Levees Ready? New Orleans Braces for Hurricane Season

In neighborhoods near the levees that are supposed to protect New Orleans residents, there's little confidence this city won't flood again during the next hurricane.

"The first rain we already had a few weeks ago, and the pumps burned up," one resident said.

Homeowner Buddy Stockman also doesn't believe the levees will hold. He and most of his neighbors are waiting until after the hurricane season to make repairs to their homes.

"I'm not rushing to hang sheet rock and put in new wiring till after the storm season ... is over," Stockman said.

Joining them in their worries today were scientists from the University of California at Berkeley, who were in town delivering more sobering news about work on the levees.

Not a single state, local or federal official came to listen.

"Why isn't the governor herself here? Why isn't the mayor here?" one woman ABC News spoke with asked.

Weaknesses Spotted in Levees

The scientists worry a lot about the breaks that can't be seen, and they point to the 17th Street Canal as a prime example.

This is where most of the water that flooded the city came from, and while the government is working hard to repair the side that gave way, the other wall remains untouched and has now started to lean by three inches.

"I myself would not purchase property and move into New Orleans if the intent of the nation and the state is to do business as usual," Raymond Seed, a UC Berkeley professor, said.

Today the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for fixing the levees, remains optimistic.

"We know we can have protection restored. What we want to do is get this increased level of protection as soon as we can," said Col. Louis Setliff.

"It was two weeks ago when I had the last briefing of the Corps of Engineers, and at that particular point in time, 80 percent of the levees in Orleans Parish were done," Mayor Ray Nagin said.

In Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, cities fear that the trailers will offer little protection to thousands of last year's flood victims.

To help residents in the event of a crisis, New Orleans and Houston put together aggressive evacuation plans. In New Orleans they expect to call for mandatory citywide evacuations more than once.

This time, officials say the buses will be ready, although no one expects to have trouble convincing residents to leave.

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