(top to bottom) Hurricane Ida from the International Space Station by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. And Ida from Bourbon Street. Destruction. Flooding. Displacement. Rescue. Reconstruction. But the levees held. (Check out this brief documentary on the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier. An amazing structure and system.) And of course the t-shirts are available online. Only in America. :))
Engineers. They are amazing. Take a problem – a big problem, like we often do here at KHTHeat solving your PIA Jobs (Pain in the @%$ Jobs!), spend time figuring it out, measure, test, remeasure, retest, and then design and build something. Simple, right? But honestly, who ever came up with the idea of a working levee system? Stopping flood waters from the Gulf all the way up the Mississippi. Uncontrollable forces, hundreds of square miles, utilities, people, buildings and equipment. When Hurricane Ida made landfall in New Orleans last Sunday, the destructive storm surges buffeted a system of levees and other flood barriers that had been greatly fortified since Hurricane Katrina crippled the city in 2005. This time, the levees held, thanks to $14.6 billion worth of improvements to southeast Louisiana’s storm-risk reduction system. Amazing. I was catching up on my “newspaper” reading and came across a great article by WSJ contributor Ben Zimmer. On the word levee and just had to share. Bravo to all the engineers out there – you are a special breed, and I’m honored to have a few amazing ones here at KHT Heat. Special thanks to linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer for the insights, You Tube for the music and Wikipedia for the extra info. Enjoy! (and be sure to crank up the Zeplin classic – I think it’s a whole lot better than the original).
For your listening pleasure:
When The Levee Breaks by Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie – (1929)
Led Zeppelin’s Version – (1971)
A “levee” is a raised embankment that prevents a river from overflowing. Unlike flood walls, which are typically made from concrete, levees are built up from earthen materials. Like the structure it names, the word “levee” is intimately connected to the history of New Orleans, going back to its founding as a French colonial city in 1718.
The site for the city was chosen in part because it stood on relatively high ground, with a natural embankment that could protect it from floods along the Mississippi River. French maps dated to the 1720s labeled this embankment “La Levée,” running along the Mississippi—or the Saint Louis, as the river was then known. An English-language map of the time gave it a wordier designation: “Bank to preserve the Town from the Inundation.” (check out the number of rivers off the gulf back in 1700’s – HERE
‘Levy,’ meaning ‘to raise taxes,’ comes from the same French root as its sound-alike ‘levee.’ The French word “levée” literally means “a rising” and is formed from the verb “lever,” meaning “to raise.” Ultimately, it goes back to Latin “levare” meaning “to lift up” or “to make lighter”
“Levee” came to be used for other more ceremonial purposes. Since the French verb “lever” could also be used for getting out of bed, it got attached to a morning routine by King Louis XIV at the palace of Versailles, where royal subjects would be received in his bedchamber. (I can’t imagine meeting my customers in my bedroom??).
The word “levee” was soon extended to other distinguished assemblages of visitors throughout Europe, then exported to the New World for formal receptions held by colonial governors. To this day, Canada maintains the tradition of the New Year’s Day levee, a reception hosted by the governor general and other officials.
In New Orleans, meanwhile, the use of “levee” for a river embankment crossed over from the French language into English. In 1770, Philip Pittman, a British Army officer who surveyed the Mississippi River, wrote, “the town is secured from the inundations of the river by a raised bank, generally called the Levée.”
The main purpose of artificial levees is to prevent flooding of the adjoining countryside and to slow natural course changes in a waterway to provide reliable shipping lanes for maritime commerce over time; they also confine the flow of the river, resulting in higher and faster water flow.
Some of the earliest levees were constructed by the Indus Valley Civilization (in Pakistan and North India from circa 2600 BC) on which the agrarian life of the Harappan peoples depended. Levees were also constructed over 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, where a system of levees was built along the left bank of the River Nile for more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles), stretching from modern Aswan to the Nile Delta on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The Mesopotamian civilizations and ancient China also built large levee systems. Because a levee is only as strong as its weakest point, the height and standards of construction have to be consistent along its length. Some authorities have argued that this requires a strong governing authority to guide the work and may have been a catalyst for the development of systems of governance in early civilizations. However, others point to evidence of large scale water-control earthen works such as canals and/or levees dating from before King Scorpion in Predynastic Egypt, during which governance was far less centralized.
Levees are usually built by piling earth on a cleared, level surface. Broad at the base, they taper to a level top, where temporary embankments or sandbags can be placed. Because flood discharge intensity increases in levees on both river banks, and because silt deposits raise the level of riverbeds, planning and auxiliary measures are vital. Sections are often set back from the river to form a wider channel, and flood valley basins are divided by multiple levees to prevent a single breach from flooding a large area. A levee made from stones laid in horizontal rows with a bed of thin turf between each of them is known as a spetchel.
After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Mississippi levee system, built up by the Army Corps of Engineers, came to encompass both natural ridges along the river and artificial structures made from piling up soil.
Levees only seem to attract national attention when they fail. That was the case in 1927, when the Great Mississippi Flood—one of the worst natural disasters in American history—put the word “levees” in headlines around the country. The flood also served to inspire the country blues song “When the Levee Breaks” by the husband-and-wife duo Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, released in 1929. “If it keeps on raining, levee’s going to break,” as the lyrics go. Four decades later, Led Zeppelin would reinterpret the song for the band’s fourth album.
While New Orleans was fortunate this time that the levees withstood the battering of Ida, the continued threat of flooding from storm surges will guarantee that “levee” remains part of the city’s lexicon, more than three centuries after its founding on a bend in the Mississippi.
WANT TO SEE VIDEO ON HOW THE LEVEE CHANGED IN NEW ORLEANS!
DO YOU LIKE CONTESTS?
As you may know the Kowalski Heat Treating logo finds its way
into the visuals of my Friday posts.
I. Love. My. Logo.
One week there could be three logos.
The next week there could be 15 logos.
And sometimes the logo is very small or just a partial logo showing.
But there are always logos in some of the pictures.
So, I challenge you, my beloved readers, to count them and send me a
quick email with the total number of logos in the Friday post.
On the following Tuesday I’ll pick a winner from the correct answers
and send that lucky person some great KHT swag.
So, start counting and good luck!
Oh, and the logos at the very top header don’t count.
Got it? Good. :-))))
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