Paris and hundreds of smaller river towns in France are experiencing two kinds of massive flooding. The first is of immigrant refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, almost entirely young male Muslims. But the second is the more traditional flooding; it has museums and other places scrambling to protect valuables. The worst seems to be over now.

In the US, we have many areas that flood frequently, and we insist on building on those sites. When we get a flood every decade or so, the catastrophists call it a “thousand year flood” or “unprecedented” — you’d think they could check their own newspapers.

And although it’s been a while, the US does get hurricanes…Michelle Kosinski-swim


Hurricane Katrina’s floods often come up in this context. Most don’t know that New Orleans was completely flooded in the 1920s, when the levees were broken. Some of this was intentional: After the first levee failed, the residents in that area decided they could “let the water out” by opening up another levee internally. A moment’s thought on the relative size of the next area and the ocean would have shown the problem. But each of the five internal areas were flooded by the same wrong thinking; they all wanted to let the incoming water out.

Katrina’s flooding in 2005 was from a combination of two things. First, poor design of the more recent levees by the Army Corp of Engineers. The storm never overtoppped them; they just collapsed in a couple of crucial places. And second, crooked Louisiana politicians had pocketed tens of millions of dollars of federal money intended for repairs and updates to the levee system; three men were under indictment for siphoning off $32m when Katrina hit.

Hurricane preparedness wasn’t a priority; NOLA had come through the peak of the hurricane cycle in 1999-2001 without any US hurricane landfall (it’s about a forty-year cycle) and they figured they had decades more to worry about it. However, the peak dwindles slowly, and just as the 1960 cycle had some big ones in 1968, NOLA didn’t stay lucky. So all the money re-routed elsewhere, like $10m to install cabling and upscale box seats in the stadium, was a loss due to bad judgment.

My brother in law lives in Gulfport, right on Katrina’s path. It sure made a mess. But as to general flooding, Hurricane Georges a few years before was worse. It was more rain than wind, and hovered over the area a long time before finally drifting away.


NOLA was hit hard because much of the place was below sea level. They needed, but have never tried, Galveston’s solution.

Galveston was all but destroyed in 1900, and they wound up raising the whole city by 17 feet to deal with it. That’s worked out well, but they took a long time to recover from that hurricane. When it hit, Galveston was the fourth largest city in the US. Afterwards, it wasn’t a city at all, just a sandbar covered with ruins.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle