NEW ORLEANS – Flood weary and water-logged New Orleans residents were in no mood to be gracious when a second major flooding event in the past few weeks again made streets impassable and this time got into some homes and businesses and several cars.
What had New Orleanians concerned on social media was also what these two rain events showed about the city’s drainage system and what it might or might not be able to handle during a hurricane event.
Saturday’s rain event was by most measures twice as heavy as the one a few weeks ago.
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Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Cedric Grant vigorously defended the system in a couple of telephone interviews on Eyewitness News and later in a live press conference.
The system, he said, worked as well as it could at the now well-known capacity of one inch of rain in the first hour and a half inch every hour thereafter. All the pumps, he said, we working and no system could have handled what this city was dealt – 8-10 inches of rain in about three hours time.
“There is no drainage system in the world that can handle that immediately,” he said, while saying he was somewhat frustrated. “I continue to tell the people what this system can do. It's pretty amazing in that it can do one inch of rain in the first hour and a half an inch of rain every hour after that. We are dealing with 8 to 10 inches of rain in three hours. It is not going to be able to pump that in an hour.”
Grant said the recent rains are part of the climate change era.
“We have these kinds of rains every month and it’s not just us. It’s the rest of the country that’s experiencing the same weather patterns.”
Grant says he gets the frustrations of business and homeowners, but he says these types of rains have happened in the past and you should just ride it out. He contends the city of New Orleans has one of the most robust drainage systems in the world and that to double its capacity would cost billions of dollars the city doesn’t have.
“We have the largest drainage pumps anywhere. To double them would be billions of dollars... We have a fairly significant system, one of the most significant in the world, but we're in a situation now where we receive more rain than anybody could have imagined on a recurring basis. This system is doing everything it can to address that."