NEW ORLEANS -- A random check of New Orleans catch basins, paid for by businessman Sidney Torres, confirms what many neighbors already suspected.
The inspection indicated that some of the storm drains in areas that flooded on Saturday, were severely blocked by mud and debris.
With waist-deep water just sitting on the street for many hours in the 2400 block of St. Ann Street in Mid-City, neighbors knew there was a problem.
"The water sat up at least until 1 a.m. that morning, Sunday morning," neighbor Robert Mathis said. "It stayed at that level."
"I was just in awe of how it took so long for the water to go down," neighbor Myrielle Morant said. "This area seemed like it got flooded the worst."
"It's really bad, because there's nowhere for the water to even go," neighbor Annette Williams said.
There was no place for the water to go because a vital catch basin, just down the block in front of the iconic Willy Mae's restaurant was full of mud and debris.
The drain is one of handful in flooded areas of the city included in Sidney Torres's random inspection. Torres commissioned the inspection after Saturday's flood to investigate claims that the catch basins were blocked in some of the hardest-hit areas.
The inspection indicated drainage may have been reduced by as much as 50 percent in the hard hit neighborhood due to blocked drains.
"That is a big factor in the flooding in that area," Torres said. "You could have the best pumps in the world, but at the end of the day if your drainage isn't being maintained and cleaned then you're going to have flooding in the area the drains are."
Torres also looked at the drainage in front of the Circle Grocery in the 7th Ward.
Flood waters damaged refrigerators and coolers inside the store.
"You can see the trash," Torres said. "I mean, look at the trash that's inside of these drains. We already started cleaning some of it out. It's unacceptable."
Owner Dwayne Boudreaux also noticed one of the drains in front of his store is choked down to about an inch wide opening, due to recent street improvements.
"It's obsolete," Boudreaux said. "It make no sense for them to even have a drain with what like an inch gap for water to run out of it."
The city Department of Public Works has the responsibility to inspect, fix and maintain the city's 85,000 catch basins.
Back on St. Ann, Annette Williams says the Department of Public Works needs to do a better job.
"If they keep the drains clean maybe, if they keep them clean, we have a chance when it rains like that," Williams said.
The city has since flushed out the drain in front of Willie Mae's and the restaurant, which flooded during the rains, has since reopened.
According to the city, the Deptartment of Public Works cleaned more than 11,000 catch basins last year. So far this year, the department has cleaned nearly 4000 drains and flushed 68 miles of drain lines.
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