Hurricane Gustav has finally made landfall on the Louisiana coast this morning and it appears that the brunt of the storm will be passing to the south and west of New Orleans. It appears that the city will be spared destruction on the scale of Hurricane Katrina three years ago but the people of the Gulf Coast are not out of the woods just yet.
From the New York Times:
Credit: Bill Haber/Associated Press
Hurricane Gustav made landfall along the Louisiana coast late Monday morning, and with the center of the storm striking 70 miles southwest of New Orleans.
While and the storm lashed the Gulf Coast with strong winds and rain, it was downgraded from category 3 to category 2, on a scale of 1 to 5, because its winds had slowed to 110 miles an hour from 115 m.p.h., according to the National Weather Service. Officials at the Army Corps of Engineers said that New Orleans’ levee system was being severely tested, but they did not think that the hurricane would cause water to flow over its walls. If the levees were not overtopped, that would be good news for the city, since “overtopping” can cause levees to fail.The center of the storm struck land at Cocodrie, La., about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin at 11 a.m., ET. As the hurricane moves inland, the broad path of the storm plotted by the National Hurricane Center showed it likely to pass through the towns of New Iberia, Baton Rouge, Houma, Morgan City and Thibodaux.
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The atmosphere in the emergency operations center in New Orleans was tense. Workers on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal — considered a particularly weak link in the city’s levee protection system — said that the water level in the canal was a little more than 10 feet above normal, or about three feet from the top of the floodwalls. There was some reported spillover at the west floodwall, though officials said the water level there was no longer rising.
A weakened Hurricane Gustav slammed into the heart of Louisiana’s fishing and oil industry Monday, avoiding a direct hit on flood-prone New Orleans and boosting hope that the city would avoid catastrophic flooding.
Wind-driven water was sloshing over the top of the Industrial Canal’s floodwall, but city officials and the Army Corps of Engineers said they expected the levees, still only partially rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, would hold. The canal broke during hurricanes Betsy and Katrina, flooding St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward.
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The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Gustav hit around 10:30 a.m. EDT Monday near the Cocodrie, a low-lying community in Louisiana’s Cajun country about 72 miles southwest of New Orleans. Forecasters once feared a storm that chased nearly 2 million from the coast would arrive as a devastating Category 4 with much more powerful winds.
While New Orleans avoided a direct hit, the storm could be devastating where it did strike. For most of the past half century, the bayou communities that thrived in the Barataria basin have watched their land literally disappear. A combination of factors — oil drilling, hurricanes, river levees, damming of rivers — have destroyed marshes and swamps that once flourished in this river delta.
There were reports of water going over the Industrial Canal levee near a railroad bridge, said Chris Macaluso, a spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration. The Port of New Orleans will raise the bridge to ease pressure on the system, he said.
The Industrial Canal levee failed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, devastating the Lower Ninth Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said two Navy boats that were being scrapped at a facility on the canal broke away from their moorings and were driven against the pilings of a nearby bridge.
A tow boat was being dispatched to retrieve the vessels, the agency said. Brandon Touchard, emergency coordinator of St. Charles Parish, said that five barges had also come loose there.
Gustav made landfall Monday morning near the coastal town of Cocodrie, Louisiana, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans.