Residents worry the city’s infrastructure is poised to fail: “If we get hit by another Katrina, the city will be gone.”
… thunderstorm dropped as much as nine inches of rain in just four hours. The ensuing flood overwhelmed the city’s pump system and covered much of central New Orleans in several feet of water, taking 14 hours to drain and prompting 200 “life-threatening” emergency calls, according to city records.
…Unlike during Hurricane Katrina, the problem over the weekend wasn’t the 133 miles of levees and flood walls that protect New Orleans from the tidal surges of the Gulf of Mexico or Lake Pontchartrain, which hangs over the northern and eastern edge of the city. Instead, parts of New Orleans were underwater because the city’s hundreds of miles of drains and pumps couldn’t bail rainwater fast enough.
Though the water finally receded this week, the aftermath has thrown the New Orleans government and its municipal water and sewage authority into turmoil, reviving long-standing concerns that natural disasters here have been made worse by inconsistent leadership.
…the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans promised that all 121 drainage pumps were working properly during the storm. They said the flooding was simply caused by too much rain for the system to handle.
By Tuesday, as community skepticism deepened, the board acknowledged that eight pumps were either broken or out of service for maintenance when the rain began. Power shortages also hampered pump operations in some neighborhoods.
As a result, pumps in some hard-hit areas were operating at half of capacity, according to Joseph Becker, the water board’s superintendent.
…In an uptown neighborhood, some of the flooding might also have been exacerbated by a Corps of Engineers project designed to limit future flooding. Contractors digging new drainage culverts left three 70-foot holes in metal panels that lead to the Peoples Avenue Canal, allowing water to back up into the neighborhood, said Col. Michael N. Clancy, commander of the corps’ New Orleans district.
…Residents say many storm drains and canals are too clogged with debris to be effective. At Tuesday’s council meeting, public works officials said the city has only enough money to clear 68 of the 1,300 miles of canals this year.
The tone of some of the officials and experts in this story is obnoxiously counter-productive. Make the systems in place work properly already.