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New Orleans, Louisiana Is it Worth Rebuilding?. Kristen L. Clarke 04 Nov 2005 Geology 107. Hurricane Katrina 29 August 2005. Final Landfall – Central Gulf Coast category IV hurricane 140 mph winds 3 rd most powerful storm of the season

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New orleans louisiana is it worth rebuilding

New Orleans, LouisianaIs it Worth Rebuilding?

Kristen L. Clarke

04 Nov 2005

Geology 107

Hurricane Katrina

29 August 2005

Final Landfall – Central Gulf Coast

  • category IV hurricane

  • 140 mph winds

  • 3rd most powerful storm of the season

  • 6th strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin

  • 10-30 ft storm surges breached the levee system protecting New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi

The Aftermath

Mass Flooding

Areas of Flooding

  • 3 levees gave way

  • 80% of city underwater

  • flood pool 20-25 ft deep

  • death toll – 1,302

    • mainly from Mississippi and

    • Louisiana

  • damages – $70-$130 billion

    • most expensive natural disaster

    • in U.S. history

Satellite Photo of

New Orleans – 31 Aug

Is it Worth Rebuilding?


  • It is not worth spending > $100 billion to rebuild

  • We can build levees and channels, but nature will inevitably win.

  • Where will the money come from?

“ With the projected rate of subsidence (the natural sinking of land), wetland loss, and sea level rise, New Orleans will likely be on the verge of extinction by this time next century.”

-Dr. Chip Groat, Director of

the United States Geological

Survey in Washington D.C. 2001

Louisiana Wetlands

Loss of a natural hurricane barrier

  • Hurricanes will have a larger and larger effect due to coastal land loss.

  • marshlands serve as natural buffer between land and sea

  • every 2.7 miles of wetland absorbed a foot of storm surge

  • Louisiana coast losing 16,000 acres of wetland each year

  • Coastline – 40% of nation’s wetlands; 80% of the loss

  • natural processes artificially accelerated – levying rivers, draining wetlands, dredging channels, and cutting canals through marshes

  • as stands, the protective delta will be gone by 2090

More Hurricanes to Come

Statistics show another ‘Katrina’ is inevitable

  • It is likely that we’ll see another Katrina scaled hurricane in our lifetime

  • 6 Category IV or stronger hurricanes within 100 miles of New Orleans since 1899

  • increased number of storms in past few years

    • four hurricanes in 2005 by end of august

    • long term average - 2.1

New Orleans…The New Atlantis

How far below sea level can it survive?

  • New Orleans sits on a bed of silt, sand and clay.

  • rebuilt with each flooding – new silt and sand are deposited

  • levees that protect the city from flooding prevent rebuilding of silt

  • Pumping water from the soil is required for new construction

  • lowering water level adds weight to surrounding soil – causes ground to sink more

With current rates, New Orleans’ highest point will be below sea level in 100 years

Repairing the Damage

Where will the money come from?

  • Can we afford up to $200 billion to repair the damage from Katrina?

  • Of course not.

  • we’ll borrow it from foreign lenders

  • at 4% interest, a $200 billion debt quickly

  • becomes $240 billion over only 5 years

  • eventually we will have one ‘Katrina’

  • too many and the financial markets

  • will take a crash

New Orleans is Not Worth Rebuilding

What we lose

New Orleans is best known for Bourbon Street and Mardis Gras. By not rebuilding we lose a distinct cultural site. The history, people, architecture, food, music and traditions make New Orleans a truly unique place.

In addition, by not rebuilding we would see a decrease in the oil and fish industries of the United States.

Would all these be equivalent to $200 billion dollars to rebuild a city that is doomed in the end?



  • Monthly Tropical Weather Summary. August 2005. National Hurricane Center

  • Hurricane Katrina.

  • Cohen, Adam. “The Big Easy on the Brink.” Time Magazine 10 July 2000

  • Widmer, Lori. “The Lost City of New Orleans?” Risk & Insurance Dec 2000

  • Fischetti, Mark. “Drowning New Orleans.” Scientific American 1 October 2001

  • Sloan, Allen. “No Money? No Problem!” Newsweek 26 September 2005