Big Easy Not Ready for '100-Year Storm'

Official says city is up to pre-Katrina levels, but unprepared for bigger disaster
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2008 3:44 PM CDT
A FEMA trailer sits beside a house that is still vacant from Hurricane Katrina in the Gentilly section of New Orleans as Hurricane Gustav approaches the city, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008.    (AP Photo/David Quinn)
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(Newser) – With Hurricane Gustav set to thrash the Big Easy almost exactly 3 years after Katrina, Newsweek sits down with New Orleans Levee District executive director Stevan Spencer to find out what will change this time around. “We are better than before Katrina —we've raised the levees and strengthened or replaced the floodwalls,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean New Orleans is ready for anything that might hit it. The city still isn’t equipped to deal with what are called “100-year-storms” —the sort of brutal hurricanes that only come around once per century. And Katrina, Spencer says, was a “300-year-plus” storm. “Everything has been repaired and rebuilt to pre-Katrina levels,” he says. “It's not at 100-year flood event levels.” (Read more Hurricane Gustav stories.)