Report from Louisiana: Another New Orleans Deluge

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Report from Louisiana: Another New Orleans Deluge

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – New Orleans flooded this week­end. Again.

A heavy del­uge of eight to ten inches fell on the city in a short time Sat­ur­day flood­ing homes, cars, busi­nesses and cre­at­ing havoc through­out the city. Peo­ple in New Orleans real­ize that their city is basi­cally a below-​sea-​level bowl and flood­ing is always an issue, but there is also an exten­sive sys­tem of pumps, drainage, and catch basins that work to keep what hap­pened this week­end from happening.

Last year the New Orleans City Coun­cil approved $3 mil­lion to work on drainage infra­struc­ture and repairs, how­ever the Lan­drieu admin­is­tra­tion has not yet started repairs because they’ve been wait­ing on an envi­ron­men­tal review…for over a year.

The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works con­tends that just because the $3 mil­lion hasn’t been tapped, they have not been ignor­ing daily repairs and clean­ing of catch basins.

Obvi­ously drainage was not a Lan­drieu pri­or­ity last year; Mitch was much more focused on mon­u­ments and equity circles.

In a press con­fer­ence Sat­ur­day, Cedric Grant, head of the Sew­er­age and Water Board attrib­uted much of the prob­lem to cli­mate change, say­ing this type of flood­ing will hap­pen more often.

As their city flooded once again, many res­i­dents took to social media to deride Lan­drieu for spend­ing money on mon­u­ment removal rather than drainage.

For his part, Lan­drieu sug­gested cit­i­zens clean out their own catch basins:

These no-​notice rain and flood­ing events can be very dan­ger­ous, but luck­ily, there was no loss of life,” Lan­drieu said. “Today, we begin the hard work of assist­ing those who flooded and get­ting our streets pass­able for reg­u­lar traf­fic. With addi­tional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encour­age all of our res­i­dents to clean in front of their catch basins.”

It’s admirable and expected that cit­i­zens to take respon­si­bil­ity for their own safety of course. There are over 68,000 catch basins in the city:

The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works’ main­te­nance depart­ment is respon­si­ble for clean­ing and clear­ing catch basins of debris. There are 68,092 catch basins in the City. Each year the City bud­gets resources to clean approx­i­mately 3,500 catch basins.

The bro­ken and clogged catch basins have been a source of con­flict for over a year as some mem­bers of the City Coun­cil ques­tion the lack of main­te­nance from the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works. In April, a dead body was found in one catch basin and work­ers had to dig out clogs and ter­mites to get to the body of Joseph Con­son­ery who had been mur­dered.

New Orleans, after Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina, sup­pos­edly put drainage and the pump sys­tem as top priority:

Sew­er­age & Water Board offi­cials have said city’s drainage pump­ing sys­tem is designed to han­dle an inch of rain­fall dur­ing the first hour of an event and a half-​inch each hour there­after. Offi­cials said all 24 pump­ing sta­tions were on and work­ing on Sat­ur­day. The tem­po­rary pump­ing sta­tions at the ends of the 17th Street, Lon­don Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals only oper­ate when the flood­gates block­ing water from Lake Pontchar­train are closed, and thus are not oper­ated dur­ing a rain­fall event. The three per­ma­nent pump­ing sta­tions under con­struc­tion at the ends of those canals are not yet com­plete, but will oper­ate in the same way.

Offi­cials said the city’s pub­lic safety agen­cies, includ­ing police, fire and emer­gency med­ical ser­vices, responded to more than 200 emer­gency calls related to flooding.

City res­i­dents are not sat­is­fied with their capac­ity, how­ever, as the social media out­rage reflects. Even the French Quar­ter, and Bour­bon Street, which sel­dom floods, was inun­dated and sev­eral beloved restau­rants took in up to three inches of water.

Once again it seems that Mayor Landrieu’s pri­or­i­ties are askew. We can’t fault him for a sig­nif­i­cant rain event (can we?) but cer­tainly it is under his lead­er­ship and respon­si­bil­ity that the pumps and drainage sys­tem are prop­erly main­tained. And to send his min­ions out to blame the mess sim­ply on cli­mate change and tell peo­ple to clean out their own drains is, well, just typ­i­cal of him.

If what’s in my catch basins are ter­mites and dead bod­ies, I’m prob­a­bly not going to be too excited about that project.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  New Orleans flooded this weekend.  Again.

A heavy deluge of eight to ten inches fell on the city in a short time Saturday flooding homes, cars, businesses and creating havoc throughout the city.  People in New Orleans realize that their city is basically a below-sea-level bowl and flooding is always an issue, but there is also an extensive system of pumps, drainage, and catch basins that work to keep what happened this weekend from happening.

Last year the New Orleans City Council approved $3 million to work on drainage infrastructure and repairs, however the Landrieu administration has not yet started repairs because they’ve been waiting on an environmental review…for over a year.

The Department of Public Works contends that just because the $3 million hasn’t been tapped, they have not been ignoring daily repairs and cleaning of catch basins.

Obviously drainage was not a Landrieu priority last year; Mitch was much more focused on monuments and equity circles.

In a press conference Saturday, Cedric Grant, head of the Sewerage and Water Board attributed much of the problem to climate change, saying this type of flooding will happen more often.

As their city flooded once again, many residents took to social media to deride Landrieu for spending money on monument removal rather than drainage.

For his part, Landrieu suggested citizens clean out their own catch basins:

“These no-notice rain and flooding events can be very dangerous, but luckily, there was no loss of life,” Landrieu said. “Today, we begin the hard work of assisting those who flooded and getting our streets passable for regular traffic. With additional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encourage all of our residents to clean in front of their catch basins.”

It’s admirable and expected that citizens to take responsibility for their own safety of course. There are over 68,000 catch basins in the city:

The Department of Public Works’ maintenance department is responsible for cleaning and clearing catch basins of debris. There are 68,092 catch basins in the City. Each year the City budgets resources to clean approximately 3,500 catch basins.

The broken and clogged catch basins have been a source of conflict for over a year as some members of the City Council question the lack of maintenance from the Department of Public Works. In April, a dead body was found in one catch basin and workers had to dig out clogs and termites to get to the body of Joseph Consonery who had been murdered.

New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, supposedly put drainage and the pump system as top priority:

Sewerage & Water Board officials have said city’s drainage pumping system is designed to handle an inch of rainfall during the first hour of an event and a half-inch each hour thereafter. Officials said all 24 pumping stations were on and working on Saturday. The temporary pumping stations at the ends of the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals only operate when the floodgates blocking water from Lake Pontchartrain are closed, and thus are not operated during a rainfall event. The three permanent pumping stations under construction at the ends of those canals are not yet complete, but will operate in the same way.

Officials said the city’s public safety agencies, including police, fire and emergency medical services, responded to more than 200 emergency calls related to flooding.

City residents are not satisfied with their capacity, however, as the social media outrage reflects. Even the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, which seldom floods, was inundated and several beloved restaurants took in up to three inches of water.

Once again it seems that Mayor Landrieu’s priorities are askew. We can’t fault him for a significant rain event (can we?) but certainly it is under his leadership and responsibility that the pumps and drainage system are properly maintained.  And to send his minions out to blame the mess simply on climate change and tell people to clean out their own drains is, well, just typical of him.

If what’s in my catch basins are termites and dead bodies, I’m probably not going to be too excited about that project.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.