Why Hurricane Gustav Didn't Become a Monster

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Levee Test

Still, Hurricane Gustav provided a severe test of the repaired levee system in New Orleans.

The storm surges caused water to slosh over the Industrial Canal levee in downtown New Orleans—a levee that failed during disastrous Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but did not break under Gustav.

"That told us that the levee system is improved," Masters said.

But Gustav's power did not fully test the level of protection the levees were designed to provide.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been repairing the levees since Katrina, has said the structures will withstand the storm surge from a Category 3 hurricane.

"They weren't tested to the full level that the Corps has advertised that they've done," Masters said. "We don't know if they will withstand a Category 2 or 3."

(Related: "New Orleans' Rebuilt Levees 'Riddled With Flaws'" [May 6, 2007].)

100 Percent Better

The storm system hugged the Louisiana coast after it made landfall in Cocodrie, a small town on the Gulf Coast about 70 miles (113 kilomters) southwest of New Orleans.

Felix Navejar, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said southwestern Louisiana fared much better from Gustav than it did three years ago during Hurricane Rita.

Rita was a Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall near the Louisiana-Texas border in September 2005.

"We're 100 percent better than Rita," Navejar said this morning. "It looks really good here—maybe one power outage, but nothing major."

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