Reduced Consequences of System Failure NOT Improvements to the System

Nov 9, 2007 by

Syndicated via email from Matt McBride:
This past June, the Corps of Engineers released a bunch of maps from their never ending Risk & Reliability study:
Back then, no mention was made as to when the actual study behind the pretty pictures (which showed that the system on June 1, 2007 was hardly any better than on August 28, 2005) would be issued. That study is Chapter 8 of the Corps’ official investigation into Katrina, called the IPET study.
This past Tuesday, the Corps snuck Chapter 8 on to the IPET website ( There was no fanfare, press conferences, coordinated press strategy or anything. Perhaps that’s because of verbiage like this (from the executive summary):
“The effectiveness of the repairs and improvements made to the hurricane protection system
can best be measured by comparing the predicted inundation elevation-exceedance relationships for the Pre-Katrina HPS and Current HPS. The risk analysis results show that moderate inundation reductions have been achieved for more frequent events of less than 0.01 probability per year, but that predicted inundation elevations are mostly unchanged, and there is still significant risk of inundation for less frequent storms.”
and this (from Appendix 13, Consequences):
“While the HPS has been repaired and improved dramatically over the Pre- Katrina HPS, the risk associated with the Current HPS to the area is still considered to be high for extreme events if the pre-Katrina potential consequences are used in the analysis. The risks to life and property would be expected to be reduced if existing demographics and redevelopment values were used, however the reduction would be due entirely to the reduced consequences of system failure and not due to the improvements to the system. In any case, the human and economic risks to New Orleans would be considered high during exteme events.”
None of this is particularly news. However, what really got my gander up is another sentence from Appendix 13:
“The actual direct damages incurred due to the hurricane exceeded $28 Billion and the loss of life was more than 700.”
The loss of life was WAY more than 700, and it has a number. Accounts vary, but it seems to be closer to 1400 or 1500. The official dead and missing total from the state of Louisiana ( is 1464 dead in Louisiana, with an additional 135 missing.
Since I’m not a member of a federally-funded team of researchers with the resources of the entire government at my disposal, I can’t be certain of the exact number. However, the authors of this study have had over two years to get that sentence correct, and instead they choose the course that just happens to play into the interests of the Corps of Engineers.
Who else has an interest in minimizing the horrific toll taken by Katrina? The fact that behavior like this continues over two years after the storm is galling.


Related Posts

Share This