In August 2005 the Gulf States witnessed the biggest disaster in the history of America. Most people attribute this destruction to Hurricane Katrina, but Katrina is only partially responsible. The catastrophe major contributor was poor construction and maintenance of the levees.
Hurricanes are unpredictable phenomenon. Most people thought that Katarina would have tapered off after landing in south Florida as a category one hurricane; however it gained momentum and made a second landing near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. By the time hurricane Katrina landed at Pearlington, Mississippi and Slidell, Louisiana, it had become a category five storm. Hurricane Katarina was the worst storm in the history of the United States. Despite the ferocity of the storm, the devastation was not directly caused by the storm it was caused by the breaking of poorly constructed levees and city officials’ hesitancy to pronounce mandatory evacuation. Hurricane Katarina caused much damage but it was the aftermath of the storm that did the most harm; the breaking of the levees is what led to the enormous flooding. Kim Zimmerman reports that:”An estimated 1,836 people died in the hurricane and the flooding that followed in late August 2005, and millions of others were left homeless along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans, which experienced the highest death toll” (2012).
The devastation of the Gulf States was a long time coming. If the levees were built to withstand the onslaught of a category five storm they would not have exploded; also they were not properly maintained. The poor maintenance was not negligence on the part of the city officials but the withdrawing of financial aid by the Bush’s administration. Robert Kayen, Brian Collins, and Helen Gibbons report:
Seventy-five percent of the metropolitan New Orleans was flooded, an aftermath of hurricane Katrina. .As the storm surges the water would overtop and flow over the top of levees and it would clean out the bottom of the embankment or floodwall. “Three major and costly breaches appear to have been caused by failure of the soils underlying the levees or failure of the earthen levee embankments themselves; in several places, levee foundations failed when water levels were below the tops of the levees. Transitions between levees of differing heights or materials proved to be weak points in the flood-protection system; a significant number of levee washouts occurred” (Kayen, Collins and Gibbons 2005 -2006). Independent studies have concluded that the levees did not stand a chance in the wake of hurricane Katrina because they were poorly constructed and all it takes to break them was the forceful push of water. Some of them were not interlock properly and the fact that some were built over dirt or peat lower there resistance to flood waters. The USACE eventually agreed that the insufficient construction was a result of insufficient money allotted to them.
Doing things cheaply is never cheap because more money will be spent fixing the substandard project as with the levees. Enough money was not allotted to build the levees to standards and in the end the cost was astronomical. It was not just the financial cost but the loss of lives. The levees were not the only things that needed to rebuild but cities. Comparing how much is lost plus how much will be spent to reconstruct, the amount that should have been spent to do it right the first time is only a minute fraction. In the United States one may never see a hurricane in fifty years but that does not mean he or she will never see one. The USACE should have never agreed to build levees to withstand a category three storm or agree to less money to build substandard levees. Unfortunately, they find out their folly the hard way to do anything is to do it right the first time.
Whenever there is devastation extreme spending follows. Edward Glaeser says that President Bush has declared that that the area hit by the hurricane will become a great city again. And Senator Edward Kennedy proposed $150 million dollar to be dispersed through the Gulf States to start reconstruction (2005). President Bush wants allocate as much as $200,000 dollars to the project of rebuilding. This is a lot of money to rebuild these states but it necessary and there is a good probability that it might be more. Many of the citizens of these states are displaced and would like to come back. Before that can be accomplished the area needs cleaning up. All this money for cleaning up and rehabilitation would not be necessary if someone had the insight to demand levees to be build with care. As a result several things must be done. Granted there several people who have already left the states and the one who remain will need; underwear, shampoo, soap, clothe all types of personal items. They will need tents, the number of things that each person will need might seem insignificant but when the needs of everyone is added up, each person will cost the government about two hundred dollars and they are not housed yet. After the personal needs of each person are taken care of then there is the need for permanent structure and that includes businesses, schools, and churches, everything that makes a city a city. Also the sewer and water systems must be dealt with both temporarily and permanently. When it is added up building the levees to required standards cost fractions less than just cleaning up to make the community sanitary. For every poorly constructed levee it takes more money to rebuild a safe one.
It is uncanny that anyone would agree to gamble with peoples’ lives as the government did in the Gulf States. Often times one hears how much unnecessary money is spent in the military sometimes just for toilets; for things that are not even needed. Investigating journalists report all the time of the wanton spending in the government for things that are insignificant, It is hard to believe that the levees were only built to withstand a category three everone knows that no one can dictate the outcome of a hurricane. In the case of Katarina it began over the Bahamas as a tropical depression and after the landings it eventually ended up in the Gulf States as a category five hurricane. One cannot even rationalize and say that the possible of a hurricane landing in the Gulf States is unlikely. If an area is susceptible to hurricane not having one for fifty years does not mean that one is not coming. Therefore precaution should be taken at all times.
For every action there is a reaction as in cause and effect, and just because the effects are often favorable it does not mean that the day will not come when the good fortunately. The Gulf States have seen hurricane before albeit they were mild in comparison Katarina. Nonetheless, the Bush’s administration and the engineers should never gamble with the lives of American people. One can only hope that a valid lesson was learned.
“What Caused the Levees to Break in New Orleans During Hurricane Katrina.” Web. Retrieved 11 April, 2013
Zimmermann, Kim Ann “Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath” web. Retrieved, 11 April, 2013.