The Flooding of New Orleans

Jeff Middleton wrote on the SBS List:

<blockquote><p>The breach of the levee isn’t going to be stopped.</p>
<p>The projection is that within 12 hrs, 9 feet of water will cover historic St. Charles Ave. The French Quarter will go from dry to flooded through the first floor. All downtown will be submerged.</p>
<p>The flooding of New Orleans will be effectively complete. My prediction just this AM will be horribly conservative. I think that the only place in New Orleans that will remain with minimum flooding will be Algiers, on the Westbank. Clearly, 90% of the city will go under water.</p></blockquote>
<p>This is a tragedy on a scale we haven’t seen before.  But already there are apparent lessons to be learned from the events to date.  From the IT perspective, this brings up some important issues.</p>
<p>First, I’m sure most of the machine rooms in New Orleans were in the basements like everywhere else in America.  No matter where you live, flooding, even flash flooding is going to hit a basement first.  Is that the best place for a machine room?  What’s your data worth?  </p>
<p>This is a problem entirely not specific to New Orleans.  Just a couple years ago, Dartmouth’s new Machine Room was flooded below the raised floor from a waste pipe break.  They’re in the basement.  The old, since demolished, Kiewit Computational Center was on a raised floor, above grade.  The offices were in the basement.  Maybe they knew something in the 60’s?  Luckily, good work by electricians who built the facility kept the damage to a minimum.</p>
<p>Second, there’s the location of where to put your data centers.  I’ll suggest nobody should ever put a machine room below sea level or 100-year flood stage anywhere in the US.  Since New Orleans is below sea level and on the River, you have a couple stories of disadvantage to begin with.  Even if you do you can’t run anything 24/7 out of there because power feeds are going to be going down and terminate in the basement.  I expect to see lots of fiber being run to Lafayette over the next few years to pull the data centers inland.  We should apply this learning to our coastal clients.</p>
<p>My company server is in White Plains, NY at a colo facility.  The building has good A/C and backup generators, and is triply connected to the Internet.  That’s about all I know. Clearly, I should know more, probably find out the address of the building and cross-reference it on a topo map with nearby rivers.  They had to have a flood-plain certification done to build the facility but that’s not published on their website.</p>