The fortress has turned New Orleans into a giant bathtub. To prevent that bathtub from filling up during a major storm, the city built the world's largest water pumping system.
"(One station) can pump about 30,000 cubic feet of water per second, which is just extraordinary," said Garrett Graves, who is overseeing the state's new hurricane protection plan.
At that rate, Graves explained, each of the 77 pumping stations could "fill an Olympic size swimming pool in about 4½ seconds."
It's arguably the best hurricane protection system in the country -- but Malcolm Bowman hopes it won't be for long.
That's because Bowman wants to build a barrier system across the 5-mile-wide opening to New York Harbor that he says could have protected America's most populated city from Sandy's devastating storm surge.
"If barriers and sand dunes had been properly built in the last eight years, none of this would have happened," he said.
Bowman leads the Storm Surge Research Group at Long Island's Stony Brook University. The group promotes a plan to create an elaborate system of barriers and causeways that would virtually flood-proof much of metro New York.
They say their "Outer Harbor Gateway" plan would cost billions of dollars less than the damage that Sandy inflicted upon the state of New York.
Bowman has spent years warning officials of the storm surge risk to New York City.
Less than a month after Katrina, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times warning that the same thing could happen to New York City -- and outlining his storm barrier system solution to prevent it from happening.
He tried again in 2008 as part of a climate change panel convened by New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But no barriers were built.
Today, Bowman is hopeful that New York authorities will green-light his plan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is awaiting recommendations from a commission that he tasked with finding long-term solutions to protect his state from future weather calamities.
Two commissions on disaster preparedness and response have already offered their recommendations to the governor, who is expected to announce several proposals during his "state of the state" address on Wednesday.
Bowman's idea is not new: Similar barriers already exist in Stamford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, and massive barriers are already in operation in the Netherlands and Russia.
With the rising sea levels -- a result of the shrinking polar ice cap -- experts including Bowman say the risk of massive flooding events is increasing each year -- and not just in low-lying communities like New Orleans.
"We have to start planning," Bowman said. "It's no longer every person for themselves. There's too much at risk. We have to do it."
The polar problem
Over the past 20 years, the global sea level has risen more than two inches as a result of Greenland's shrinking ice masses, according to Dr. Kevin Tremberth with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. That's because warmer temperatures are melting the polar ice caps.
Recent satellite images from NASA showed unprecedented surface ice melt, with about 97% of Greenland's ice sheet showing signs of thawing.
These changes in the polar region are closely monitored by climate scientists, like Daniel Steinhage, whose team surveyed Greenland's shrinking ice with Polar 6 one of the most advanced research aircraft in the world. It will take months to evaluate the data gathered by the aircraft, including ice samples thousands of years old taken from deep within the ice sheet.
The Arctic is something like an archive of the Earth's climate and within its layers, researchers can find information on temperatures, the amount of precipitation, dust particles and ash from volcanic eruptions dating back 100,000 years.
"If we can explain the past, what happened there, then we can use the same programs to run them forward to see what the future will bring us," said Steinhage of Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute.
Long before the official lab analysis, scientist Sepp Kippstuhl can identify some unique patterns even with his naked eye.
What he and the other scientists are seeing is that Greenland's ice sheet is vanishing quickly -- a fact confirmed by the 2012 NOAA Arctic Report Card.