UC engineers say levees could break again

August 29, 2008 7:40:36 PM PDT
With Gustav churning toward the Gulf of Mexico, engineers are worried that the levees in New Orleans may not be ready for another battering from a hurricane.

Eleven and a half million gulf coast residents live in the path of Gustav. One of the biggest concerns Friday night is a repeat of the levee breaks in New Orleans. Those concerns are being raised by two University of California engineers who analyzed the failures caused by Katrina.

Levee repairs have been underway ever since Katrina struck three years ago. A leading U.C. civil engineer is warning the job isn't done and flooding could occur again.

"The possibility of significant flooding of any one, if not all three of the main basins is still there, and we could again have people up on roof tops if it goes badly," says Professor Raymond Seed, Ph.D., from the UC Civial and Environmental Engineering Department.

Who can forget images of New Orleans residents stranded on rooftops by 11-foot-high flood waters? Professor Seed prepared an independent study of the levee failure for Congress and one of his main concerns is that new steel pilings are not deep enough to prevent seepage under the levees.

"Some of the levees that have been built since Katrina, in our opinion, weren't built entirely to the standards we would have liked to have seen. That's being worked on, and further repairs are being made. But there's also incomplete work, work still in progress, so it's going to be a little dicey in terms of the level of preparation at the time of Gustav's arrival," says Seed.

Professor Robert Bea, Ph.D. from UC Center for Risk Mitigation, is already on his way to the gulf. He's also a civil engineer familiar with the levees and oil facilities. His concern is that levee breaks will occur in different sections this time.

"You can expect to see breeching showing up, not where it did last time, but in these sections adjacent to where it occurred. So we're horribly exposed," says Bea.

An elite team of urban search and rescue experts is leaving Oakland Friday afternoon for disaster duty. Dr. Ben Ho M.D., an urban search leader, was sent to Katrina and Rita. He hopes residents will heed evacuation orders.

"Hopefully by having people listen to the warnings and get out of the way early, evacuate when the officials say to evacuate, that will lessen the impact that we will have to pick up later as disaster workers," says Dr. Ho.

Gustav is threatening the levees at a bad time. Professor Seed tells ABC7 repairs of the Katrina damage from three years ago won't be completed for seven years. And Dr. Bea is headed to the gulf as we speak he's going to ride out the hurricane on an oil platform.


Load Comments