chapter  11
28 Pages

Hurricanes and Extratropical Cyclones

The failure of New Orleans’s fl ood protection system was the most costly failure of an engineered system in history. 4 Flood walls and levees were breached in at least eight locations, inundating 85 percent of the greater New Orleans metropolitan area to depths of 0.3 to 6.1 m ( Figure 11.1 ). 4 Along the east side of New Orleans,

the Alabama coast. As it moved inland, Hurricane Ivan spawned more than 100 tornadoes and produced heavy rainfall that caused river fl ooding as far north as New York State. 8

The storm surge from Hurricane Katrina was devastating, with water levels normally associated with a Category 5 hurricane. Katrina inundated the Mississippi coastline in water 5.5 to 7.3 m deep, pushed salt water up to 10 km inland, and levelled entire neighbourhoods ( Figure 11.3 ), washing houses onto levees and stranding large ships and barges on land. 3 The storm surge was responsible for most of the hurricane-related deaths in Mississippi. 3

If Hurricane Katrina was not an extraordinary storm, and there was ample advance warning, why did over 1600 people die? The answer to this question is complex and multifaceted, involving failure in the design, construction, and maintenance of levees and fl ood walls; an over-reliance on technology to protect life and property; social and psychological denial of the hazard; poverty and limited education of many residents in the affected area; diversion of military and government resources to the confl ict in Iraq; and failures in political leadership, communication, and public policy at all levels. The policy failures include a system of fl ood insurance and post-disaster aid that encouraged people to live in hazardous coastal areas and that rewarded developers, businesses, and individuals for rebuilding in previously fl ooded zones. 9

communications and power for residents, businesses, and hospitals; and the collapse of several offshore oil and gas production platforms.