Heavy rainfall caused flooding throughout much of the New Orleans area Saturday afternoon, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood warning that stretched into the early evening for New Orleans, Metairie, Kenner, River Ridge, Harahan and Waggaman.

Dozens of streets were reported to have flooded during the pounding rains, which began between 2 and 3 p.m. and continued throughout the afternoon.

WWL-TV estimated nearly 5 inches of rain fell over downtown New Orleans and Mid-City by 5 p.m., with Gentilly receiving more than 3 inches.

The weather service said its downtown observation post recorded 1.23 inches between 3 and 4 p.m. and 2.62 inches between 4 and 5 p.m., totaling 3.85 inches in the two-hour span.

Major flooding was reported in Lakeview near Robert E. Lee Boulevard and near West End and Harrison avenues. Several portions of Canal Boulevard near City Park and sections of Tulane Avenue, Banks Street, Canal Street and Orleans Avenue saw flooding that was waist-high at the deepest points.

For the second time in as many weeks, the low-lying Broad Street Theater flooded as the cinema screened afternoon films. Just after 3 p.m., staffers warned patrons that the lobby and parking lot were filling up with water and they might want to check on their cars.

Outside, the water on North Broad Street rose quickly, swamping some parked cars.

Later Saturday, the theater's owners said via Twitter that the cinema was closing temporarily but would reopen soon.

The Banks Street Bar, at South Alexander and Banks streets, remained open throughout the storm, with patrons doing their drinking in knee-deep water.

Mid-City resident Mark Summers, 30, said similar rains last month also flooded the neighborhood but that Saturday’s downfall was much worse.

“This happened a few weeks ago, so we didn’t think it would be that bad, but the second time was way worse. It’s another day in New Orleans, I guess,” Summers said.

Next door at Clesi’s Restaurant, a wedding tasting was underway when the water started rushing in, reaching close to 3 feet.

“We were watching the rain and the water just started coming in fast,” said employee Luana Perrotta. “Within 20 minutes the place was flooded. We had to jump through the window to get out.” 

Esplanade Avenue from North Claiborne Avenue to North Broad saw heavy flooding, as did several areas near Paris Avenue and Robert E. Lee Boulevard.

Even some streets in the French Quarter — an area that usually remains relatively untouched by floodwaters — saw flooding, including sections of Bourbon Street.

An employee at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar, at Iberville and Bourbon streets, said several inches of water swept in off the street and flooded the bar area.

Laura Morgan, an employee at the nearby Backspace Bar & Kitchen, at Iberville and Chartres, said the bar flooded with roughly 2 to 3 inches of water for a little less than an hour.

“It settled down pretty quickly, but it came in and swept all the way to the back (of the restaurant),” Morgan said. “I’ve worked here four years and that’s never happened.”

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The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board reported these rainfall totals as of 5 p.m.: Broadmoor, 4.94 inches; Mid-City, 7.81 inches; St. Bernard, 5.42 inches; Gentilly, 2.76 inches; Lower 9th Ward, 3.00 inches; Lakeview, 4.71 inches; City Park, 4.86 inches; Lower Coast Algiers, 1.33 inches; New Orleans East, 0.16 inches; St. Roch, 4.96 inches; and Hollygrove, 1.35 inches.

The storm also wreaked havoc across the lake and caused a roof to collapse at a Mandeville restaurant. St. Tammany Parish Fire District No. 4 reported a roof collapse at La Yunta Mexican restaurant but said no injuries were reported.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., the city issued a warning for residents to avoid low-lying areas prone to flooding, including under bridges and overpasses, most of which remained impassable as of 7 p.m.

According to the city's statement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city and the Sewerage & Water Board were monitoring water levels in the outfall canals and in Lake Pontchartrain. It said that all pumping stations were operational.

The city's pumps are able to handle 1 inch of rain in the first hour and half an inch of rain each hour after that.

Staff writer Gordon Russell contributed to this report.  

Follow Helen Freund on Twitter, @helenfreund.