Walking through water almost up to his knees, a Mid-City resident shouted to Fayd Savry on Sunday morning, “Can I give you $10 for a couple pints?”
“We’re closed today,” said Savry, who had to turn away many potential customers while he cleaned his flooded-out corner store at Banks and South Lopez streets.
Savry said he’s used to flooding in Mid-City, with the store — Paraiso Grocery — having taken on water as recently as three weeks ago, but Sunday morning’s deluge was the worst he’s seen since August 2017.
“I don’t know what to do with New Orleans,” Savry said. “It’s not about rain. It’s about the drains, the pumps.”
A major pump at a New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board station that drains Mid-City lost power early Sunday as torrential rain drenched the …
The Sewerage & Water Board said that, with the exception of one pump that lost its Entergy-supplied power during the storm, the drainage system appeared to work as expected Sunday morning.
“As far as we can tell, the system operated as it was designed,” spokesman Rich Rainey said. “But we are constantly looking for ways to improve.”
National Weather Service gauges recorded about 4.5 inches of rain at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and 4.9 inches at Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, with most of it falling in the second round of overnight storms from about 5 a.m. to 6 a.m.
The website Weather Underground, which tracks information from personal weather stations, showed more than 6 inches of rain at gauges in areas including Uptown, the Central Business District and Treme. Nearly 8 inches of rain fell in the Lower 9th Ward, according to a gauge near the St. Bernard Parish line, and a Bywater station reported nearly 6.5 inches.
The rain was so severe that the Mississippi River rose 3 inches in an hour at the Army Corps of Engineers' Carrollton gauge. That was enough to drive the river up to 17.2 feet above sea level, nearly the same height it had reached before the Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened on Friday to divert water coming down from storms to the north.
By 8 a.m., the river dropped back below the 17-foot threshold that triggers the use of the spillway.
The storm and flooding did not appear quite as severe as the August 2017 flood, which had similarly widespread effects as some areas of the city got up to 10 inches of rain in a few hours.
That storm served as a catalyst for renewed scrutiny of the S&WB and a shakeup in its management. It was later revealed that some pumps and power turbines were offline in that storm, turning public focus to the need for upgrades in the utility's equipment and the emergency spending of tens of millions of dollars.
Lots of flooded cars
About a foot of water got into his Mid-City store Sunday, according to Savry, about the same amount that left neighboring Echo’s Pizza closed for the day. Savry said around 3 feet is what he saw inside in 2017.
Ten blocks away, Parkway Bakery and Tavern also closed as a result of flooding. So did numerous other Mid-City businesses.
Some homes took on water, too, but cars seemed to be the day's major victims, with many of those not parked on the neutral grounds in Mid-City flooded.
Significant flooding was also reported on Broad Street, St. Bernard Avenue, Lakeview, parts of the West Bank and the Lower 9th Ward. Jefferson Parish also reported street flooding in some areas.
Particularly confusing, and frustrating, for some residents was the fact that some areas of the city seemed to be stuck underwater for hours, while nearby areas drained as expected.
Janet Picket said that was the case near her house in the 3200 block of Banks Street, which remained waterlogged until after 10 a.m., when over a foot of standing water in the street rapidly disappeared in about 20 minutes.
That raised questions for city officials.
“This was a tremendous rainstorm that was likely to cause flooding because of the amount of rain we received in such a short period of time,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso, who chairs the City Council committee that oversees the S&WB. “What I can’t wrap my head around is why some areas of the city appear to drain rapidly while other areas take longer to do so.”
The S&WB will be looking into that matter as it analyses the storm and its response, Rainey said.
The smell of sewage
At Palmyra Street and South Jefferson Davis Parkway, a rooming house with 12 people living on the ground floor took on water.
Shelly Shephard said it took only 45 minutes from when it started raining for the water outside to get knee-deep, up to her windowsill.
After early morning storms dropped several inches of rain in New Orleans on Sunday, a Regional Transit Authority bus was caught on video drivi…
Shephard said that when she saw that, a little after 7 a.m., she went to wake up the rest of the house, telling the others not to open any doors because they didn’t want a rush of water coming in.
But the flooding came anyway, Shephard said — from the toilets. “Our bathrooms started to backflow into our house,” she said, making the whole house smell of sewage.
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Water eventually came in from outside, too, mainly from cars passing, creating wakes.
Sunday's flooding rains on Mother's Day in New Orleans caused scattered property damage across the city, with flooded vehicles likely being on…
In a video that made the rounds on Sunday, a Regional Transit Authority bus could be seen speeding down a flooded street, pushing water into cars with its wake. Transdev, the company that runs the RTA's daily operations, said it will look into the incident.
The S&WB reported only one issue with its pumps or power on Sunday, and Rainey said that likely did not have a significant impact on flooding.
A major pump at Station 7 near City Park, which drains Mid-City, didn’t function for an hour after losing its Entergy-supplied electricity while crews worked to switch to a generator, according to officials. The loss of power occurred about 5 a.m., just before the height of the storm.
While that pump accounts for more than a third of the station’s capacity, Rainey said that didn’t contribute much to the flooding because there was not enough water in the canal that the pump draws from for it to be put to use at that time. At most, the pump was offline for around 15 minutes when it could have been used, Rainey said.
An emailed statement from Entergy New Orleans said “several of our protective devices operated as designed on our equipment feeding the pumping station.”
Giarrusso said he had been told by Entergy that a fuse was activated, cutting off power. That raises questions about what triggered the fuse and whether something needs to be done to prevent that from recurring, he said.
“We need to make sure that if we’re in the middle of a tropical storm or a hurricane that pumps aren’t shutting down inappropriately,” he said.
The S&WB was still investigating what happened, Rainey said.
Entergy reported that over 11,000 customers lost power at some point Sunday morning in the metro area.
Living with water
In a statement Sunday afternoon, the city said it will work with the S&WB to analyze why flooding happened in areas across the city, with the epicenter once again being in Mid-City.
“My administration has been laser-focused on infrastructure as a whole and stormwater management in particular,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “As we face our issues head on, we are using data and experience to better live with water.”
For Picket, whose yard flooded from rains just last month, living with water seems like it's becoming a part of Mid-City life.
“It doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” she said.
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A flash flood warning for parts of the New Orleans area expired at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, setting the stage for the metro area to dry out and allo…
At the rooming house, meanwhile, Annie Jenkins picked up boxes of her things after the flood receded. “It’s wet. There’s water everywhere,” she said.
Shephard said the residents would be spending the day cleaning, and probably more days to come.
She first moved into the house after it was renovated following the August 2017 flood.
“We do spring cleaning on Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to me,” she said.