Wednesday, September 07, 2005

De-Watering New Orleans

According to the Army Corp of Engineers website, the de-watering of New Orleans is progressing. While they state that 60% of the city is still under water, the truly amazing aspect of this is just how much water they are moving through the pumps they have going. As of this morning, they have three pumps at 17th St. Canal at around 2250 cubic feed per second (CFS). Pump station 19 at the Industrial Canal, is currently pumping 1,300 CFS. Pump station 8, located in St. Bernard Parish is running at full capacity at 837 CFS. An additional 1000 CFS will be brought online when an additional generator is brought in sometime today.

Let’s put this in perspective. They have 4387 CFS running now. That equates to approximately 32,700 Gallons/Second. That’s right, 32,700 GALLONS PER SECOND. This is roughly 0.1 Acre-Foot (An Acre-Foot is an Acre, ~43000 sq. ft. covered by 1 ft of water).

So, at that rate:

  • The pool in my back yard (~20k gallons) would be full in about 0.6 seconds. About the blink of an eye. Pool empty -- blink – pool full. Wow! It took several days with several hoses to fill when that pool when it was built.
  • Using the acre-foot measurement, a one-acre plot of land would be filled with a foot of water in roughly 10 seconds.

Amazing what engineering might this country can bring to the table.

One note of concern is that all this water is going right back into Lake Pontchartrain. Environmental Secretary Mike McDaniel said the water will be pumped into Lake Pontchartrain even though it is fouled with corpses, sewage, heavy metals, gasoline, oil, tree branches, debris from houses and many other dangerous substances. The concern is that the water may permanently taint the lake. I personally have my doubts on that given all the connections to other bodies of water which in time could flush that out to sea.

One last thought.... It interesting to note that this is certainly not the first time New Orleans has been underwater. Most of the levees in the area were constructed after 1965 when Hurricane Betsy left much of the city under the lake's waters for weeks.

This too shall pass.


Katrina: A Failure in Leadership

The handling of Hurricane Katrina, before and after the event, is an embarrassment to this country. While the efforts seem like they may be moving now, the initial tragic and substandard results from our leaders stem primarily from a failure in their leadership at the Federal level all the way down to the local level. We see politicos, the mainstream media and bloggers flinging blame at local, state and the feds largely along party lines. I say they are all accountable for their part. Yet, I am still waiting to hear one “leader” take accountability for failures in action (or inaction).

Instead of “The Buck Stops Here”, we have leaders passing the buck, tap-dancing their way around the situation and in some cases what appears to be outright deception. Truman had that famous sign on his desk specifically because he believed, as good leaders do, that they are accountable to make decisions. Beyond that, it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure decisions are executed by their people. Instead what we got was the typical litany of task forces, press conferences and meetings with poor execution of the actual work. Planning and discussions were happening early enough at various levels even though everything that should have been done was not necessarily getting done. City and State governments, FEMA and other agencies have plans and conduct drills for just these sorts of circumstances. To hear a leader say they did not think these things would happen is a sham and a clear sign of incompetence. The evidence is quite the contrary (just like 9/11). No, the results of these tragedies are due to poor leadership and execution.

Clear evidence of this can be highlighted by excuses like, “we were waiting for the state governments” or "we are waiting for the feds". A good leader is proactive not reactive. A good leader looks beyond what is front of their nose and bureaucracy and makes the right things happen at the right time consistently. A good leader marshals the resources they need (not just their own) and rallies people to perform at great levels in worst of conditions. We have also heard the President, on more than one occasion say, “Its hard work” (albeit, not in this case). Well, yes it is. That is why we expect the best people to be in the job and that they are held accountable to do their job. The stakes are too high to fail in protecting the public. If it were easy, anybody could do it. Leaders at these levels are accountable for results, not simply to work hard.

So to the leaders from the President all the way down to the local folks (AWOL cops too) I say: You are leaders sworn to protect and serve, do your job.