Thursday, August 30, 2012

Drenched New Orleans passes big post-Katrina test

Ellen Wulfhorst and Scott Malone in Reuters: Drenching rains from Hurricane Isaac brought flooding to the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, but elaborate defenses built to protect New Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago seemed to pass their first major test.

The slow moving weather system, downgraded to a tropical storm on Wednesday, dumped massive amounts of rain to test new levees and flood containment systems and officials were careful not to declare a premature victory. "This is a slow-moving storm and it is going to cause a tremendous amount of damage," said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, warning of another day of wind and rain ahead.

Water flooded over the top of a levy on the outskirts of New Orleans and threatened to flood oil refineries and towns in the state and neighboring Mississippi. It looked, though, as if most energy facilities had escaped damage.

In districts outside of New Orleans, rising floodwaters forced the evacuation of several thousand people from their homes, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported.

While not nearly as strong as Katrina - a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale when it slammed into New Orleans in 2005 - authorities have warned repeatedly against underestimating Isaac, which has brought prodigious amounts of rain.

Isaac slowed dramatically as it approached land and hugged the coast for hours before turning inland. This allowed it to take on more strength than many forecasters had expected, said Tim Doggett, the principal scientist at AIR Worldwide, a disaster modeling agency....

Hurricane Isaac on August 28, 2012, from NASA

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