Skip to comments.Why Levee Breaches In New Orleans Were Late-Breaking News
Posted on 09/12/2005 4:54:28 AM PDT by Brilliant
On Sunday, Sept. 4, Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to explain President Bush's statement that the government couldn't have anticipated breaches in levees in New Orleans.
Mr. Chertoff talked about news coverage. "Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers, and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged The Bullet,' " he said. "Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse. It was on Tuesday that the levee -- may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday -- that the levee started to break."
But now it is known that major levee breaks occurred much earlier than that, starting in the morning of Monday, Aug. 29, the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Even as the storm veered off and many observers felt a sense of relief, the Industrial Canal levee in eastern New Orleans was giving way, and a rush of water swiftly submerged much of the Lower Ninth Ward and areas nearby, trapping thousands of people on rooftops and in attics. The 17th Street Canal levee also was breached early Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now believes, resulting in a slower-rising flood over a larger area.
Yet it wasn't until Tuesday that most people across the country, apparently including Mr. Chertoff, realized that any levees at all had been breached. Did media outlets get it wrong, as Mr. Chertoff claimed? Some did, some didn't.
A look at news reports of the events of Aug. 29 paints a picture of confusion, miscommunication and conflicting information among some government officials and news media...
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
I believe some of the pumps are powered from Diesel prime movers.
They were also only looking the newspapers, apparently, when they said that. I distinctly remember commentators on Fox stating that NO had "dodged a bullet".
If that is what he told The Mayor, Governor and Feds is it any wonder that the breech was downplayed for so long.
Yes, 80% according to Nagin. And according to Jeanne Meserve on CNN earlier the water is rising. The levees have been compromised and breached in certain sections. Water is continuing to flow into New Orleans from Lake Poncatrain.
Listened to the mayor just now on the WWL link . . . "many, many reports of bodies floating in the water" . . . and yes, he confirms that the water is still rising . . . 2-block hole in concrete levee - 17th Street Canal is still flowing INTO the city . . . total devastation in St. Bernard . . .
Water rising an inch every 5 mins at Tulane University per CNN. 17th St. Rd. and Canal levee is breeched per the police and they must evacuate the critical patients by helicopter. the water is too high for ambulances.
A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new `hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning
So they've known for at least 14 hours that the city would flood to the level of the lake.
Times-Picayune reports here on the levee breech.
Levee breaches are causing rising water in New Orleans. WWL-TV studios are being evacuated due to rising water in the French Quarter. WWL will begin broadcasting from LSU as soon as possible and we will be attempting to stream on the web.
Mayor Ray Nagin reports the Twin Span Bridge is "totally destroyed" and that 80% of the city is underwater. Click for streaming video.
Northshore Report: Slidell: extensive flood damage, impassable roads; Covington and Mandeville: extensive wind damage - entire parish without power. Click for story.
I don't have the reference to it, but I remember that even on Wed. August 31 the authorities in NO were hoping that they could patch the levies and minimize the flooding. It wasn't until later they gave up and accepted that soon New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain would end up having the same water level.
"It's a very slow rise, and it will remain so until we plug that breach. I think we can get it stabilized in a few hours," said Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief.[See also: FR thread Is T. Ebbert [NOLA DHS chief] responsible for delay in large-scale response to levee breach? ]
"It's a very slow rise, and it will remain so until we plug that breach.
I think we can get [the breach] stabilized in a few hours"
"It's a very slow rise, and it will remain so until we plug that breach. I think we can get it stabilized in a few hours," said Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief.
The next obvious question is, what reason did he have to think that he could get a two-block-long levee failure repaired in "a few hours"?
Good question. Ebbert had made mistakes in judgment before*, but he seemed to be a fairly sharp guy with a lot of experience.
*In 1997 Terry Ebbert said New Orleans was doing a good job of reforming the police department and getting rid of crime.
By 2003, a report showed New Orleans was the Murder capital of the US
*This past January Ebbert said: "Our ability to protect citizens and structures just received an unbelievable boost."
The cameras he was praising were of little use during the disturbances in the aftermath of Katrina.
According to the thread, the CNN anchor just kept having her repeat what she was saying, and didn't realize the importance of what she was reporting - that the levee had broken.
It is too bad the FR search facilities aren't more functional. We really miss out on the huge resource we have stored up on the servers.
Check around here in the live threads ...
It is too bad the FR search facilities aren't more functional. We really miss out on the huge resource we have stored up on the servers.
Google works pretty good as an outside search facility. Include freerepublic as one of the search terms.
For the collections I built here, I searched each thread for the partial word "leve" and picked out posts that reflected the general tone at that point in time. There is no getting around it, building informative time lines and summaries (with cites) is grunt work. It just takes lots of time.
No, but Brian Williams said those exact words on an NBC Special Report that morning...I was watching getting ready to head to work...and wondered if he knew the winds were pushing Lake Pontchartrain into the city as predicted...
>>No major newspaper printed a headline that literally said New Orleans "dodged a bullet," as Mr. Chertoff claimed. But some did say the city had escaped a direct hit -- which was true, but misleading -- while others focused on the levees along the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, it was the levees along canals extending south from Lake Pontchartrain that gave way.
Lesson learned: Don't rely on the competence or truthfulness of local and state officials. Distrust and verify.
Yahoo seems to do a much better job at keeping track of FreeRepublic. Google used to be pretty good, but a few months back their hit rate on FR dropped a lot.
Good motto, when it comes to hurricanes.
Statement at 0345 CDT Monday 08/29/2005
Watching the progress of the storm from Jefferson Parish's emergency
operations center in Marrero, Walter Maestri sounded an early note of
optimism at 3:45 a.m., as Katrina jogged a bit off course. But he also
cautioned that conditions could deteriorate as the day progresses.
"It looks like we've done fairly well," he said. "We have had no reports of
serious wind damage, and we don't see any indication of tidal surge
"But of course it's still really early. The next four to five hours will tell the
Some East Jefferson drainage canals were topping out as huge pumps
struggled to suck rainfall out of neighborhoods and move it over the levee
into Lake Pontchartrain.
***FIRST REPORT OF FLOODING IN KENNER***
Posted at TP(Times Picayune), Monday, after 0645, prior to eyewall arrival:
In Kenner, police Capt. Steve Caraway said the department's officers
were pulled from the streets around 4:45 a.m., after the gusts became
Throughout the night, Caraway said, police tried to respond to calls from
across the city, many of them from people experiencing cardiac
distress. Officers took several people to area hospitals, he said.
Caraway said there were reports of street flooding in the 900 to 1200
blocks of Williams Boulevard. He also said there were reports that the
Duncan Canal was close to overflowing.
(Note: The Duncan Canal connects with Lake Pontchartrain 5 degrees west of magnetic north of the center of Kenner)
***FIRST REPORT OF 9TH WARD FLOODING***
***FIRST REPORT OF ST. BERNARD FLOODING***
Posted at TP(Times Picayune), Monday, after 0713 CDT and prior to reports of high winds taking hospital windows and reports of damage to the Superdome's roof:
"Water tops 9th Ward levee system
On an early morning radio interview, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said
that water was coming over the levee system in the Lower 9th Ward,
especially in the Florida Avenue area. Nagin said that the Florida Avenue
pumping station was not working, and there were unconfirmed reports of
people standing on their roofs.
"There is a significant amount of water in the 9th Ward," Nagin said.
Meanwhile, a 9th Ward resident reported that houses were taking in
water on Reynes Street at the Claiborne Avenue bridge.
Not all of the 9th Ward, however, appeared to have water problems.
A group of about a half dozen families, some with severe hardships,
were riding out the storm near the corner of Feliciana and Marais
streets. Among those who stayed was a mother with a son paralyzed in
a recent shooting and a 56-year-old man with a broken leg.
"The wind's pushing pretty hard here," the man, Paul Garrett, said in a
7:15 a.m. phone interview. "But it doesn't seem to be destroying any
rooftops. We're doing OK."
(Note: Florida Avenue, St. Claude Avenue, and Reynes are immediately east of the Industrial Canal, adjacent to the area where many images show a barge inside the levee system near the breach. Feleciana and Marias intersection is located 1.24 miles due WEST of the Industrial Canal breach.)
***FIRST REPORT OF ANY LEVEE BEING TOPPED***
Time not specified, after dome roof damage reported, described as a "Morning News Conference". Monday:
Here's a run-down of what they reported:
- In New Orleans, water topped a levee along the Industrial Canal. The
city's 911 emergency system was out of service and Charity Hospital
was on emergency power and windows had been blown out on five
floors. The Police Department was operating on a backup power
system. Three to four feet of water was reported on St. Claude Avenue
at Jackson Barracks. And a 20-foot tidal surge knocked out four
pumping stations; only one was able to get back into service.
- In St. Charles Parish, significant flooding was reported on the east
- In Arabi, up to 8 feet of water was reported, and people are climbing
into their attics to escape the flooding. "We're telling people to get into
the attic and take something with them to cut through the roof if
necessary,'' said Col. Richard Baumy of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's
Office. "It's the same scenario as Betsy.
Baumy said 100-plus mph winds were preventing rescue efforts.
At Bayou Bienvenue, water levels were reported at 9 1/2 feet, almost
twice normal levels."
***FIRST REPORT OF PLAQUEMINES PARISH FLOODING***
Time not specified, after dome roof damage reports:
Whitecaps in the street in Belle Chasse
In Plaquemines Parish, in Belle Chasse, the generator at the emergency
operations center was knocked out about 7:30 a.m. "We're catching hell
right now," said parish President Benny Rousselle. "It's unbelievable."
High winds were ripping shingles from roofs near the emergency
operations center. "The street in front of us has whitecaps," Rousselle
***FIRST REPORT OF FLOODING IN DOWNTOWN NEW ORLEANS***
Posted after dome roof damage, prior to reports of dome refugees being moved to safer areas of the building:
Petty Officer Cliff Roberts from the U.S. Coast Guard command center
in St. Louis said they have had about four dozen emergency electronic
signals from vessels in Grand Isle, Venice and elsewhere.
They're also getting calls from residents in distress who can't get
through on 911 lines. They've had reports of people on roof tops at
Villere and Louisa streets and in the 200 block of Almonaster Drive.
The Coast Guard can't respond to these of sorts of calls at this point, so
they're passing them along to local law enforcement.
(Note: Villere Street crosses the Industrial Canal, but Louisa Street and Almonaster AVENUE are 1.45 miles due WEST of the Industrial Canal breach. This is 2.49 miles NE of the Superdome on the edges of downtown New Orleans.)
From a press conference just before 0900 CDT:
Five floors of windows at Charity Hospital have blown out, with flooding
reported on the first floor of the hospital, which has remained open,
(Note: The 1000 block of Burdette Street is 2.8 miles west of the Superdome and 1/2 miles east of the Mississippi River near Tulane University.)
St. Bernard update 10:45 a.m.
Some people who stayed in St. Bernard Parish were
forced up into their attics to escape the floodwaters,
said state Sen. Walter Boasso, who heard from local
officials that some houses in Chalmette had water
rising beyond the second floor.
"We know people were up in the attics hollering for
help," said Boasso, who evacuated to Baton Rouge and
was camped out at the state Office of Emergency
Preparedness. Hopefully rescue workers will be able to
get to people who are trapped before the water rises
too high, he said.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has 60
boats ready to go out to rescue people in St. Bernard
as soon as the winds subside, he said. The agency has
200 boats that can be deployed into southeast
Louisiana to look for people who are stranded on top
of their houses.
On the north side of Judge Perez Drive, waters had risen as
high as 10 feet, he said. Boasso, who lives in
Chalmette, said he has been in touch with Council
Chairman Joey DiFatta.
People who sought last-minute refuge at Chalmette High
School were huddling in the hallways after windows
were blown out, said Boasso, who added that the
building had sustained some structural damage. The
roof of the Civic Auditorium was blown off, he said.
Boasso said extensive
flooding in the Lower 9th Board and St. Bernard Parish
could be blamed on water going over the tops of the
(Note: Judge Perez Drive runs WNW to ESE through the center of Chalmette and is also known as SR 39.)
Memorial suffers damage, but no collapsed walkway
Responding to earlier reports that a walkway from a parking garage to
the hospital had collapsed during he heaviest part of the hurricane, a
spokeswoman for Memorial Medical in New Orleans said that some
windows had been blown out, but there was no collapsed walkway.
Sandra Cordray, the spokeswoman, said several windows on the north
side of the second and third floors were blown out, and that floodwaters
had lapped at the top step of the hospital on Napoleon Avenue near
(Note: The intersection of Napolean Avenue and Claiborne is 1.52 miles WSW of the Superdome)
Monday, 1:30 p.m.
Hurricane Katrina hammered the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard
Parish, with residents telling tales of stranded people being plucked from
their rooftops by passing boaters and flood waters as high as 12 feet
well into Chalmette.
Residents fled the surging water, which quickly rose as the brunt of
Katrina plowed ashore near eastern St. Bernard Parish.
Arabi resident Donald Bordelon told a Times-Picayune reporter via cell
phone that at 8:30 a.m. there was just wind damage the homes on his
block of Schnell Drive. But 40 minutes later, floodwaters had risen over
the stove in his kitchen, as he scrambled to ready his boat for an
Residents reported high water flooding such institutions as Rocky and
Carlo's restaurant at the corner of St. Bernard Highway and Lloyd's
Avenue. Others reported that homes on Campagna Drive were nearly
At Chalmette High School on Judge Perez Drive, officials had set up a
shelter of last resort late Sunday. By Monday morning, the first floor of
the high school was under water and the evacuees huddled in rooms on
the second floor, reporting that they could only see rooftops of the
The St. Bernard Parish government building, also on Judge Perez Drive,
was said to have taken on 8 to 10 feet of water. The government building
is in a stretch of the highway that comprises one of the parish's main
economic centers, with a huge new Super Wal Mart nearby.
Monday, 1:45 p.m.
Williams Boulevard in Kenner is flooded north of I-10 to just before the
lake levee, officials said.
Officials said the flooding appears to be more severe than seen on May
8, 1995. However, Lake Pontchartrain did not overtop levees. Throughout
Williams and elsewhere in Kenner, businesses, homes and apartments
are dealing with flooding and significant roof damage.
Chateau Boulevard is a zig-zag of trees and power lines blocking one of
Kenner's main arteries.
(Note: Williams Boulevard is the main street running NS through downtown Kenner)
Monday 9/29, 1510 (3:10 pm - Note: I believe this time is inaccurate because "later" reports are given at 2:10pm, and are posted after this one. I believe the correct time should be 2:10 pm)
Blanco said there is believed to be widespread flooding in St.
Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, with the water as
deep as 10-12 feet in some places. Local
officials at the St. Bernard courthouse have said
that they are trapped on the second floor, and that water is rising to that
State officials have received reports of as many as 20
buildings in New Orleans that have collapsed or
toppled from the winds, Blanco said. An observer in a
fire station across the street from the 17th Street
Canal reported seeing water leaking from the levee,
***FIRST REPORT OF ANY LEVEE BREACH***
New Orleans, 9th Ward, 2 p.m.
Wes McDermott, from the office of emergency preparedness in New
Orleans, said officials have fielded at least 100 calls from people in
distress in the Lower 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans.
People report they are waiting on roofs and clinging to trees, he said.
But McDermott said the city cannot send rescue crews out until the
wind drops below 50 mph.
Angela Chalk, a lieutenant with the community emergency response
team in New Orleans, said her niece, Brandi Hyde, is one of those
people stranded and awaiting rescue. She said her niece is stranded on
a roof of a three-story apartment building on Bundy Road, along with
Meanwhile, City Hall confirmed a breach of the levee along the 17th
Street Canal at Bellaire Drive, allowing water to spill into Lakeview.
New Orleans, 9th Ward, 2:30 p.m.
Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson waded into the Lower 9th
Ward Monday afternoon and reported a scene of utter destruction. The
wind still howled, floodwaters covered vehicles in the street and people
were clinging to porches and waiting in attics for rescuers who had yet
In one home on Claiborne Avenue near the Industrial Canal bridge,
Jackson saw a man peering from a window in his attic. The man said
rising water in his house had forced him, his wife and two children into
Jackson estimated the water's depth at 12 feet.
"He was very calm,'' Jackson said of the man in the attic window.
Jackson said he couldn't get across the street. The water was too deep
and the current was too fast.
Nearby, three children and three adults were clinging to a porch, trying
to stay above the water, which they insisted was continuing to rise.
"They were really scared. They said they had been clinging to that porch
since 8 a.m."
***FIRST REPORT OF FLOODING IN EAST NEW ORLEANS PARISH***
Rescue in EAST N.O. and St. Bernard
Monday, 4:45 p.m.
Twelve boats have been deployed from Jackson Barracks
to search for people stranded on the upper levels of
their homes in EASTERN New Orleans and St. Bernard
Parish, state officials said at a 3:30 pm briefing.
The following images will help in locating incidents reported above and discussed below:
1. 0345 CDT Monday 08/29/2005 - Pre-surge windfields pushd water from Lake Pontchartrain south and west into canals north of Kenner.
2. ~0800 Storm surge driven by 145 mph eyewall winds push into Lake Borgne east of New Orleans, which is funneled from a 12 mile front into the 270' wide Intercoastal Waterway between the east Orleans and St. Bernard Parish Seawalls.
3. East Orleans Parish may have flooded at this time from seawall topping, or may have flooded later due to an undisclosed seawall breach.
4. 0713-0900 CDT - Funnel amplified surge tops seawall/levee west of the Industrial Canal, prompting 6-8' flooding in low lying areas NE of downtown New Orleans.
5. 0830-0910 CDT - Barge driven by funneled surge breaches Industrial Canal seawall into St. Bernard Parish. Barge comes to rest SE of breach, corroborating surge from Intercoastal Waterway feeding south into Industrial Canal.
6. 1200 CDT - Minor flooding reported SW of downtown New Orleans, cause unknown.
7. 1345 CDT - 14.5' seawall bounding Canal NW of Kenner almost certainly topped and possibly breached, probable cause; wind driven Lake water combined with eyewall surge into Lake Pontchartrain, flooding Willians Boulevard from I-10 north to Lake Pontchartrain levee.
8. 1400 CDT - 10' to 14.5' seawall bounding 17th St. Canal probably topped (see #7), certainly breached, probable cause; wind driven Lake water combined with eyewall surge into Lake Pontchartrain.
9. 14' seawall bounding London Avenue Canal breach reported days later, time of occurrence unknown, probably topped (see #7), probably breached (per later reports), probable cause; wind driven Lake water combined with eyewall surge into Lake Pontchartrain.
10. 13' to 20' seawall bounding East Orleans Parish probably topped circa 0800 CDT, possibly breached, probable cause direct and funneled surge. Likely locations for funneled surge topping in the vicinity of Highway 510 at the Intercoastal Waterway and direct surge all along the eastern perimeter along Highway 11.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.