New Orleans Floods Raise Questions About City Pumping System – Politicos Sound Off
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Heavy weekend rainfall in New Orleans overwhelmed the municipal pump stations, leaving parts of the community flooded, and some officials say they're not satisfied with the city's response.
"Are our city pumps working as they should?" Councilman Jason Williams said, according to local news reports. "If we can't handle a bad storm, then what will we do when there's a hurricane?"
Williams said the council will meet Tuesday to seek answers.
Some neighborhoods saw between 8 and 10 inches (20 and 25 centimeters) of rain over a few hours Saturday. City officials said that was too much for the Sewerage & Water Board's 24 pump stations to cope with even though all were operating.
Some cars got stuck, with water covering their wheels, and people slogged through water that was knee deep and even hip deep in some places. There were also reports of businesses and homes getting water damage.
Council members questioned whether the city's pumping stations were working correctly.
The Sewerage and Water Board has maintained that they are.
"There is no drainage system in the world that can handle that immediately," the Sewerage & Water Board's Executive Director Cedric Grant said, according to WWL . "I continue to tell the people what this system can do. It's pretty amazing in that it can do one inch of rain in the first hour and a half an inch of rain every hour after that. We are dealing with 8 to 10 inches of rain in three hours. It is not going to be able to pump that in an hour."
NOLA.com reports some candidates for city offices have already raised the city's flood response as a campaign issue.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni told reporters the city has no immediate plans to request an emergency declaration from the state, but that could change as the city collects more information on flood damage.
City homeland security director Aaron Miller says that with more heavy rain predicted for Monday afternoon, the city's pumping capacity could be overwhelmed again.
Joe Giarrusso, who’s running for City Council District A, released the following statement Sunday, Aug. 6:
“Like many of you throughout District A – and across our city – this was what our street looked like hours after the rain stopped (see photo above).
“Although our house is several feet off the ground, we worried about what was happening. When the water did not immediately recede at nightfall, we brought food and water upstairs in case our house flooded. Our younger child asked questions, the Katrina questions, and we were at a loss to provide answers.
“Fortunately, by the morning, the water had drained along our street. Many, too many, were not so lucky. Friends and neighbors lost their cars. Water crept into homes. Businesses throughout District A took on water. Closing businesses and sending people home from work takes money out of their pockets. Flooding of this magnitude has a ripple effect throughout our families, our neighborhoods, and our economy.
“We should not live in fear every time there is a thunderstorm in New Orleans.
“As your next Councilmember for District A, I commit to examining the drainage system, all of our existing infrastructure, and how it affects every neighborhood. Last year the City of New Orleans asked us to tax ourselves for drainage, and we did. We committed to supporting drainage, and we should know how that commitment is working for us.
Michael Bagneris, who’s running for New Orleans Mayor, released the following statement Sunday, Aug. 6:
“It is highly concerning that the City's infrastructure was not up to the task of the rain event we experienced yesterday. Whatever the cause of the insufficiency must be identified and addressed. The City said all pumping stations were up and running and yet many of us flooded. This presents a serious concern if our City's maximum pumping capabilities are unable to keep up with a rainstorm during Hurricane Season, even an extreme one.
“For a city that claims it is open for business and ready for its annual extreme weather season, we deserve a better answer than climate change. Climate change isn't going to get better anytime soon, so we have be better prepared. The biomedical corridor that will be a powerful economic driver for our City and region was flooded out by a rainstorm!
“Further, there is absolutely no reason after all the disaster planning this City has done since 2005 for us to be unable to notify residents in real time about flooded roads, designated dry routes to keep people moving and save vehicles, and promote emergency response. At the very least, the City should have engaged its media partners, especially those on news radio, to inform citizens about the conditions.”
LA State Senator JP Morrell released the following statement on Sunday, Aug. 6:
“In the wake of a large scale flooding during last night’s rain event, Senator JP Morrell is setting up a town hall meeting to brief the public on state hurricane preparedness and the status of local flood control structures.
“The flooding that took place throughout New Orleans yesterday was unprecedented in its breadth and scope. Many homes and businesses were flooded and a tremendous amount of damage was done to the personal property of our citizens. Today, we begin to take stock of this damage while we brace ourselves for more rain.
“It’s time for a comprehensive, local, overview of the status of flood protection in New Orleans. Three state agencies are tasked with flood control in our area; Southeastern Flood Protection Authority East, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority as well as the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board.
“I’ve been in contact with Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge), the Chair of Senate Local and Municipal Affairs, as well as Sen. Norby Chaubert (R-Houma), the Chair of Senate Natural Resources. Between our three committees, we have comprehensive oversight over all the respective response agencies.
“My staff in Baton Rouge has already begun the effort to put together a town hall meeting in New Orleans, with representatives from all these agencies present, to present an overview on the status of our flood control structures, pumping and hurricane preparedness. The time, date and location of this meeting will be published later this week.
“Yesterday was a harrowing experience for many and Katrina was on our minds as the waters lapped at our steps. It is necessary, and appropriate, that the public be reassured that government is prepared as we continue through this hurricane season.”
The time, date and location of this meeting will be established later this week.