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Canadians help to assess damage from Hurricane Katrina

Teams of forensic engineers are heading to the Gulf Coast in the U.S. to find out the extent of the damage from Hur...


Teams of forensic engineers are heading to the Gulf Coast in the U.S. to find out the extent of the damage from Hurricane Katrina. No doubt engineering studies will proliferate in the next few years on how to avoid such widescale devastation from Mother Nature.
The storm arrived as a Category 4 hurricane on August 29 around 7 a.m. with winds exceeding 175 mph and ocean surges as high as 30 feet. The storm cut a wide swath of more than 200 miles along the coast. The result was devastation and flooding in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Especially hard hit was New Orleans, 80 per cent of which was submerged.
One Canadian firm that is sending down experts to help in the engineering assessments is Rowan Williams Irwin Davies (RWDI) of Guelph, Ontario. The consulting engineers have been approached by the Hurricane Centre at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. RWDI’s engineers are already familiar with the area, having done several wind studies there in recent years.
Also, last week 50 staff from AMEC’s Canadian offices volunteered to go to the Gulf Coast as part of the company’s team effort. AMEC has established a command centre in its Nashville office and it is also setting up a field office in Baton Rouge. They have been using camping trailers for staff accommodation, as there are hardly any available hotels.
A reconnaissance team sent during the first week of September by the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) has already produced some results. The centre is based at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York.Their reports (see http://mceer.buffalo.edu). show widescale structural damage to casinos and highway bridges, often from boats and other large marine objects that were swept along and collided with the infrastructure. As part of the MCEER effort, experts from Cornell University are creating an Internet Map Server to help the field survey effort. The overall objective of MCEER is not just to report on the damage but also devise measures to prevent against future risks.
Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making progress in bringing immediate relief to the thousands left homeless in New Orleans and other communities. They have delivered over eight million litres of water and 18,000 tons of ice to staging areas in Mississippi alone. In New Orleans, the engineers have closed four critical breaches in the levee and canal system, and water is being pumped back into Lake Ponchartrain. More than 270,000 cubic yards of debris have already been removed.
With “Operation Blue Roof” the Corps is helping to install plastic sheeting for damaged roofs on 40,000 homes. Restoring power supply still seems to be a long way off. Working with other government agencies and private contractors, the Army Corps has more than $2.9 billion in mission projects in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
See www.hq.usace.army.mil