Lake Okeechobee: South Florida's Inland Storm Surge Threat
New Orleans and Southern Louisiana are not alone. There is somewhere else in the United States that has a levee problem--or actually a dike problem. While spending this past Christmas in South Florida, I met a Palm Beach County drainage department employee who upon learning my home was in New Orleans informed me of the similar flooding potential to Palm Beach County from Lake Okeechobee. I believe the exact term he used to describe the situation: a "timebomb." Slightly larger than Lake Pontchartrain (630 square miles), Lake O (730 square miles) is an inland freshwater lake surrounded by a 143 mile dike along its entire perimeter. Similar to the 1927 and 1965 flood events which both led to the construction of New Orleans' and Louisiana's Mississippi River and hurricane protection levee systems, the Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed following the 1928 "Okeechobee Hurricane" in which 2,500 persons died from storm surge inundation pushed from Lake Okeechobee to adjacent lands.
Recently, there has been a renewed interest (I wonder why) and question about the condition and strength of the Lake Okeechobee dike system--also under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Palm Beach Post has a special section on South Florida's timebomb which appears to get updated with new related stories every few days or so.
UPDATE, 21 JUNE 2006: The Washington Post discusses the "800 pound gorilla" of the Lake O Dike.
TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Lake Okeechobee, Palm Beach County, Herbert Hoover Dike