Reporter's Notebook: New Orleans has closed all of her windows and locked her doors to weather Hurricane Isaac.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the last of three gates in the $1.1 billion Inner Harbor Navigation Canal-Lake Borgne Surge Barrier barge gate at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, one day shy of the seventh anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana's shores.
The Corps closed the two vertical lift gates and sector gate in the $165 million Seabrook Floodgate Complex three-and-a-half hours later.
Earlier Tuesday and all the previous day the Corps was busy closing up other structures and sealing off construction area openings in the 123-mile system. In March, Col. Ed Fleming, the Corps’ New Orleans District commander, had said that only about 3,000 ft. of the 123-mile system were not fully closed, but that contractors had sheet pile, Hesco baskets and other things in place for storm emergencies.
It feels like — in medieval terms — the drawbridge over the moat has been raised and the gates are barricaded. It’s time to hunker down and wait. And wait.
I have worked most of today, but felt tired and discontent. A friend called it storm malaise or ennui. Perhaps it’s coming down from the preparation/decision-making/adrenaline rush of the past two days. After Katrina, I immersed myself in work, providing extensive coverage of everything from emergency repair of critical infrastructure to debris removal, design standards, labor issues, and all that came from the disaster. The same friend also told me, “You don’t need someone to rescue you this time. You’re prepared.”
Now, here I sit, waiting, and feeling irrelevant. I want to sit in the rocker on the porch, read a trash novel and drink a glass of wine. It’s like a lazy, summer Sunday. But it’s Tuesday and a major storm is heading this way.
There have been hot, heavy winds most of the day, but only bands of light rain. It's amazing how quiet and uneventful it seems here, knowing the surge is silently creeping in.
So the Corps “broke their backs” getting it all in place like they promised. Now, we’re in for a premier test drive of the Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System.
Today is the first time that the structures at both ends of the IHNC [Inner Harbor Navigation Canal] have been closed for a storm event. Having this brand new, $14.6 billion system feels like having fancy, new storm shutters on a post-Katrina, storm hardened and elevated house. You’re all tucked in with all the new protections and ready to bust out the snacks and the Scrabble board.
The fancy new gizmos may indeed block the surge. I trust they will. But Isaac is said to have a wind pattern that is conducive to tornados. For Katrina, I didn’t have a single, broken window, but I had a house full of water. What if a tornado drops down and plucks off my roof? I’m not going to be able to blame the Corps and have them come in and fix it.
I think I’ll take the boy for another walk in the rain and then have that glass of wine.
Carpe diem.Having a healthy test will do wonders for increasing the confidence of residents, and business as well. And it will help the American people to see what they got for their money, and what the industry is capable of doing on a tight schedule with proper funding.