Sunday, September 11, 2005

An Ominous Issue

In April's Issue of Popular Science, in a section called When Earth Attacks, the magazine looked at potential disasters we face at the hands of Mother Nature. Volcanoes, Landslides, Tsunami's, Earthquakes, and Hurricanes were all covered. The part on Hurricanes was all about what would happen if a Category 5 hit New Orleans.

Although hurricanes of this magnitude slamming directly into New Orleans are extremely rare—occurring perhaps every 500 to 1,000 years—should one come ashore, the resulting storm surge would swell Lake Pontchartrain (a brackish sea adjoining the Gulf of Mexico), overtop the levees, and submerge the city under up to 40 feet of water. Once this happened, the levees would "serve as a bathtub," explains Harley Winer, chief of coastal engineering for the Army Corps’s New Orleans District. The water would get trapped between the Mississippi levees and the hurricane-protection levees. "This is a highly improbable event," Winer points out, "but within the realm of possibility."

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