Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When The Levees Fail

Date:
September 3, 2007
Source:
Department of Homeland Security
Summary:
"A hard rain's a-gonna fall," Dylan sang. But when rain and storm surges fall on lands protected by weak levees, this means trouble...big trouble. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were devastating reminders of this frightening fact. How then can we limit trouble when a levee breaches or, better yet, prevent such a break from ever happening again? There's another issue at play here besides horrendous storms. We are witnessing the slow death of our natural buffer zones -- which protect us from powerful sea surges.

Flooding in New Orleans.
Credit: Image courtesy of Department of Homeland Security

“What has happened down here, is the winds have changed,

Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain,

It rained real hard, and it rained for a real long time,

Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline…

Oh, Louisiana, Louisiana…

they’re trying to wash us away…”

…So the powerful Randy Newman song goes. But when rain and storm surges fall on lands protected by weak levees, this means trouble…big trouble. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were devastating reminders of this frightening fact. How then can we limit trouble when a levee breaches or, better yet, prevent such a break from ever happening again?

“Any solution will be difficult and challenging,” says Wil Laska, who manages the Levee Strengthening and Damage Mitigation Project at Homeland Security's Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate. “But first, we’ve got to ensure that all the levees in the United States are solid, built correctly and well. We also have to make sure that all repairs are attended to on a rigorously timed basis. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

The levee project is a comprehensive one, spanning four years and operating in three phases. In the first phase, researchers will identify potential technologies and procedures that can rapidly and affordably indicate problem locations along a levee, strengthen these existing areas, provide innovative designs for new levees, and repair any breaches. Subsequent phases will test and demonstrate the technologies and procedures. For instance, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center has developed the Levee Condition Assessment Technology, or LevCAT, which combines geophysical instrumentation with airborne and ground-based research to essentially “see” weak soil under levees.

When considering the country’s levee system, however, there’s another issue at play here besides horrendous storms. We are witnessing the slow death of our natural buffer zones – which protect us from powerful sea surges. River basins, deltas, and savannahs are being congested with soil and debris. Human development and our residual waste is causing the surrounding land to sink, and as salt water rushes in, thick expanses of wetland, mangroves, trees and grasses are poisoned. Without these buffers, storms can push sea surges quite a distance inland. And, as ocean levels rise, as they are doing, low-lying cites will have to protect themselves by using some sort of barriers and pumps to help keep the rising waters out.

Laska is taking on this problem too. The project also aims to develop approaches and technologies that will duplicate the effect of marshland and reduce the strength of surges. Solutions being considered include: inflatable and drop-in structures that last just long enough to prevent severe damage; fast-growing vegetation to rapidly imitate the effect of marshlands in lowering tides; and ways to reroute flood waters and flood-proof critical infrastructure.

Laska is part of a small group of experts focused on DHS's Science & Technology Directorate projects called Homeland Innovative Prototypical Solutions, or HIPS. These projects are designed to deliver prototype-level demonstrations of potential game-changing technologies in two to five years. They come with a moderate-to-high risk of failure, but they can also yield a high payoff if successful.

“All of these goals are enormously ambitious, but that’s the nature of the work,” he says. “Right now, the S&T Directorate is looking at just about any decent idea.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Department of Homeland Security. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Department of Homeland Security. "When The Levees Fail." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070831150753.htm>.
Department of Homeland Security. (2007, September 3). When The Levees Fail. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070831150753.htm
Department of Homeland Security. "When The Levees Fail." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070831150753.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins