Adam Kushner’s thoughts on his home town:

The levee and flood-control system itself represents the city’s losing battle with nature. It has been built in fits and starts since 1724, and it was still not done when Katrina struck. The cost has been immeasurable, and the failures innumerable. Moreover, the section that protects against hurricane surges–begun only 40 years ago–has sunk below the height designed to bulwark against a Category Three hurricane (Katrina was nearly a Five). For decades, models have shown that, if a Category Five were ever to crawl up the mouth of the Mississippi–a scenario known to New Orleanians as “the Big One”–it could lift 25 feet of water into the saucer and leave New Orleans submerged for months. This week’s cruelest irony is that New Orleans survived something like the Big One only to succumb to shoddy engineering: The city was soused the day after the storm, when levee collapses dumped 20 feet of water into the city. It met its demise by an act of man, not an act of God.

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