New Orleans levee system performance during Hurricane Katrina: 17th Street Canal and Orleans Canal North

Inthuorn Sasanakul, Wipawi Vanadit-Ellis, Michael Sharp, Tarek Abdoun, Javier Ubilla, Scott Steedman, Kevin Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Centrifuge modeling of the 17th Street Canal and Orleans Canal North levees was performed in this study. During hurricane Katrina the levees on the 17th Street Canal failed, leading to breaches in the outfall canal in the city. Two mechanisms were observed in the centrifuge modeling that could cause a breach. First, a water-filled crack formed in front of the floodwall as the water in the canal rose above the top of the levee. The levees on the 17th Street Canal, which were supported on clay foundations, failed when this cracking led to a translational (sliding) failure in the clay layer commencing at the toe of the floodwall. The levees at Orleans Canal North, where failure did not occur, were also modeled to demonstrate that the model tests could successfully simulate failure and nonfailure conditions. The centrifuge model tests identified the importance of the crack formation in relation to the stability of the floodwall. These tests also confirmed that levee geometry, floodwall depth of penetration, and the underlying soil profile were all critical to the performance of the system under flood loading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-667
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Canals
  • Centrifuge model
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Levees
  • Louisiana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • General Environmental Science


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