Hurricane Barry is getting more powerful as it heads for New Orleans, and is most likely to end up being a Classification 1 typhoon by the time it makes landfall in Louisiana tomorrow early morning, according to the National Cyclone Center.

A typhoon caution is in result for a swath of the Louisiana coast, and projections recommend the Mississippi River might crest as high as 19 or 20 feet– the greatest level the river has actually reached in New Orleans given that 1950 (The river has actually currently swelled to 16 feet.)

That might produce the most significant test ever of the city’s river levees, which were integrated in1927


Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards has actually stated a state of emergency situation and cautioned that there might be “a substantial quantity of overtopping” of levees in Plaquemines Parish, a rural district southeast of New Orleans.

Here’s whatever you require to learn about what levees are, how they work, and what the system appears like in New Orleans.

Levee systems depend on embankments, flood-walls, and pumps

Many levees are trapezoid-shaped, raised embankments that different bodies of water from occupied flood plains. They’re suggested to secure those locations in case a lake or river level increases.

Roadways and trains often cross a levee, so flood-walls– which are normally made from concrete or steel– and other structures are utilized to close those spaces. Flood-walls are likewise typically developed to supplement levee systems in high-density metropolitan locations where there isn’t adequate area for a big levee.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers categorizes levees by the environment they secure (metropolitan or rural) and the body of water they secure it from (river, seaside, or estuary).

A view from the top of the levee that secures the Ninth Ward from the Industrial Canal is envisioned as Hurricane Barry approaches land in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Various kinds of river levees can run parallel the primary river channel, surround a secured location, or offer backup or security to an existing levee.

New Orleans has 2 levee systems along the Mississippi River

2 levee systems keep back the Mississippi in New Orleans: the East Bank System and the West Bank System. Together, these systems boast 192 miles of levees and 99 miles of flood-walls.

However it’s uncertain simply just how much water the river levees can stand up to. The authorities levee database run by USACE reveals levee heights as low as 18 feet above water level in some parts of the city. That puts it listed below projection for peak river heights due to Hurricane Barry.

Nevertheless, the Army Corps has contested the info in its own database. Ricky Boyett, a Corps representative, informed The Times-Picayune and New Orleans Supporter that the group’s design still “does disappoint overtopping of the levees in the 9th Ward.”

The Corps even has an internal analysis of the river levees in New Orleans that ranks both the East Bank and West Bank System as at moderate to high threat of a breach.

Levees can stop working, and this will be the most significant test yet

If the river water increases greater than the levee it will overflow, however a levee breach is not simply a concern of height. Levees can likewise fall apart under pressure due to bad upkeep, insufficient structures, or disintegration.

Excessive water can leak through a levee and trigger it to slough away, or just leak through the ground listed below and spout up on the opposite in what are referred to as “sand boils.” Animals likewise burrow listed below levees often, developing unintended courses for suppressed water.

Naturally, a levee that breaks is even more harmful than a levee that’s too brief. In 2005, Cyclone Katrina triggered a New Orleans seaside levee to break, launching a wall of water. The flooding eliminated over 1,000 individuals. Ever since, Congress has actually invested $15 billion in fixing the levee system around New Orleans.

The river levees at threat of a breach due to Hurricane Barry, nevertheless, held throughout Katrina.