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Levee lessons in New Orleans

Former head of Army Corps of Engineers discusses what has been learned
/ Source: msnbc.com

As bad as Hurricane Katrina has been in New Orleans, the worst may not be over yet. Levees in the east and western part of that city have now been breached, sending water into that city's neighborhoods and downtown area.

Army engineers are working on the problem but so far have been unable to figure out how to stop the flooding.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers, spoke with MSNBC's Randy Meier on Tuesday about how the city may be coping with the flooding problem and what can be done to prevent such disasters in the future.

"It sounds like the (levees) near Wards eight and nine in the inner city were breached," Flowers said. "That's what's causing the major flooding. The problem now is going to be repairing those levees and then pumping the water back out so that the businesses and homes can be reoccupied."

Flowers said that the simultaneous pumping and repairing can be done.

"The City of New Orleans is a wonderful place that does a lot of hard work in preparing for disasters of this nature. This is a tough one though. They're in for a long, hard pull in recovering from Katrina," he said.

As for preparing for the next major hurricane, Flowers said it will take more than just levee repair to make New Orleans better prepared.

"One of the things that always concerned me when I was chief of engineers was the loss of the wetlands along Louisiana's coast, which was a natural storm protection. With that loss of wetlands ... we had to build hurricane protection," he said. "I think a longer term solution that replenishes Louisiana's wetlands will better serve us."

Overall though, Flowers said the city should be proud of their preparation.

"I think the plan worked as well as can be expected. And like any disaster, there will be an after-action review done to improve things if they ever have to respond like this to another event again," he said.

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