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New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. II: The Central Region and the Lower Ninth Ward
Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
  • Raymond Bolton Seed
  • Robert Bea
  • Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos
  • Gordon P. Boutwell
  • Jonathan D. Bray
  • C. Cheung
  • Diego A. Cobos-Roa
  • L. Ehrensing
  • Leslie F. Harder
  • Juan M. Pestana
  • Michael F. Reimer
  • J. David Rogers, Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Rune Storesund
  • X. Vera-Grunauer
  • Joseph Wartman

The failure of the New Orleans regional flood protection systems, and the resultant catastrophic flooding of much of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, represents the most costly failure of an engineered system in U.S. history. This paper presents an overview of the principal events that unfolded in the central portion of the New Orleans metropolitan region during this hurricane, and addresses the levee failures and breaches that occurred along the east-west trending section of the shared Gulf Intracoastal Waterway/Mississippi River Gulf Outlet channel, and along the Inner Harbor Navigation Channel, that affected the New Orleans East, the St. Bernard Parish, and the Lower Ninth Ward protected basins. The emphasis in this paper is on geotechnical lessons, and also broader lessons with regard to the design, implementation, operation, and maintenance of major flood protection systems. Significant lessons learned here in the central region include: (1) the need for regional-scale flood protection systems to perform as systems, with the various components meshing well together in a mutually complementary manner; (2) the importance of considering all potential failure modes in the engineering design and evaluation of these complex systems; and (3) the problems inherent in the construction of major regional systems over extended periods of multiple decades. These are important lessons, as they are applicable to other regional flood protection systems in other areas of the United States, and throughout much of the world.

Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering
Keywords and Phrases
  • Louisiana,
  • Failure analysis,
  • Hurricane effects,
  • Levees,
  • Structural design,
  • Regional flood protection systems,
  • Flood control,
  • catastrophic event,
  • design flood,
  • failure mechanism,
  • Hurricane Katrina 2005,
  • levee,
  • maintenance,
  • metropolitan area,
  • Gulf Intracoastal Waterway,
  • Mississippi River,
  • New Orleans,
  • North America,
  • Saint Bernard Parish,
  • United States
Geographic Coverage
New Orleans, Louisiana
Document Type
Article - Journal
Document Version
File Type
© 2008 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.
Publication Date
Publication Date
01 May 2008
Citation Information
Raymond Bolton Seed, Robert Bea, Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos, Gordon P. Boutwell, et al.. "New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. II: The Central Region and the Lower Ninth Ward" Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering Vol. 134 Iss. 5 (2008) p. 718 - 739 ISSN: 1090-0241
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