New Orleans A $3 million experiment by the Army Corps of Engineers this week will simulate the conditions that caused some of the levee failures that led to Hurricane Katrina's disastrous flooding.
In the test, the Corps will gradually pump water into a section of the London Avenue Canal, one of the canals whose flood walls toppled during the storm two years ago, leading to most of the flooding that ravaged the main part of the city.
Engineers will monitor the amount of seepage beneath the flood wall and how much the structure tilts - measures that will tell them how much rising water the wall can withstand. The Corps promises to carefully monitor the experiment to ensure that the test does not itself cause a new breach.
"Some computations show the wall is going to fail at certain water levels; some show it won't," said Ray Martin, a geotechnical engineer consulting with the Corps on the project. "This experiment will let us know."