In Context

On August 29, 2005, a 15-foot surge approached the city of New Orleans from Lake Borgne. Water violently inundated the Industrial Canal, breaching its levee system in three places and flooding southeastern areas of New Orleans, including the Lower Ninth Ward. The tsunami-like rush of water was so powerful that homes were ripped from their foundations and scattered inland. A barge docked in the Industrial Canal also breached the floodwall, adding to the massive surge of water.

The surge and waves that Hurricane Katrina generated greatly exceeded the capacity of the levees, exacerbated by the fact that on average levees in the United States are 54 years old. In all, Hurricane Katrina resulted in more than 50 levee failures, the flooding of 75 percent of the city and more than 1,800 lives lost.

The damage did not stop with the storm, as the water in the flooded areas remained stagnant for weeks without anywhere to drain.

Caption: An aerial view of the flooded Lower Ninth Ward after Katrina
Credit: Courtesy of I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful

» Kayen, Robert, Brian Collins and Helen Gibbons. "USGS Scientists Investigate New Orleans Levees Broken by Hurricane Katrina.". Sound Waves, December 2005/January 2006.
» Sills, G.L., et al. "Overview of New Orleans Levee Failures: Lessons Learned and Their Impact on National Levee Design and Assessment." Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, May 2008.
» U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "1928 Flood Control Act."