Denis McMahon writes in to say "Hi, I have some maps and photos of the levee breach locations, they might be interesting." And indeed his site is interesting and has the advantage of being created after the fact, so that there is a more orderly progressing of information than in the group stream-of-consciousness document on my site that was created as information was emerging.
The most notable thing on his site is the Army Corps of Engineers repair map which I had not previously seem. He remarks:
The Army Corps of Engineers Map shows multiple levee breaches, and suggests that some were made deliberately to allow water to drain back into the canal system or to the surrounding marshes from inside flooded areas.
I should say that by this point in Katrina-blogging, the words "deliberate" and "levee breach" used in association, are a hot button of mine. I have been emailed a number of variations on the idea that it was in someone's best interests to flood New Orleans and that they did it on purpose. So when I saw the word deliberately I thought oh, no.
But in fact there is something a bit odd about the text on the map. The flow of water at 17th Street has been staunched. So it doesn't get its own note. But the labels say, Orleans East Bank . . .3 Breaches; Orleans East (Citrus) . . . 1 Breach; St. Bernard Sump . . . 6 Breaches; St. Bernard 4 Breaches. So either the levee system failed in a more complex way than anyone has yet documented, or Denis's interpretation is correct, that some breaches have been created to let water out of the flooded city.
I am astonished at the depths of the political naivete of the Army Corps of Engineers showed by posting that map without an accompanying explanation regarding the nature of the breaches. When my husband was in a store in Chappaqua, New York, yesterday, there was an angry man yelling about someone intentionally running a boat into a levee being the cause of "the" breach. Amid rumors that someone did some of this on purpose, they need to be much more detailed and careful in their explanations.
In fact, they need to publish a timeline showing when the narural breaches occurred and under what circumstances, along with information on these deliberate breaches.
I've been getting a number of queries about a breach timeline. I don't have one myself. I was writing to Josh Marshall about making sure he added that info to his timeline when someone emailed me for mine. Here are the levee break entries from Marshall's timeline:
Monday, August 29:
Shortly before 8:00 AM CDT: Storm surge sends water over the Industrial Canal. Soon afterwards, Army Corps of Engineers officials believe "a barge broke loose and crashed through the floodwall, opening a breach that accelerated flooding into the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish." 8:14 AM CDT: The National Weather Service New Orleans office issues a flash flood warning stating there had been a breach in the Industrial Canal levee with 3 to 8 feet of water expected in the 9th Ward and Arabi. Late morning: 17th Street Canal levee is breached. Other reports place the breach much earlier. According to Knight-Ridder, a National Guard timeline places the breach at 3 AM, three hours before the storm made landfall. 2:00 PM CDT: City officials publicly confirm breach of 17 Street Canal levee.
Tuesday, August 30:
Late morning: 17th Street Canal levee is breached. Other reports place the breach much earlier. According to Knight-Ridder, a National Guard timeline places the breach at 3 AM, three hours before the storm made landfall. 2:00 PM CDT: City officials publicly confirm breach of 17 Street Canal levee.
And from another timeline, Think Progress, there are a couple of items on the 28th:
AFTERNOON — BUSH, BROWN, CHERTOFF WARNED OF LEVEE FAILURE BY NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER DIRECTOR: Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center: “‘We were briefing them way before landfall. … It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped.’” [Times-Picayune; St. Petersburg Times]
LATE PM – REPORTS OF WATER TOPPLING OVER LEVEE: “Waves crashed atop the exercise path on the Lake Pontchartrain levee in Kenner early Monday as Katrina churned closer.” [Times-Picayune]
And of course everyone already knows about this item from the 30th:
MIDDAY – CHERTOFF FINALLY BECOMES AWARE THAT LEVEE HAS FAILED: “It was on Tuesday that the levee–may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday–that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city.” [Meet the Press, 9/4/05]
You knew that already, but I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that the timestamp on my first blog entry about the levee breaches is Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 11:30 AM. It's like a story out of the Onion: A Westchester housewife is on task before the director of Homeland Security even knows that there's a problem. Surreal.
UPDATE: Rafe, via email, sends links to the technical discussion: