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Hurricane Katrina: An Overview of Impacts to New Orleans and Preliminary Assessment of Response Efforts Laura J.Steinberg Associate Professor Department.

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Presentation on theme: "Hurricane Katrina: An Overview of Impacts to New Orleans and Preliminary Assessment of Response Efforts Laura J.Steinberg Associate Professor Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hurricane Katrina: An Overview of Impacts to New Orleans and Preliminary Assessment of Response Efforts Laura J.Steinberg Associate Professor Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Tulane University (I think) New Orleans, Louisiana, USA Hatice Sengul Graduate Student Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Tulane University (I think) New Orleans, Louisiana, USA Con appunti a margine di Scira

2 Timeline Friday, Aug. 26: Katrina headed to New Orleans, Category 4 – will arrive Monday – 1.3 million people in metro area – 500,000 in NO Saturday morning – voluntary evacuation Sunday – mandatory evacuation, Katrina “wobbles” Monday morning – Katrina hits – some damage, “minor” levee break, “nightmare is averted” Tuesday morning – 17 th Street Canal levee breaks, all heck breaks loose, water starts to fill city, nightmare scenario comes true

3 Spatial Dimension of the Disaster New Orleans metro area Gulf of Mexico coast – Louisiana, Mississippi (Biloxi), Alabama (Mobile) North to Jackson, MS Spatial gradient of impacts (from coast to inland area) Gulf Coast: storm surge, winds New Orleans: levee breech and flooding



6 The levee breach (on the 17 th St.-300 to 500 ft ) was a turning point for Katrina-from better than expected to worse



9 Thursday, Sept. 1 Thursday – 80% of the city is flooded. Crews try to fix levee breech, many stranded in homes, supplies fail to reach Superdome and Convention Center evacuees, hospitals in dire straits, rescuers work around the clock, National Guard and US Army, Navy arrive.

10 Friday, Sept. 2 and after Friday and after – main levee breech is fixed, pumps come on-line, water pumped to Lake Pontchartrain, evacuees bused to Houston, hold-outs urged to evacuate, house to house operation for rescue and/or body count. No power, no water, no telephone, no cell phone. Dozens of responder organizations lacking coordination. Environmental and public health catastrophe brewing.

11 What we knew before this “Flooding of New Orleans could not have been foreseen.” Public and expert knowledge of problem for years: ● 2002 T-P Pulitzer prize winning article, ● Recent National Geographic article ● Discussion on local news every hurricane season ● Scientific studies on-going, some funded by the State of Louisiana, on what might happen ● Corps of Engineers plan to upgrade to Cat. 5 protection ● Possiamo aggiungere: McPhee, Il controllo della natura, Adelphi, 1994


13 Why did this happen? Flooding City below sea-level, insufficient deployment of technology Coastal wetlands disappearing at rate of 40 acres per day – first line of defense. Calls to restore them have been met with indifference. No planning for levee breech, insufficient deployment of response teams to repair

14 Why did this happen? Dismayingly poor rescue efforts: Insufficient deployment of resources Lack of command coordination Lack of communication No planning for this eventuality Evacuees refused admittance to dry land Incompetent leadership

15 Broader Scale: Why did this happen? The thought of flooding an entire city is unfathomable to Americans. The cost to protect New Orleans was in the range of 10’s of billions of dollars – even New Orleanians believed it was a lost cause to ask for that much. Not a matter of individual owners doing mitigation as in California – must be a government project. Lots of emphasis on private vehicle evacuation routes in response planning – those without vehicles left out of the planning (“ use the Superdome” dealt with the wind issue but not the flooding issue) Vulnerable populations left to fend for themselves.

16 Environmental Effects and Natechs: Wetlands Coastline – remaining Chandeleur chain of barrier islands virtually wiped out. Wildlife habitats destroyed. Dunes are gone. (positive feedback) Louisiana's wetlands represent 30 percent of the coastal wetlands in the lower 48, but 90 percent of the coastal wetland loss. Loses 40 acres of coastal wetlands per day. "These wetlands are our first line of defense from hurricanes -- for every 2.7 miles of wetlands, storm surges are reduced by about one 1 foot.” Coast2050 is attempting to help build wetlands back. Much more is needed.

17 Environmental Effects and Natechs: Water Oil has oozed from cars, trucks and boats caught in the flood. Up to 20,000 leaking underground storage tanks. DEQ chief: "Everywhere we look there's a spill. It all adds up. There's almost a solid sheen over the area right now." Household hazardous chemicals: insecticides, paint- thinner, cleaning supplies. Also, pharmaceuticals. Approximately 170 sources of leaking hydrocarbons and natural gas identified by Wednesday, Sept. 7. Dissolved oxygen nearly zero. Bacteria is consuming organics in the water - dead animals, leaves, sewage, and debris. Leaks from hurricane damage or operational problems from industrial facilities.

18 Environmental Effects and Natechs: Water 85,000 gallon tank of crude oil at refinery outside of New Orleans leaking. Containment dike is damaged and response is hampered by flood waters. 68,000 barrels leaked from a storage tank on the Gulf

19 Environmental Effects and Natechs: Water Lake Pontchartrain – heavily polluted waters being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain – will eventually go out to the Gulf of Mexico. Potential to stir up polluted sediments throughout the region. Effects on ecosystems and fishing industry are still unknown.

20 Environmental Effects and Natechs: Fires and Air Pollution Several fires reported burning – no water pressure and firefighters employed in search and rescue, not property loss. Fire reported at at least one oil refinery.

21 Environmental Effects and Natechs: Solid Waste 60 million to 90 million tons of solid waste - wrecked homes, cars, junk, metals and other materials. Some of it with toxic materials such as asbestos. Wood waste may spread Formosan termites.

22 Public health challenges West nile virus Pathogens, toxics in water Possibility of explosions from natural gas lines Hazardous sludges on drained land No power for cooling, refrigeration Lack of food Broken sewer and water lines More than 500 Louisiana sewage plants damaged or destroyed, including 25 major ones. Will have to clean, disinfect, and test 450 community water systems which are presently inoperable.

23 Conclusions  Katrina and its aftermath offers many examples of the interconnectedness of systems and the necessity to plan and respond in a holistic manner. The need to consider cascading and escalating failures is illustrated in the continually unfolding stories emanating from this tragedy.  Katrina was a man-made disaster in the sense that the city is built in a vulnerable location, global warming likely contributed to the strength of the hurricane, planning was negligent in considering vulnerable populations, technology and personnel were insufficiently deployed to mitigate and respond to the disaster, and warnings of the potential for catastrophic flooding were systematically ignored.

24 Conclusions Katrina and its aftermath created a multitude of environmental problems which are still being assessed. Known problems include: water polluted from leaking oil storage tanks, sewer system contents, hazmat releases from industrial facilities, and household and street debris. Air pollution from fires and hazmat releases. Tons of solid waste, some of it hazardous. Decimated wetlands and biological habitat. Environmental problems which will morph into public health problems including difficulty in supplying clean water, resurgence of west nile virus, contaminated land surfaces, and lack of heating and cooling.

25 Concetti che vedremo nel corso  Hazard: caratteristiche evento (uragano, riscaldamento terrestre);  Vulnerabilità fisica: NO sotto il livello del mare, posizione rispetto a hazard;  Vulnerbilità sistemica: dovuta all’interdipendenza tra sistemi urbani e territoriali

26 Concetti che vedremo nel corso  Vulnerabilità organizzativa: carenze del sistema di protezione civile  Danni fisici: allagamenti, beni distrutti  Danni fisici indotti: inquinamenti di vario tipo, incendi, etc (i cosiddetti na-tech)  Danni indiretti????

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