and also from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to dangers of flooding this week, a couple of facts ~ above – and also in – the ground define why the large Easy is uniquely fragile to massive flooding.

1. As soon as it was built, it to be barely over sea level

The original part of the city, the French Quarter, was built on greater ground beginning in the beforehand 18th century.

settlers who got the ideal land were able to construct only around 10 feet over sea level. Also from the beginning, the city was fighting an uphill fight as the expanded. Brand-new Orleans is greatly flat, and also areas around the French quarter are simply a small lower.

but in this situation, every foot counts.

“Even throughout its really beginnings, brand-new Orleans’ residents construed the value of land elevated above the flood-prone floor they had chosen to speak to home,” the us Federal Emergency Management agency says in its history of building Elevation in brand-new Orleans.

2. The was developed on loose soil

together the city grew, architects chose to build shorter houses and also structures, out of fear that the ground couldn’t support anything taller.

“Though a few climbed as high together three and sometimes 4 floors, many hovered about two or two-and-a-half stories, due to the fact that builders feared that the town’s spongy soil couldn’t be afflicted with the added weight,” brand-new Orleans chronicler Lawrence N. Powell created in “The accidental City: Improvising brand-new Orleans.”

You are watching: New orleans below sea level pictures


Matthew Hinton/AP

See more: Which Process Reduces Molecular Oxygen To Water? ? Metabolic Reactions

Floodwaters creep up the wheel of a parked automobile in brand-new Orleans ~ above Wednesday, July 10.

3. A drainage system had unintended consequences

Later, a “sophisticated municipal drainage device installed approximately 1900 allowed the city to spread onto previous marshes but additionally starved the floor of replenishing sediment” and removed water from the soil, explains geographer rich Campanella, a professor in Tulane University’s school of Architecture.

there is no sediment and water to stabilize the ground, the “former marshes sunk as much as 8-12 feet,” and also wetlands quickly eroded, Campanella wrote in a study.

through the 1930s, one-third that the city was below sea level, follow to the brand-new Orleans Times-Picayune. And also by the moment Katrina struck, that number to be up to about 50%.

4. Sea levels are rising

much of the area around new Orleans is now 1½ to 3 meters (4.92 to 9.84 feet) listed below mean sea level, follow to a 2003 examine by the us Geological Survey. Scientists discovered that the soil in the area was sinking at a rate of 1 centimeter a year.

That consistent sinkage, linked with rising worldwide sea levels as result of the climate crisis, meant new Orleans would most likely be between 2½ and 4 meters (8.2 come 13.12 feet) below sea level through 2100.

Correction: A previous variation of this story had actually incorrect switch of meters to feet.