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Letting Mississippi run its natural course could save New Orleans from hurricanes

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New Orleans: a city under a river

The Mississippi River is impressive. In New Orleans, it is straitjacketed between 20-foot high levees, and the river itself is over 150 feet deep. When President Bush finally went down to New Orleans to address the situation after hurricane Katrina, he stood on Jackson Square, facing the river that flowed by, 20 feet over his head.

You could see the superstructure of supertankers and hear the quiet thrumming of their engines as they cruised by in front of him. If the ships could have cruised over the nearby superdome they would have hovered in the air 10 feet above centerfield. It would have been an impressive photo-op, indeed, if the levees had decided to break during the presidential address.

New Orleansians consider the breaking of the river levees to be the ultimate disaster that could befall their city. The full force of the Mississippi would fill up the underwater bowl in which New Orleans lies with far more force and water than filled the city when Lake Pontchetrain burst it’s levees after Katrina. The last time that almost happened was during the great flood of 1927. As rain fell and flooding developed at an alarming rate, New Orleans businessmen convinced the federal government to dynamite the levees in nearby Plaquemines Parish to avoid further drowning the city

As it turned out, breaking the levees submerged and destroyed all of Plaquemines Parish, leaving over 6,000 people homeless, though each was given the unseemly paltry sum of $169 each for his losses.

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