Termites helped destroy New Orleans dikes?
NEW ORLEANS (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've discovered evidence termites might have been to blame for the failure of some New Orleans dikes during Hurricane Katrina.
Louisiana State University Professor Gregg Henderson says he discovered Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki) in the floodwall seams of some New Orleans dikes five years before Katrina struck.
After the dikes were breached in 2005, Henderson and colleague Alan Morgan inspected 100 seams for evidence of termites where major floodwall breaks had occurred. They said they discovered 70 percent of the seams in the city's London Avenue Canal, which experienced two major breaks during Katrina, showed evidence of insect attack, as did 27 percent of seams inspected in the walls of the 17th Street Canal.
Henderson said the termites might have contributed to the destruction of the levees in New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels, which can weaken the levee system.
"I believe the termites pose a continuing danger that requires immediate attention," Henderson wrote, suggesting New Orleans' 350 miles of levees and floodwalls should be surveyed for termite damage.
The researchers detail their findings in the fall issue of the journal American Entomologist.