I had an unusual encounter yesterday. I met two engineers who designed the pumps that are installed in New Orleans to help prevent another federal flood. They were in the grocery store picking up some cheese cake for the hungry workers testing the pumps.
One of the men was the actual engineer who designed the pumps. He described them as "his" pumps. Having read so much about failing pumps and the city (or state or feds - can't remember who, so don't quote me!) buying faulty pumps from a dodgy Bush family connection in Florida, I took the opportunity to ask these gentlemen some questions. I asked about the dodgy pumps and I touched a nerve. The primary engineer told me that those pumps were agricultural pumps, for farmers and never designed to be relied upon (a farmer with a broken pump can wait a day to get it fixed but not a city in the midst of a hurricane!!). He was quite angry about it - which pleased me!! He then told me that his pumps could pump over a million gallons of water in a minute!!! I thought that sounded very impressive.
I am not mechanically minded and explanations of the kind normally tie my little brain in knots. However from what he was explaining, the engineers have designed the flood walls and pumps in such a way that should a storm surge happen (perish the thought...) then they can ensure that the volume of water in the canals can be controlled and prevent pressure building up on the canal flood walls. The result should be that a flood wall should never break under too much pressure as it did in Katrina. I hope this engineer is right. I need him to be right. This city needs him to be right. He was a really nice guy and extremely proud of his job and his pumps. It made me feel a little safer having met him.