The first part of this article is eerily prescient about what happened to New Orleans because of Katrina. (And, lest we forget, had the storm not lost 30 mph of its wind speed in the last 24 hours before landfall, and had the storm veered a mere 30 miles west of where it landed, New Orleans would be in even worse shape–if that’s imaginable.)
Discount the second part of this article, as it is about a science fiction wave prediction device that (even if it did exist at the time of the storm) wouldn’t have been useful. It is Popular Mechanics, so they needed a gadget to talk about.
But this article highlights an important problem–New Orleans’ highest point is only six feet above sea level. And that problem raises a real question. It’s a question that doesn’t need to be resolved now, and in fact, shouldn’t probably be considered now. But just to get it out there for future discussion:
Should New Orleans be rebuilt at all?
UPDATE: W’s comment to this thread deserves posting up front:
I’m a civil engineer by trade, and I specialize in flood control and drainage. When Katrina hit New Orleans I went back into my technical library and found an article discussing this very scenario published in Civil Engineering magazine in June of 2003. I’m not really familiar with the situation in NO, but the info below is from that article.
The really scarey thing…. we’ve known this could happen for years. Ever since Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans back in 1965 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been studying and building flood control for the city. They feel the city is adequately protected from flooding on the Mississippi River, but they’ve always known storm surge from a hurricane could basically make the city part of Lake Pontchatrain.
They’ve been building levees and interior drainage that was predicted to be complete around 2018. But in 2003 they started to realize that the levees may not be high enough. The hurricane modeling that has been done in the last few years has predicted that the levees as designed could possibley handle a fast moving class 3 hurricane. The predictions for class 4 and 5 storms was terrible.
NO has so many drainage problems it makes my head hurt. Not only is the city at or below sea level, it’s also getting lower. All of coastal Louisianna is sinking and the marshes between NO and the Gulf are eroding, which continuously brings the city closer to the Gulf. The National Geodetic Survey is a nationwide system of survey control points with location and elevation data that is resurveyed every 10 years. The ground subsidance in coastsal LA is so bad they consider the survey markers in the area obsolete. Some of them dropped as much as 2 ft between when the article was published in 2003 and the last survey (which I believe was around 2000).
So basically we have the city which over a billion has been spent to protect, and is sinking into the ground. You could easily make the argument that NO should be abandoned now that it has been smashed, but it’s also very important as a port town. It serves an awful lot of barge traffic up the Mississippi and loads a lot of goods onto trucks for moving into the interior parts of the country.