New Orleans council to look at drainage after flooding

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As New Orleans dried out Monday from torrential rains that flooded areas for the second time in two weeks, the City Council called a special meeting to review the drainage system and warning processes.

Council President Jason Williams said he plans the Tuesday meeting “not to make any presumptions or cast any aspersions, but to really do an autopsy of every single thing that happened between Saturday and Sunday.”

Williams said he wants to learn whether drainage work in other parts of the city is causing backups in areas that typically have not flooded and why messages about flood danger weren’t sent out sooner.

Some people have told him that “if they had gotten word sooner … they could have gotten out and moved their car onto the sidewalk and saved their car,” he said.

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Williams and Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Susan Guidry said in separate phone interviews that none had a dollar value for damage, but it probably wouldn’t reach the threshold for federal and state disaster aid.

“It doesn’t look hopeful that we’re going to get that,” Williams said.

Cantrell said about 15 businesses flooded for the second time in two weeks.

“The Broad Street Theater had maybe a foot (0.3 meters) of water a couple weeks ago. This time, it was more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of water,” she said.

Cantrell and Williams said that area has stayed dry in previous storms that were just as bad.

“If we can’t handle that amount of rain, we certainly can’t handle a hurricane,” Williams said. “We’ve got some capacity issues, got some serious preparedness issues. That’s a longer conversation, but it’ll certainly start tomorrow.”

This is far from the first time heavy rains have flooded the city, hurricane season or not. In May 1995, floods did more than $3 billion in damage and killed six people in the New Orleans metro area.

“The May 1995 event affected a much larger area and lasted longer,” National Weather Service meteorologist Danielle Manning said Monday.

Sewerage and Water Board General Superintendent Joe Becker told a news conference Monday that seven of the system’s 121 pumps were out for maintenance, but that didn’t contribute to the flood, WWL-TV reported .

“There was simply just too much rain for the largest drainage system in the world to handle,” he said.

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