Internet Problems
Comments being rejected as spam

New Orleans Levee Break(s) Before and After

[Preface, September 12th, 2005: It is now nearly two weeks since this blog post was begun. In its initial draft it was quite short. As more information came in, it was revisied, corrected and expanded on the fly. Some of the information may be out of date. -KC  9/23: For info in the new breaches, see New Orleans Area in Trouble from Rita Storm Surge. -KC]

I'm probably violating all kinds of copyrights here, but since I haven't seen it elsewhere, here is that levee in New Orleans before and after the break (or at least a levee before & after). Note that the expanse of water in the after picture was formerly (or perhaps currently) occupied by houses.

The first picture comes via Matthew Harris's Flickr account, extracted from Google Earth. [SEE CORRECTED IMAGE w/ BREAK IN A DIFFERENT PLACE FURTHER DOWN THE PAGE.]


The second comes via a comment in Making Light and originates at the URL, beyond which I don't know its provenance.


I don't guarantee that these are actually the same spot, because of the vagaries of all this. There are some differences in the buildings, but I don't know when the Google Earth picture was taken.

UPDATE: At Making Light, David Bell comments

Looking at Kathryn's pictures, the red-roofed building is very prominent on the Google Earth imagery, by the north end of the canal. It's on the lake shore. In the background haze you can see the high-rise buildings of the city centre. And the trees and the buildings on the opposite side of the canal are good landmarks on Google Earth.

30d01m07s N 90d07m17s W

And that looks like a 200-foot breach, similar width to the canal.

So the marked breach on the one photo may not be the same as the other. Is there more than one? I'm on a Mac so I can't get at Google Earth.

(Additional aerial photo references appreciated.)

FURTHER UPDATE: in the comments a fellow named kevin has accomplished what I haven't. He has gotten me a corrected "before" shot. I have them from Google Maps and GlobeXplorer, but couldn't seem to either link to them, or get copies. (They're too clever for the likes of me.) I had my digital camera in my lap all ready to take pictures of my screen, when his link arrived.  Thanks, kevin!


The question that remains is what the Harris picture represents. Is it the breach that was reported earlier?

(Web collaboration is a beautiful thing.)

Matthew Harris clarifies his breach picture, saying, Note these images are not current they are from older aerial photos that have been superimposed with graphics, they are for illustration purposes only. There are two breaches:


He has a second, closer, "Before" picture:


Via email, Mark Bernstein points out that it is being reported that the I-10 Bridge has been destroyed. Here's a Before shot, taken with my digital camera pointing it at my LCD monitor. Anyone got an After pic?


And here's the Houston Chronicle write-up:

Portions of the Interstate 10 high-rise bridge over the mouth of Lake Pontchartrain, east of New Orleans and south of Slidell, have collapsed. Some sections of the I-10 twin span — a lifeline between the south and north shores of Lake Pontchartrain — are missing; others have shifted position but are still standing.

"We know that the I-10 twin span has blown over, is no longer with us," said Mark Smith, spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Here's an AP photo of the state of the bridge. The car is the same one as in the CNN video. Watching the CNN video a couple of times, it looks like something is flopped over the steering wheel, though you can't see into the car from this angle. (Follow the link for a crisper image.
This is from the Times Picayune, where I finally did get their slide-shows to work.



An Afterthought: we blog-folk are doing this by the seat of our pants and actually getting somewhere. But as Xeni Jardin asks, "media evacuates, there is no grid, damage map?" Why do you see this attempt here and not on the CNN of MSNBC site?

This isn't a disaster movie. It's real. People care about specific people in specific places. They want to understand precisely where the water is 20 ft. deep, where the water is coming in. Many, many people have very specific, individual relationships to this city. The specifics we are being given just don't cut it. If I can look this stuff up, why don't they?

St Bernard's Parish, via dipdewdog on Flickr, provenance unknown, though it looks like a news photo:


Here is what I gather is roughly the same area from Google maps (again, via my digital camera. Anyone know how to do screen shoots in Tiger? [8/31 UPDATE: I've been given much helpful advice. Thanks.]).


[9/2: A Google Earth image for comparison is available in the album, thanks to Scott Sherris.]

Returning to the subject of breached levees, here is another photo from Flickr, this one posted by darrelf, again of unknown provenance, though it looks like a news photo. His caption reads, New Orleans, LA -- notice the water coming over the levee at the bottom.


Peter Trei notes that this break in an MSNBC graphic is not one of the ones we've been talking about, but is instead at 30 01' 12.39" N 90 04' 14.72" W ( decimal: 30.020108° -90.070756°).


I'm trying to get a good Before Satellite photo to position it. UPDATE: Trei has helped me out and sent me a couple:


He remarks:

The front page shows a breach about 150 feet long. I've managed to identify the location in Google Earth, based on the shapes of the houses. . . . Google earth shows that this is on a different canal than the others - its on the west side of the London Avenue Outfall Canal, opposite Pratt Street, a few houses south of the bridge carrying Robert E Lee Blvd.

In a subsequent email, Trei point out this MSNBC picture, which I think is of the same break as the image I got from darrelf, about which he says:

This one appears to be a highly foreshortened view of the bridge the carries State Hwy 39 over the short canal connecting the river and the Main Outfall canal.

The breach appears to be at opposite Jourdan Ave, near N Roman Street, at about 29 58 12.48 N    90 01 24.64 W

The thing I don't understand is that the water in this photo seems to be flowing  INTO the canal.



Here is a hybrid sat photo street map, also courtesy of Peter Trei, showing the location:


The governor has announced a complete evacuation of New Orleans, for obvious reasons.

MEANWHILE, a post-apocalypse SF novel plays itself out. This is from the Times Picayune (via email from Mark Bernstein).

Law enforcement efforts to contain the emergency left by Katrina slipped into chaos in parts of New Orleans Tuesday with some police officers and firefighters joining looters in picking stores clean.

At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was  announced over the radio.

While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on  handtrucks.

Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat-screen television.

Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders. . . .

Inside the store, one woman was stocking up on make-up. She said she took comfort in watching police load up their own carts.

“It must be legal,” she said. “The police are here taking stuff, too.”


The caption on begins, President George W. Bush is handed a map by Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin.

Shawn in the comments is really onto something, figuring out a way to superimpose media images on Google maps:


Finally -- because I plan to go to bed shortly -- here is a photo from the Washington Post showing the flood waters rising around the stadium which, as far as I know, still has 10,000 people in it.


4:38 AM, 8/31: Shawn writes via email,

The google earth community is really flowing with people matching up arial photos to the levee breaks. There's one group of people setting up an auto updating google earth file. I placed all of the good ones I found at

You need Google Earth to be able to use the files he's posted there.

For more images, see my subsequent post. The superimposed images are toward the bottom.

NOTE 8/31 at 3:36 PM: the fist NASA comparison satellite photos are in.

9/1: CNN has an interesting animation/video of how the levees broke.

PS: If you are trying to make a comment and it gets rejected, email it to me at kathryn.cramer at


Navigation aids

For those new to blogs, here are shortcuts to information about our collaborative maps project:

First of all, my Katrina archive contains all blog posts related to Katrina. The archive page is updated each time I make a new Katrina post, so it would be the best place to bookmark.  On the other hand, it contains many images, so on a dial-up connection it would be slow to load. Also, separately, I have an online album of Katrina map images, Katrina Floods New Orleans, 2005.

As of now, my individual Katrina posts related to maps are:

  1. New Orleans Levee Break(s) Before and After
  2. not too far from filling in the bowl
  3. NASA's First Katrina Before and After Comparison
  4. Google Earth Helps Place the Flow from a New Orleans Neighborhood into the Canal in Context
  5. DigitalGlobe's New Orleans Before and After Images Are Up
  6. How to Find Out if Your New Orleans House Is Under Water
  7. How to Find Out if Your New Orleans House Is Under Water, Part 2: We Really Need to Integrate Topo Maps and Known Water Depths into the System
  8. Escape Routes for Hurricane Victims
  9. Welcome, Forbes and BBC Readers
  10. Associated Press & Digital Globe Make Zoomable New Orleans Satellite Map Available
    Meanwhile, New Orleans Burns
  11. New Orleans: Notes from My Parents
  12. Welcome, New York Times Readers

Also, my sister, Karen Cramer Shea, has been guest-blogging for me while I was away over the weekend. Her posts are:

  1. Lost in Katrina
  2. Rebuilding New Orleans