Environmental Hazards
Storm Surge Induced Flooding in New Orleans

Chris Below, Chris Dierich, Keith Erickson, and Rachel Kjos

 

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What is a Storm Surge?


What Happened During Hurricane Katrina?

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The Future of New Orleans

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Abstract

HURRICANE KATRINA STORM SURGE INDUCED FLOODING AND LOW-LYING NEW ORLEANS: HOW TO PREVENT FUTURE DAMAGES

BELOW, Chris, belowcs@uwec.edu
DIERICH, Chris, diericca@uwec.edu
ERICKSON, Keith, erickskb@uwec.edu
KJOS, Rachel, kjosra@uwec.edu

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005 the hurricane caused an estimated 8-meter storm surge that flooded low-lying areas. Storm surge is caused by a center of low pressure in the eye of a storm, surrounded by high pressure which raises local sea “level;” this is accompanied by intense winds that push seawater into a mound. Storm surge accounts for 75-90% of hurricane related death and damages.

New Orleans was vulnerable to the storm surge caused by Hurricane Katrina for various reasons including: being below sea level, being in the shape of a bowl, the canal system, which allowed the storm surge to penetrate further inland, and the decreasing wetlands and diminishing barrier islands, which now provide less of a shield against wind-driven waters.

Engineers’ first goal is to return the city back to pre-Katrina status before June 1 st. The future of New Orleans is unclear, but there are many plans to better protect the city from future storm surge induced flooding: closing certain canals, connecting barrier islands with additional levees, turning the lowest areas into parks, rigorous maintenance of levees, and construction of other protective structures such as sea gates are all viable options. However it is going to take years of construction and billions of dollars to protect New Orleans from future hurricanes and storm surges.