Residents urged to take hurricane season seriously despite flood protection upgrades
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In Lakeview, Patrick Delaney focused on mowing his lawn Monday afternoon not far from the 17th Street Canal. Although the calendar read June 1, he wasn't fretting over the date.
"Everyone's saying we're going to have a less active season this year, so I'm hoping for the best," Delaney said.
Along the New Orleans riverfront with ships passing in the background, representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, along with elected officials from across metro New Orleans, gathered under very sunny skies. They focused on the area's ongoing vulnerability now that the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season has officially begun.
To be sure, many valuable lessons have been learned since Hurricane Katrina roared ashore nearly 10 years ago and the federal levees failed to stand up to the storm surge.
Since those dark days when flood water covered a majority of New Orleans, billions have been spent by the Corps to reinforce levees and improve floodwalls and pump systems in the area.
"Today the system is in great shape," said Col. Richard Hansen, Commander, New Orleans District of the Corps of Engineers.
Even with the giant equipment put in place at local outfall canals since Katrina, work continues on their permanent replacements to increase protection even more.
"The permanent canal closures and pumps at the 17th are approximately 60 percent complete construction," Hansen said.
"We're preparing for the worst, we're hoping for the best," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said to reporters after the press conference at the Port of New Orleans.
And while all of the equipment installed after Hurricane Katrina grabs the eye, even the Corps of Engineers says when it comes to hurricanes, there are no 100 percent guarantees.
"The hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system was designed to defend against a storm surge associated with a 100-year storm, or a storm that has one percent chance of occurring in any given year. There is always the potential for a larger storm that could over-top that system in greater amounts than what it was designed for," Hansen said.
"We can't guarantee anything, and when storms come in, they're very, very unpredictable," the mayor said.
So no one should let their guard down, according to the myriad officials who addressed the news media. And unlike during Katrina, there will be no shelter of last resort. During Katrina, thousands packed the Superdome.
"You gotta make plans now and don't wait for somebody else to fix this problem for you," the mayor said.
As for Delaney, he said given how much he lost during Katrina, he would not require much time to pack up and evacuate.
"Lost most of my pictures for Katrina, so we would leave probably late and go to Hammond where my uncle has a house, and stay there," Delaney said.
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