Sunday, April 09, 2006

Battling the Myth

In his post “If You Tell a Lie Big Enough and Keep Repeating It, People Will Eventually Come to Believe It PART 2: Utah Senator Bob Bennett,” Seymour D. Fair shines a light on the myth that New Orleans is ten feet below sea level:
The majority of the City of New Orleans and its immediate Southshore suburbs are built within a few feet above sea level, at sea level, or below sea level. However, the only areas ten feet below sea level in the New Orleans area--despite what Senator Bennett blindly assumes--are limited to drainage canal embankments, roadway underpasses of bulwarked railroad corridors (I-10, Canal Boulevard, Orleans Avenue, etc.), and retention lakes and ponds (primarily in New Orleans East).
And, taking a look at the Google search, that myth is shaping public opinion of whether or not to rebuild the region.

Excerpts from articles and blog posts:
Such an endeavor, though, would not seem very prudent, as it doesn't make sense to rebuild a city that will still sit ten feet below sea level.


But should we rebuild New Orleans, 10 feet below sea level, just so it can be wiped out again?


New Orleans is ten feet below sea level and in between several bodies of water. We've known for eons that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen. It has flooded in the past, it has flooded now, and if we rebuild, it will certainly flood again.


The rebuilding of New Orleans should not be done hastily. This city is ten feet below sea level.

In my previous post, I mentioned the utter insanity of rebuilding New Orleans. A city surrounded by water on three sides, ten feet below sea level in most spots, and in the path of deadly hurricanes 5 months out of the year hardly seems worth rebuilding, in my opinion.
Excerpts from comment sections and forums:
People, let's get real!

The Corps of Engineers and other public engineering and safety authorities are the people who warned the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana about this, not vice-versa.

And, they did so YEARS ago!

So, let me ask, just what did Louisiana and the city of New Orleans do about it?

Why, they just kept on building ten feet below sea level...


This is a city that is TEN FEET BELOW SEA LEVEL. Geologically, the land New Orleans is on shouldn't even exist. That NO exists in the first place is a miracle of civil engineering. It was only a matter of time before this happened.


Building a major city ten feet below sea level in a coastal hurricane alley was an urban planning nightmare waiting to happen, and I think you could make a case that all the disaster planning in the world wouldn't have helped New Orleans this time.
The comments to Seymour D. Fair’s post also present some of the misconceptions that come along with believing the myth as well as some good counterpoints belying the myth.

One exchange interested me. After pointing out that ports tend to be at sea level, that the lake isn’t as much the danger as is storm surge from the Gulf pushed into the lake, and that we are so well-protected from the river that it doesn’t play into the storm surge scenario, Anonymous said:
Senator Bennett wants to back down and retreat in the face of the threat of hurricanes. I believe the Governor of California would call him a girly man.
To which another Anonymous replied:
If being a "girly man" means being able to understand that building a city on the floodplain of a river on land below sea level is a bad idea, then "girly man" must mean "smarter than Schwarzenegger."
In true testament to his uber-manlihood, even according to that twisted definition, Schwarzenegger is not a girly man, for he too desires to maintain a city in a floodplain:
Schwarzenegger has said billions of dollars are needed to shore up the levees. Largely because of weaknesses in the levees - some more than 100 years old - parts of the Sacramento region have less than 100-year flood protection, the lowest of any large urban area in the nation.

That's led to fears that an earthquake or flood could cause a Katrina-type catastrophe and jeopardize the water supply for 22 million people.
It is true that Sacramento is not ten feet below sea level. But, neither is New Orleans.


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Sophmom said...

I read that comment fight too. It was pretty, er, animated.