NEW ORLEANS — Citywide flooding events like what happened Monday afternoon are "extreme" and require a "thorough investigation," a Sewerage & Water Board spokesperson said.
As much as 5 inches of rain fell across the metro New Orleans area between about 1:30 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. Monday, creating widespread flooding that affected many parts of New Orleans as cars stalled, gridlock formed, businesses flooded and residents dealt with all-too-familiar frustration.
It's at least the sixth time during the past two years that heavy rains inundated different parts of the city following a seemingly routine summer thunderstorm.
S&WB communications director Richard Rainey said the results of Monday's flooding were "extreme," and that the flood events they've witnessed since the notable Aug. 5, 2017, flood are a phenomenon that need to be investigated.
"We have been in close communication with the DDD and other downtown stakeholders as we continue to investigate just why we are seeing unusual flooding incidents," Rainey said.
"The results of Monday’s rain event were extreme, and our team is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to get to the bottom of it. That will take time and research, but we agree that the flood phenomena we’ve witnessed in recent months deserve a thorough investigation and, if necessary, an action plan to address it," he said.
It's a change of tone from the utility that may be welcomed by many residents.
When storms like those that developed over the city on Monday dump too much rain in too short a time, the system can be overwhelmed and flooding cannot be stopped, S&WB officials have said after past floods.
The city's drainage system has been at the center of WWL-TV's ongoing Down the Drain investigation since 2017, and its power generation, manpower and infrastructure are limited because of everything from a lack of maintenance to subsidence of canals.
However, city leaders like Downtown Development District CEO and president Kurt Weigle said he was pleased to hear the S&WB say on Monday that the agency would launch an investigation into the flooding that has seen water pile up in areas where it has not historically done so.
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Weigle gave a live interview to WWL-TV on a flooded Podyras Street, where he said Monday's flooding was "head and shoulders above anything we've seen."
“Starting in August 2017, we started noticing something different,” he said. “Something is going on here. I don’t have the answers, but we need to get answers real quick.”
Weigle said a full assessment is needed to figure out why the flooding has been so severe before "we start throwing money at it."
On Poydras Street in the Central Business District, WWL-TV reporter Paul Murphy spoke with several residents, many of whom are lifelong residents who said street flooding has gotten more regular and more severe in the last few years in the city.
"They just pulled a raggedy car out of one sewer last week! That's been there for years blocking the drainage system," one man said.
There are also concerns of potential unintended consequences from the city about a newly completed drainage project.
The S&WB is studying the effects of the massive culverts built in recent years under several Uptown avenues as part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, known as SELA. A report on the impact SELA has had on drainage in the area could be complete as early as next month, Korban said.