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Advice needed by reporter on failure dynamics

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I saw this on James Cohen's Wind Hazard list; a reporter in New Orleans is seeking information on fluid related damages. He tried to post on the SEAINT list but I don't recall seeing the message. I am posting it for him below. Possibly one or more of you can help him;
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I am a reporter for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. I am researching the engineering issues raised by the structural failures in several canal floodwalls in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina (and the ongoing problems with Hurricane Rita) and am seeking expertise/input from structural engineers and other scientists with expertise in the area of materials science.

Trying to develop a deeper understanding of the forces that would have been acting on floodwalls with high water in the canals, various failure dynamics, etc.

Any help/references appreciated.

Regards,

John McQuaid

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans

Washington bureau

1101 Connecticut Avenue NW s. 300

Washington, DC 20036

202-383-7889

john.mcquaid(--nospam--at)newhouse.com

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In my opinion, we all know the problems associated with budgets, developers and profit margins. This may or may not be relevant to this reporters investigation of failures, but some of us in high risk areas also are compelled to stay in business by satisfying the minimum standards of the code that may result in poorer performance and higher cost to the public after a natural disaster. I have a personal bias in this area as I will not be led into a design that performs poorly if the inhabitant of the structure is unaware of the potential financial liability that they will face; from those things that are hidden in the walls and foundations and unseen by those who trust that all buildings will protect them. Protect them from what? Do we only protect their lives or is the cost of repair or replacement such that we need to be concerned with the protection of financial responsibility when we have a means to do what we can in as responsible and ethical means to reduce this cost. Only, to do so requires that we reduce the profit margin or raise the price of an already inflated supply that is in high demand.

Sorry to be so cynical about this, but I think what happens due to wind damage gives our profession a black mark and what the public does not realize is that the law protects the developer by setting the minimum compliance to code in areas of high risk that are simply unreasonable.

Please contact Mr. McQuaid if you can help him and forgive my outburst.

Sincerely,
Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
Structural Engineering Consultant



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