"In the Gulf, Katrina was a Category 5 storm, and the surge was still Category 5 when it hit the ground... It's the surge -- the pressure of water against those levee walls -- that's the most important factor, not the winds."
As previously discussed, there are questions over whether ACE's design of the levees and floodwalls was faulty or not.
And, the downgrading also affects LA's government:
"That storm was the biggest storm ever to enter the Gulf of Mexico," [Edmond J. Preau Jr., Louisiana's assistant secretary for public works] said in testimony before the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "I think it would be a real disservice to everyone if Katrina goes down in the history books as a '4' because the wind speed dropped at the last minute."
To some local experts, the report was further evidence that human error was primarily to blame for New Orleans's drowning.
"This is a further indictment of the levee system," Ivor Van Heerden, an LSU professor and leader of a team of Louisiana investigators probing the cause of the levee breaches. "It indicates that most of the flooding of downtown New Orleans was a consequence of man's folly."
Other engineering experts agree: Considering Katrina's weakened state at the time it reached New Orleans, the failure of the city's 17th Street and London Avenue canal floodwalls can be explained only as a failure of design or construction, said Robert Bea, a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
"The water level in the canals wasn't that high when the floodwalls breached," said Bea, a member of an investigating team funded by the National Science Foundation. "We had a premature failure of the defense system."
I'll let those with meteorological experience indicate whether this report is completely accurate or not:
Katrina hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane, not a Category 4 as first thought, and New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain likely were spared the storm's strongest winds, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday. New Orleans' storm levees were generally believed to be able to protect the city from the flooding of a fast-moving Category 3 storm. But Katrina was generally a slow-moving storm, said Jim Taylor, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers...
Katrina made landfall Aug. 29 with top sustained wind of about 125 mph, not the 140 mph that was calculated at the time, the hurricane center said in its final report on the hurricane.
New Orleans was on the storm's west side, which normally has weaker wind. Although an accurate reading of the highest wind in the New Orleans area was made difficult by the failure of measuring stations, a NASA facility in eastern New Orleans measured sustained wind of about 95 mph, the report said...
The MSNBC article "Katrina forecasters were remarkably accurate" (subtitled "Levee breaks, catastrophic damage predicted, contrary to Bush claims") has an overview of the weather-related timeline and warnings. Plus, it manages to sneak in some anti-Bush asides:
For all the criticism of the Bush administration's confused response to Hurricane Katrina, at least two federal agencies got it right: the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.
Here are some of their points:
- Aug. 28: while in Crawford, Bush watched a Max Mayfield presentation
- Aug. 29: National Hurricane Center issued warning with "SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED". (MSNBC points out that was in capitals, but I guess they all are)
- Sep. 1: Bush says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"
Mayfield and Paul Trotter, the meteorologist in charge of the Slidell office, both refused to criticize the federal response.
But Mayfield said: "The fact that we had a major hurricane forecast over or near New Orleans is reason for great concern. The local and state emergency management knew that as well as FEMA did."
Mayfield also did something he rarely does before a hurricane hits: He personally called the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin two days ahead of time to warn them about the monstrous hurricane. Nagin has said he ordered an evacuation because Mayfield's call "scared the hell" out of him.
Also, for you Rick Santorum fans:
AccuWeather Inc. senior meteorologist Michael Steinberg said emergency managers and the public could have been given an earlier warning of Katrina's threat to New Orleans. He said the private company had issued forecasts nearly 12 hours earlier than the hurricane center warning that Katrina was aiming at the area.