Expert Report

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Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans and surrounding areas in August 2005, ranks as one of the nation's most devastating natural disasters. Shortly after the storm, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a task force to assess the performance of the levees, floodwalls, and other structures comprising the area's hurricane protection system during Hurricane Katrina. At the request of the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Research Council convened a committee to examine a series of reports and drafts released by the task force. This report provides an independent review of the task force's final draft report and identifies key lessons from the Katrina experience and their implications for future hurricane preparedness and planning in the region. The report concludes that comprehensive flood planning and risk management should be based on a combination of measures, including voluntary relocation options, floodproofing and elevation of structures, and evacuation studies and plans.

Key Messages

  • Future Footprint of the Hurricane Protection System. Future construction of protective structures for the region should proceed with this point firmly in mind and in the context of a more comprehensive and resilient hurricane protection plan.
  • Hydrologic Realities and the Limits of Protective Structures. The risks of inundation and flooding never can be fully eliminated by protective structures no matter how large or sturdy those structures may be.