Tuesday, October 04, 2005
State officials say the search for bodies of people killed by Hurricane Katrina has ended in Louisiana and more searches will only be conducted if someone reports seeing a body.That number alone can't tell the whole tale of human misery, but it does tell quite a tale. Earlier simulations predicted 20,000 or so dead in such a catastrophe. See Hurricane Pam and go here to see estimated casualties (25,000 to 100,000).
As of today (Tuesday), the Katrina death toll in Louisiana stands at 972.
Something went right as well as wrong. I hope that is considered with all the blame being thrown around. I hope that all the people who did the best they could get credit for their accomplishments, because as bad as this was, it could have been much, much worse.
But as the New Orleans area begins to reopen schools, a question haunts me. That is what will be done about replacing the type of floodwalls that failed and strengthening the levees? Is some sort of plan to make an overall plan in progress? Because if not, the people trying to move back in won't feel very confident and it will be hard for businesses to rebuild. Here's an intriguing clue as to what may have happened to those floodwalls:
James Michael Duncan, a professor of geotechnical engineering at Virginia Tech, said that the description of what happened sounded like a "deep-seated structural failure" in which the soil under the structure moves and the structure built into it fails. One way to visualize it, he said, would be to think of a cross-section of the wall and the soil around it in a circle.If these floodwalls are faulty by design or construction, then they will have to be redone. Basically the weight of the water shifted the soil underneath the wall, opening gaps and weakening the wall itself. Now if that is true, then we don't need these floodwalls but the much more massive levees.
"Imagine what's inside the circle rotating. Outside of the wall, with the high water on it, it's pushing in and down," he said. "On the inside of the wall soil comes up as on the outside it goes down."
The position of the clubhouse suggests that the wall failed because of some form of human error, the Cantrells say.
A similar heave may have occurred at the breach in the 17th Street canal, where soil also appears to have been pushed forward and upward.
A Corps of Engineers spokesman said that investigators probing the levee breaches probably would look at the possibility of soil heaves. Teams of engineers from the Corps, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Science Foundation are surveying the levee breaches this week, collecting evidence.
"They are going to look at everything and try to make a determination," spokesman Alan Dooley said. "The Corps is a learning organization. We'd like to learn everything we can."
I'm just worried that these same vulnerabilities are going to be left in place.
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