New Orleans Hurricane Storm and Damage Reduction System
US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
New Orleans, USA
Flood and coastal risk management
Greater New Orleans is home to 1.2 million people. Located between the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi and a large inland lake, almost half of its territory lies below sea level. Every year hurricanes build up in the Gulf of Mexico and sweep inland, often causing devastation and flooding. The Mississippi river is also prone to flooding. The city’s flood defences are on a vast scale, comprising 350 miles of levees and barriers, but their weaknesses were exposed when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.
Katrina was a slow moving storm with massive amounts of rainfall and an unexpectedly severe storm surge in the Gulf of Mexico. Multiple breaches of the levees and floodwall defences resulted in the flooding of some 80 per cent of the city. The floodwaters penetrated up to six miles inland, caused over 1,000 deaths and destroyed or severely damaged over 200,000 homes and businesses. More than 800,000 people fled the area.
In 2006, Royal Haskoning was commissioned to advise the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on the redesign and rebuilding of the entire Hurricane Storm and Damage Risk Reduction System. Since then they have provided expertise in hydraulic modelling and design, flood forecasting, GIS-based mapping and risk management. Tasks have included establishing baseline data, analysing flood defence performance, and developing and applying innovative modelling and data management tools. An American company, Haskoning Inc., was set up with a New Orleans office staffed by experts from the Netherlands and the UK.