ON AUGUST 29th 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southern Louisiana. As it travelled north, it overwhelmed the levee system designed to protect New Orleans. By August 30th, 80% of the city was underwater. More than 1,800 people died in what became the costliest natural disaster in American history. The Army Corps of Engineers, which designed the old network of floodwalls, called it “a system in name only”.

Precisely 16 years later, another fearsome storm, Hurricane Ida, gathered strength in the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters. The quickly-formed storm cohered south of Cuba and had hardly acquired a name before she was threatening Louisiana’s coastline. A huge patch of unusually warm water provided fuel for Ida to intensify into a category-four storm (the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind

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