Saturday, July 15, 2006

Old Hammond Highway Bridge

What's the Old Hammond Highway Bridge? It's the bridge that crosses the 17th Street Canal at Lake Ponchatrain in New Orleans. It's also near the site of one of levee breaches that flooded the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Why the Old Hammond Highway Bridge? That's a bit of a story. First, I was born and raised in Greater New Orleans. My favorite West End seafood restaurant, Brunings, was near the Old Hammond Highway Bridge. My parents favorite after church breakfast place, Russell's Marina, is near the Old Hammond Highway Bridge. One of my cousin's had a house in Lakeview, not far from the Old Hammond Highway Bridge. I have driven across that bridge so many times I can't count.

And as I grew up and learned more about the history and geology of New Orleans, as I grew professionally and learned how natural hazards impact people and the structures they rely on, every time I drove across the Old Hammond Highway Bridge I looked at how the water in the 17th Street Canal was above the level of the ground on both sides. And I said to myself that if those levees and floodwalls ever failed there'd be hell to pay.

And then I woke up on the day after Hurricane Katrina passed New Orleans, thinking my hometown had dogged another bullet, and found one of my worst nightmares coming true on national TV.

Enough said on my first post. There's alot more to come.