Hurricane Katrina

During the hurricane season of 2005, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.  Among Atlantic hurricanes, she was the sixth strongest ever recorded taking the lives of at least 1,836 people during the hurricane and subsequent flooding.  Property damage has been estimated at $81 billion.

Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005 and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding there before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 storm on the morning of Monday, August 29 in southeast Louisiana. It caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge.

The most severe loss of life occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland.  Eventually, 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes were flooded, with floodwaters lingering for weeks.

17th Street Canal Pumps


Fairbanks is no stranger to New Orleans. Part of the devastating damage to the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was caused by the failure of water infrastructure systems throughout the city. To protect the city during future hurricane seasons, the Army Corps of Engineers worked to reconstruct levees and install new pumps, however, the pumps previously installed failed – and so they turned to Fairbanks Morse to provide eleven new pumps for the city’s 17th street canal. Despite an extraordinarily compressed schedule, Fairbanks Morse delivered the new pumps in time for the start of hurricane season 2007.

Fairbanks was awarded the contract for the 11 massive pumps at 17th Street canal – and delivered them in just six months, approximately one third of the time it would normally take under the best conditions. Usually, a project of this magnitude could take 15 to 24 months from design to completion.

This is remarkable timing given the size of the pumps, which required a high degree of customization. The pumps were started with nothing, No parts were available.  All the castings had to be made and all the fabrication work had to be done.

Previously, the 17th street canal had 18 installed pumps which moved approximately 3,600 cfs of water.  By July 2007 Fairbanks designed, built and delivered the 11 propeller pumps. Each weighed 85,000 pounds and required its own semi trailer for delivery. Each pump is capable of pumping 156,800 gallons per minute.  These new pumps added necessary capacity to the city’s existing water infrastructure, which drains storm run off from the city.