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Levee Failures Investigated
“There is not one simple answer as to why the levees failed,” Zimmie said in a prepared statement. “Field observations indicated various causes: overtopping of the levees, erosion, failure in foundation soils underlying the levees, seepage through the soils under the levees causing piping failures, and this is not a complete list.”
Zimmie spent a week in New Orleans as part of an expert team investigating levee failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The team, which was funded by a special exploratory grant from the National Science Foundation, released their preliminary report Nov. 2 in a presentation to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Others at the Environment and Public Works hearing echoed Zimmie’s comments, noting that until all the physical evidence has been collected and analyzed, engineers will not have a complete picture of what happened.
“Hopefully the results of our study will lead to a clear appreciation of what happened in Katrina, and that the lessons learned from this event will lead to improved protection in the future, not just in the New Orleans area, but throughout the nation and around the world,” Zimmie told the committee. “The emphasis today is New Orleans, but we really have thousands of miles of levees in the United States.”
Zimmie was joined at the hearing by several other panelists: Dan Hitchings, director of Task Force HOPE for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Sherwood Gagliano, president of Coastal Environments Inc.; Larry Roth, deputy executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Joseph Suhayda, emeritus professor of engineering at Louisiana State University; and Robert Verchick, a professor at Loyola University Law School in New Orleans.
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