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NOLA: Lower 9th Ward levee breached, possibly others

Water is pouring into the poorest section of NOLA again, with 3-8 foot surges expected from Rita yet to come. Only about 1/4″ of rain has fallen; this is from the weakened levees, as the brunt of the hurricane hasn’t hit.

Live pictures show a rushing torrent running over from the Mississippi River-fed canal into the Ward, it’s bad.

Hurricane Rita’s steady rains sent water pouring through breaches in a patched levee Friday, cascading into one of the city’s lowest-lying neighborhoods in a devastating repeat of New Orleans’ flooding nightmare.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

“Our worst fears came true,” said Maj. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard. “We have three significant breaches in the levee and the water is rising rapidly,” he said. “At daybreak I found substantial breaks and they’ve grown larger.”

Dozens of blocks in the Ninth Ward were under water as a waterfall at least 30 feet wide poured over and through a dike that had been used to patch breaks in the Industrial Canal levee. On the street that runs parallel to the canal, the water ran waist-deep and was rising fast. Guidry said water was rising about three inches a minute.

The impoverished neighborhood was one of the areas of the city hit hardest by Katrina’s floodwaters and finally had been pumped dry before Hurricane Rita struck. Throughout Friday morning, water began rising again onto buckled homes, piles of rubble and mud-caked cars that Katrina had covered with up to 20 feet of water.

…Mitch Frazier, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said contractors were being brought in Friday morning to repair the new damage. The corps had earlier installed 60-foot sections of metal across some of the city’s canals to protect against flooding and storm surges.

Clearly, that didn’t do any good; in shoring up part of the canals it’s likely that more pressure was shifted to weaker parts of the dike system. They can’t possibly work fast enough to avert even more of a disaster.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding