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  • Sunday, August 27, 2006


    The Post-K Era

    There is a pair of phrases in New Orleans: Pre-K and Post-K. These seem patterned after that oft-used political bludgeon phrase, "That's pre-9/11 thinking in a post-9/11 world." In NOLA, history is currently divided by the events of Hurricanes Katrina/Rita. What is "normal" now was inconceivable to most New Orleanians Pre-K. Despite NOLA's long history of hurricanes and flooding, the reality of such a massive level of flooding was beyond most inhabitant's concept of "worst case scenario" except in purely theoretical terms.

    Understand: New Orleanians have lived with the possibility of such destruction all their lives. Even as a child of 10 or so, I knew the pumping stations were the only things that kept the city relatively dry and livable. I even knew when my mother moved to her current home that one of the considerations of the location was that it was high ground. Well, high ground for NOLA. The difference between the highest and lowest ground elevations is probably not much more than 15 feet, not counting the levees.

    Speaking of flooding, while I was in NOLA they performed a test of a new pumping system on the 17th St. Canal. You know, one of the canals that broke. New floodgates have been installed at the mouth of the canal on Lake Pontchartrain to prevent a tidal surge from entering and breeching the levees again. When they switched on the new water pump, it vibrated so much the test had to end. This was in mid-August. The project was supposed to be completed in June before hurricane season began. C'est la vie. Or C'est la mort as the case may be.

    A little problem with putting floodgates on the canal is that the canal is the outflow for another major pumping station which keeps the uptown area dry when it rains. The new pumping station is designed to pump water up/around the new floodgates. However I've been told the new pump only pumps out one tenth the amount of water the main pump puts into the canal. You do the math: close off canal, pump out 1/10 of what is being pumped into it. A sixth grader in my sister's class (sis is a teacher) said "That's dumb." Yes, a 6th grader could see the flaw in the plan but apparently the engineers thought the solution was good enough. It's not like we have any reason to question their competence.

    And finally, I recommend, the online version of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. You'll probably find much more of the reality of what is going on in New Orleans in the T-P than the "special" coverage for the anniversary of Katrina. They also have a nice Flash map of the city and rebuilding progress.

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