While the heaviest of rains were concentrated in parts of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish also saw its share of heavy rains over the weekend.
The two parishes operate on different drainage systems, but there are some steps Jefferson Parish has taken to avoid disaster.
Monday was back to normal for a family feeding turtles on the canal near the Elmwood pumping station in Metairie. The canal drains the entire east bank of the parish and leaders say the station is always staffed.
At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, in anticipation of rain, staff working at that station began draining all of the canals down to eight feet – the lowest level that keeps them structurally sound. As crews saw clouds creep up on the radar, on call staff were activated to four of the parish’s pumps before the downpour.
“Maximum time is, you got 30 minutes to get to the station and it can take 10 to 15 minutes to get the pumps going,” Mitch Theriot explained. Theriot is the Director of the Department of Drainage for Jefferson Parish.
“No doubt that had a lot to do with making sure Jefferson Parish stayed ahead of the game as far as water retention,” Metairie resident Richard Ford said when he heard of the parish preparations.
There was some street flooding in Old Metairie, but not in houses. Officials say that is because the post Hurricane Katrina-built floating system in Pontiff Playground automatically kicked on and started dumping water inside the berm.
“Before those pumps were installed, we’d gotten that same amount of rain in that area. I feel very strongly we would have experienced some house flooding,” Theriot said.
“Yeah it has worked lately the past couple of years, because it never gets up past that point in my yard,” Old Metairie resident Ann Kesler said. “So even if your house isn’t raised, it doesn’t get to the houses.”
Jefferson Parish sent out crews Sunday and Monday to look for discarded wet carpeting. Only a few low garages in the Harahan-River Ridge area got some water, along with some street flooding. But parish officials say the new pump to the river station should be online to relieve that back up in the next two to three months.
Jefferson Parish says the highest official amount of rainfall was round the Old Metairie area that received 5.5 inches. That is close to the official amount in Orleans Parish. The National Weather Service says there may have been seven to eight inches of rain in some spots.
While officials are happy about the outcome in Jefferson Parish, they say large amounts of rain can overwhelm a pumping system’s capacity, just like in Orleans Parish.