpose.

Decades of local corruption. I think the buck stops there, not in D.C.

but, wow, what an eye-opener this piece is. The myth of Katrina is entirely political. What a surprise.

David Thomson said...

“Decades of local corruption. I think the buck stops there, not in D.C.”

I still suspect that the federal officials, especially those belonging to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, were afraid of being called racists---and let the local politicians have their way. A career could easily be destroyed if one dared question “the ability of blacks to decide how to run their own city.”

Knucklehead said...

People want to lay blame somewhere and do so as narrowly as possible. Reality is that for many decades now we've been trying to hold back the Mississippi River to "save" New Orleans. Over the decades there have been many decisions made and many subsequent decisions heaped upon the previous ones.

A great many of those decisions were, if an honest retrospective analysis were done, probably very ill-considered and the projects based upon them ill-conceived. And even those which made better sense were often embarked upon with limited tools and understanding.

And throughout all those years New Orleans and Louisiana have been models of poor government which the citizenry apparently approved of to at least a sufficient degree to keep electing. They've done so yet again.

New Orleans cannot be saved. Unfortunate but such is life.

Barry Dauphin said...

This is an interesting tidbit from the recent Fortune article, after the White House shot down a plan by Walter issacson's group: Within
a day of the turndown, Isaacson had stormed into the White House, where he met with Karl Rove. Both men have a reputation for using up most of the oxygen in the room. The temperature shot up quickly. Isaacson had been telling anyone who would listen about the administration’s disdain for a majority-black city, an accusation that infuriated Rove. “I said,
‘You pulled the plug on us. I don’t think you care.’ He said,
‘Why don’t you come up with a simpler plan, something direct
to homeowners?’ ” Isaacson laughs. “You know what?
In retrospect, they were right in the White House. And we
were wrong. It was too complicated.”

The author of the article, Charles Mann, was on the Charlie Rose Show last week with a guy from the Times Picayune who wrote a book. Both went on and on about the evil Bush Adminstration. But the article itself paints a different picture. Lots of local problems. Every redevelopment plan gets heckled down and then shelved. I think that Larry Kudlow has the right idea, which is to make New Orleans an enterprise zone with no taxes for 5-10 years. Reduce the regulation. I think it should go in either the direction that Kudlow suggests or have a czar. The current situation is the worst of government and the worst of enterprise at the same time.

The one big issue still out tthere is that the Army Corps of Engineers has acknowledged structural problems with the levees. That means the Feds could be on the hook for even more money, because the cause of most of the flooding was poor engineering from the Federal level. Folks are going to try to make a case that the Feds didn't live up to their guarantee. This is going to end up in court.