Tech and Science

18 years after the Katrina dam collapse, the group wants future engineers to learn from past mistakes

Future engineers need a better understanding of past mistakes — and how to avoid repeating them — a Louisiana-based nonprofit said on the 18th anniversary of the deadly, catastrophic levee breaches that devastated much of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Better trained engineers would be an important step in ensuring that projects such as levees, bridges or skyscrapers can withstand everything from natural disasters to everyday use, said. Founded in 2005, the donor-funded organization works to raise awareness that Katrina was in many ways a man-made disaster. Due to design and engineering flaws in the federal dam, the hurricane triggered one of the country's deadliest and costliest disasters.'s push comes at a time when Hurricane Idalia is targeting Florida's Gulf Coast, threatening storm surges, flooding and high winds in a state still grappling with ongoing damage from last year's Hurricane Ian.

And it's not just hurricanes or natural disasters that engineers need to learn from. Rosenthal and HJ Bosworth, a professional engineer on the group's board of directors, pointed to other major failures, including the 2007 Minneapolis freeway bridge collapse and the collapse of a skywalk at a hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. wants to ensure that engineering graduates “can demonstrate an awareness of past technical failures”. The group solicits support from engineers, engineering educators and public works professionals, as well as the general public. This coalition will then urge the Accrediting Board of Engineering Schools to require guidance on technical failures in its criteria for accrediting a program.

“This will be a bottom-up effort,” Sandy Rosenthal, founder of, said Monday.

Rosenthal and her then-15-year-old son Stanford founded the nonprofit organization after Katrina landed on August 29, 2005. The organization has run publicity campaigns and sponsored exhibits, including a push to add levee breach sites to the National Register of Historic Places and a to convert a flood-damaged house near a rupture site into a museum.

Katrina originated in the Bahamas and landed in southeast Florida before flying west into the Gulf of Mexico. It reached Category 5 strength in open water before weakening to Category 3 on landfall in southeast Louisiana. On the way north it landed again on the Mississippi coast.

Storm damage stretched from southeast Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. The Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered severe damage, with floods reaching 28 feet (8.5 meters) in some areas. But the scenes of death and despair in New Orleans have rocked the nation. The water flowed through broken levees for days, covering 80% of the city and taking weeks to drain. At least 1,833 people lost their lives.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button