Yesterday I was on a little field trip in in Vicksburg, Mississippi, invited by DHS Science & Technology’s Army Corp of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) to witness the demonstration of their final levee plug prototype. To arm you with some random US trivia over the holidays, there are over 100,000 miles of levees in the United States with breaks happening all the time. As we remember vividly from Hurricane Katrina, levee breaches can lead to catastrophic losses of life and property. It only makes sense then that we should be investing energy in finding new solutions to this serious problem.
Levees breaks are traditionally repaired with sandbags and other piecemeal plugs that are cumbersome, dangerous, and not very effective. The more time that passes without plugging it, the wider the gap grows. Most recently in Colombia, a levee break grew from a few yards to over 2,000 feet in length very quickly. If the breach could have been plugged before growing this large, the situation would be much better there. In fact, I will be traveling to Barranquilla, Colombia on Monday by invitation from their FEMA-equivalent to train their deployment teams on the Tiger Dam system, just as I did with the National Guard during the BP Oil Spill this summer.
So then, how does one plug a levee before the gap grows too large? ERDC’s William Laska, Don Resio and a team of scientists devised what looks like a giant Tiger Dam – a 100′ long by 18′ diameter heavy PVC plug filled partly with water and part with air that would be floated into place to stop a 40′ wide by 8′ deep breach, much like a stopper in your bathtub. To perform the test, they engineered a 11 acre, 4 million gallon 3-pond system to simulate a flood flowing at 2000 cubic feet per second. The test was a huge success and I captured it on video below. (If you’re interested in the full 20 minute version, friend and message me).
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