‘Overwhelming’: Sewerage & Water Board director says the system was overwhelmed, predicts future flooding events

“Our obligation is to keep up with the rain as much as we can, and then when there is so much intensity or high intensity, our job turns into pumping the water as fast as we can,” Ghassan Korban said.
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When heavy rains inundated New Orleans and surrounding areas Friday, pump systems in both Orleans and Jefferson Parishes were overwhelmed.

Pushed past capacity, water flooded streets across the metro area, submerging vehicles and leaving residents questioning if this event was a predictor of storms to come.

“I do not see that happening at any less frequency, unfortunately, and our job is to keep up with the system that we have and continue to improve on it,” said Ghassan Korban, Director of the Sewerage and Water Board.

Korban said 94 of 99 pumps were operational at the time the storm started, with another coming online later. Of the four pumps out of commission, two are in Algiers and two are on Metairie Road.

Five inches of rain per hour were dumped in New Orleans East, and 4.5 inches in Broadmoor.

RELATED STORY: Flash flooding drenches Jefferson, Orleans parishes; pumps ‘overwhelmed’

“This is an intensity that really would overwhelm any system in any city to be honest with you, conventional or unique like our system,” Korban said. “It is just the amount of rain surpassed the capacity that we have anywhere across the city.”

Korban said the system held up to the best of its ability, but any time there’s more than three inches of rain an hour, which he said has been happening more frequently, there’s going to be flooding.

“I have never seen it this bad, ever,” said New Orleans East resident Dayton Alexander. “It just causes concern with the hurricane season coming up about protection of our houses, protection of sewage, water coming through our sewage. And the flooding is going to be a huge problem I think if we don’t get this under control.”

In Jefferson Parish, the drainage system was also inundated. Ben Lepine, Interim Director of Jefferson Parish Drainage, said Friday’s event was between a 25 to 50-year storm.

Of 195 pumps in Jefferson Parish’s system, 192 were operational at the time. Lepine said the parish saw about four inches of rain dumped in an hour.

In Metairie, the 17th Street Canal was hit with rain the hardest.

“It did build up a little bit in the streets, but we were able to pump it down efficiently and get levels back to where they should be,” Lepine said.

Korban said S&WB expects these kinds of storms to happen with increasing frequency.

“Unfortunately, this is likely to continue to happen. It has happened the last couple of years more frequently than in the past, and we believe based on the climatology report that the climate is changing and those intense rains will be more frequent,” he said.

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