Wind and Rain the Beginning of Problems

08.29.2005 | Culture and Society, Energy and Environment, EngineeringAfter Hurricane Katrina's wind and rain leave New Orleans, residents could face crumbling building foundations and unsanitary living conditions, according to a University of Dayton civil engineering lecturer specializing in water and environmental resources.

"From an engineering standpoint, this may be worse than Hurricane Andrew because of the amount of standing water," said Don Chase, a former U.S. Army Engineer for the Waterways Experiment Station. "In a situation like this, there is more to worry about than just the wind and the rain."

Most concrete foundations will be fine, but brick and mortar foundations that didn't crumble in the wind could do so under the weight of the water left behind by Hurricane Katrina.

Underground storage systems used to store gas and chemicals should be at the top of the list of concerns, according to Chase. Any water seeping into the containers can render the contents useless.

If New Orleans' water pumps are submerged, the diesel fuel used to run them could be contaminated as well.

"Then, they may have to bring in portable pumps," Chase said. "And that would be like draining a pool with a spoon."

Chase also warns of cesspool conditions because of sewage backups.

"Even if water is waist-deep, I wouldn't advise walking in it," said Chase, a co-author of two articles on water transmission and distribution systems.

Chase doesn't believe there will be a second round of flooding for New Orleans as Katrina moves north and soaks Mississippi River tributaries.

"Any rain from Sunday and Monday should be in the Gulf of Mexico before the runoff from the Ohio Valley arrives," Chase said.

He also doubts there will be a first round of significant flooding for the Ohio Valley.

"We need the rain in the worst way," Chase said. "If we receive two to three inches of rain in 36 to 48 hours, there may be some localized flooding but I doubt there will be anything widespread."

For interviews, Don Chase at (937) 439-4573 after 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29. Chase is available in his office Tuesday, Aug. 30, at (937) 229-2980.