!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of 'Evening August 29, 2005: Newspapers Report at Least Two Breaches in New Orleans’ Levee System'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event Evening August 29, 2005: Newspapers Report at Least Two Breaches in New Orleans’ Levee System. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Funding is cut for a FEMA disaster exercise meant to prepare government agencies for a major hurricane in New Orleans. The exercise, a follow-up to the Hurricane “Pam” exercise that was conducted the prior year (see July 19-23, 2004), was to develop a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of displaced residents. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] “Money was not available to do the follow-up,” Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will later say in an interview with the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] After the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, Eric Tolbert, FEMA’s former disaster response chief, will tell Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A lot of good was done, but it just wasn’t finished. I don’t know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.” [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Eric Tolbert, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The New Orleans district of the US Army Corps of Engineers formally notifies Washington that if a major hurricane scores a direct hit on the city, two of New Orleans’ biggest pumping stations could be disabled. These pumping stations are needed—even under normal conditions—to keep the city dry. In the event of an overtopped or breached levee and heavy rains, the city would be submerged. [Los Angeles Times, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Today, 700 Marines stationed at the Marine Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans are ordered to evacuate, according to a Knight Ridder report. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Before dawn this morning, as Katrina approaches the coast of Southeastern Louisiana, the hurricane’s easterly winds from its northern quadrant shove a rising surge into the marshy Lake Borgne area east of St. Bernard. There, two hurricane levees come together into a large V-shape. Storm surge researchers later say that this point “acts as a giant funnel: Water pouring into the confined area rises up—perhaps as much as 20 feet in this case—and is funneled between the levees all the way into New Orleans.” The water probably tops the levees along the north side adjacent to eastern New Orleans, which average only 14 or 15 feet. The surge reaches the Industrial Canal before dawn and quickly overflows on both sides, the canal lockmaster reports to the Corps. At some point not long afterward, Corps officials believe a barge breaks loose and crashes through the floodwall, opening a breach that accelerated flooding into the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. [McQuaid, 9/7/2005]
Note - Reports about when this breach occurs vary. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers will report this evening that this breach occurs later, “during the storm.” [US Army Corps of Engineers, 8/29/2005 pdf file] The Boston Globe will report that this breach occurs around 9:00 am. [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] However, it appears more likely that at least one breach of occurred on this canal early this morning. Army Corps engineers will later indicate that this Industrial Canal breach occurs overnight as the storm is barreling towards New Orleans [McQuaid, 9/7/2005] ; while the 17th Street Canal levee-floodwall is not breached until sometime around 9:00 am during the height of the storm’s pass near New Orleans (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: US Army Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

National Public Radio’s (NPR) Greg Allen reports, right after the storm passes over, that that people who did not evacuate are now reporting flooding, up to the ceilings of some houses. According to Allen, “[t]there have been reports that the levee has breached in one area,” and the pumps have already failed. The flooding, however, is not yet widespread. [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] NPR will continue to report the breach and flooding throughout the day.

Entity Tags: Greg Allen

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans’ pumps have already failed, although the flooding is not yet widespread, according to Greg Allen, National Public Radio reporter. The Industrial Canal floodwall apparently has breached, flooding the Lower 9th Ward. People were trapped in their attics as the waters rose, and rescues are now taking place. Overall, however, the situation “is not nearly as bad as the catastrophe that people were predicting,” Allen reports. [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] Millions of TV viewers watching the disaster unfold in New Orleans will repeatedly see a huge barge floating amongst houses in the flooded area. Whether that barge caused or contributed to the breach of the Industrial Canal floodwall remains unclear as of mid-September 2005. The Army Corps of Engineers will later state that one possible cause was that this barge smashed through the floodwall during the high winds. [Wall Street Journal, 9/9/2005; McQuaid, 9/13/2005] (Note: Reports incorrectly describe the Industrial Canal structure as a levee. It is, in fact, a floodwall.)

Entity Tags: Greg Allen

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around 9:00 am this morning, the 17th Street Canal levee-floodwall system is breached. However, according to Al Naomi, Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans project manager, the breach occurs in mid- or late-morning after Katrina’s eye has passed east of New Orleans. By that time, north winds have pushed storm surge water in Lake Pontchartrain south against the hurricane levees and into the canals, and then the wind shifts to the west. “As I remember it the worst of the storm had passed when we got word the floodwall had collapsed,” Naomi later says. “It could have been when we were experiencing westerly winds in the aftermath of the storm, which would have been pushing water against it.” Naomi and other Corps officials will later say that they believe that the water in the canal topped the levee on the Orleans Parish side, weakening its structure on the interior side and causing its collapse. Ivor Van Heerden, LSU Hurricane Center expert, however, will say that he does not believe the water was high enough in the lake to top the 14-foot wall and that the pressure caused a “catastrophic structural failure.” [McQuaid, 9/7/2005 Sources: Al Naomi, Ivor Van Heerden]
Note - Reports about when this breach occurs vary. For example, Knight Ridder reports that the breach occurred at 3:00 am this morning, and that the breach was reported to the Army Corps of Engineers around 5:00 am. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] Later today, the Army Corps of Engineers will report that the breach occurred “overnight” and that the Industrial Canal breach occurs at this time. [US Army Corps of Engineers, 8/29/2005 pdf file Sources: US Army Corps of Engineers] The Boston Globe will report that the breach occurs later this afternoon. [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] The Chicago Tribune will report that the breach does not occur until August 30. [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] However, it appears more likely that the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee is breached around this time, and that the early morning breach reported is the breach of the floodwall(s) in the Industrial Canal.

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Associated Press reports that, according to the National Weather Service, a floodwall has been breached on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line (see (9:00 am) August 29, 2005). Three to eight feed of flooding is possible. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005 Sources: National Weather Service] The Associated Press will report on breaches in New Orleans’ levee system at least 15 times before the end of the day, identifying both the Industrial Canal floodwall breach and the 17th Street Canal floodwall-levee breach.

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

An ABC News Special Report indicates that as Katrina pounded New Orleans this morning, a levee was breached in the downtown area, and that pumps (intended to pump water out of the city) failed when the power went out. (ABC News does not identify the location of the breach.) [ABC, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Reporters and Guests on National Public Radio’s afternoon repeatedly report the extensive flooding. Greg Allen reports: “The good news is that the extreme flooding feared from a storm surge didn’t materialize here.… At least one part of the levee [system] did give way in St. Bernard Parish, but authorities say in a critical area along Lake Pontchartrain the levees largely did their job. Even so, Hurricane Katrina was still the worst storm to hit New Orleans in memory, worse, many residents say, than Hurricane Betsy which devastated the city in 1965.” [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune reports, “There is definitely some flooding in several areas that we’re still trying to get a handle on to see whether or not it’s as bad as Hurricane Betsy was in 1965. The worst areas are actually in a community called Chalmette that’s a little bit south of the city.… Now it has already overtopped some levees along the lake front rather early on in the process and it did—also the Chalmette flooding was also caused by a storm surge that went up what’s called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.” [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005] However, John Burnett reports: “[T]he National Guard has just begun in those big deuce and a half trucks of theirs to go out and do some assessments, and what they’re finding is—one of the most distressing things that’s happened is the famous lower 9th Ward of New Orleans…really got hit hard. That’s where there was a big breach in the [floodwall of the Industrial Canal], that leads into the Mississippi River. And so we’ve heard reports of people on tops of houses, of a woman in an attic trying to, you know—concerned that the flood waters were gonna trap her in there. So that is an area of great concern. A lot of the city is not in near those dire circumstances. More like one, two feet of water on the ground. Nothing like, you know, up to the rooftops.” [MSNBC, 8/29/2005] Senator Landrieu (D-La) appears on the show to say, “We have reports that some of the levees have either been breached or the water has come over the levees. [T]here’s still a tremendous amount of water from the first images that we’re able to receive, which is just in the last hour, of levels of water in and around the city. Now Plaquemine Parish, St. Bernard Parish have been very hard hit. Areas of Lakeview and New Orleans East have substantial water in them that we know of; downtown has been hit. The levels of water don’t seem that high in the central business district and the French Quarter, but of course, our assessment teams haven’t gotten there yet.” [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Greg Allen, John Burnett, Hurricane Betsy, All Things Considered, National Public Radio, National Guard

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Times-Picayune files a report describing New Orleans’ devastated 9th Ward, where the flooding is so extensive that only rooftops poke out from beneath the waters for stretches of square miles. Residents fear for what has happened in the Lower 9th Ward, which edges St. Bernard Parish. “It’s got to be worse in the lower 9,” a city police officer working the scene says. “It always is.” [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] Treme and the city’s 8th and 9th Wards are severely flooded. Eastern New Orleans is inaccessible by car due to the high water on Interstate 10 East. The farther east on Interstates 10 and 610, one goes, “the deeper the water and the danger.” Hurricane Katrina has caused the highway to end at the first exit for Louisa Street. For miles, there are only rooftops, with floodwaters lapping at the eves, visible from I-10. Rows of homes have been swallowed by water. Standing outside on the concrete interstate, in the whipping winds, signs can be spotted that so many of the city’s residents did not evacuate. One man wades up to his chest below, holding an orange water cooler as a buoy. Another single man watches him from the rooftop of a trucking business. Bursts of orange lights can be seen from another house, from the highest window, where at least two people are stranded. Their house nearly swallowed by the flooding, they blink flashlights to attract attention, but are forced to wait. Rescue officials say that boats are coming, but they have not yet arrived. The visions of destruction are overwhelming. There is a yell here and there, a holler from somewhere, but no one in sight. Desperate images fill the neighborhoods: Small children and a woman standing on their front porch as water licks the raised house’s top steps. A black van completely entrenched in the flooding. A drenched dog alone on a rooftop. Household-type items strewn in the dirty floodwater. In one case, rescuers use a boat to get a group of stranded people from their roof to the highway. They leave the group on the overpass, presumably to make other rescues. The interstate has become a kind of eerie desert. The stranded include an elderly woman in a wheelchair and a small barefoot boy. Both are accompanied by their respective families. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Firefighter Nick Felton reports that “downtown has major damage with windows and parts of buildings gone and, of course, major flooding with the water still rising. At this time feeder bands are still coming through the area and they are not responding yet. There are people on their rooftops waiting to be rescued. There have been three breaches of the levee system—in Kenner, at Lakefront along Lake Pontchartrain and west bank. Officials are very concerned about lower New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. No one has been able to communicate with any [firefighters in St. Bernard Parish].” [International Association of Fire Fighters, 8/29/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Both ABC Nightly News and CBS Evening News report that the floodwalls along the Industrial Canal in New Orleans have been breached or overtopped, and that massive flooding has occurred in New Orleans. [ABC, 8/29/2005; CBS News, 8/29/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around this time, Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA spokesman, who has spent the day at the Superdome before surveying the damage from a Coast Guard helicopter, briefs New Orleans Mayor Nagin on the extent of the damage. Bahamonde describes the surge of water flowing through the city as “surprising in its intensity.” Mayor Nagin is devastated, Bahamonde will later recall. Others attending the briefing begin to cry. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] According to a later Newsweek report, Bahamonde asks for a phone. “I need to call Washington,” he says. “Do you have a conference-call line?” He seems a little taken aback when the answer is no, according to a Mayor’s aide. Bahamonde manages to find a phone that works, but he has trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally gets someone on the line, the city officials hear him repeating, “You don’t understand, you don’t understand.” [Newsweek, 9/19/2005] According to Knight Ridder, Bahamonde also calls the FEMA team at Louisiana’s Emergency Command Center in Baton Rouge to brief them on the situation. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: US Coast Guard, Ray Nagin, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Marty Bahamonde

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Multiple Knight Ridder Newspapers report that floodwaters from Katrina have breached at least two of New Orleans’ floodwalls, and three pumps have failed. Approximately 200 people in New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward await rescue from their rooftops. [Sun Herald (Biloxi), 8/29/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

According to one report, approximately 70 percent of New Orleans fire fighters, fire officers and their families will lose their homes and belongings because of Hurricane Katrina. [International Association of Fire Fighters, 1/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike