Storm overwhelms New Orleans' pumps

December 22, 2006|By Los Angeles Times

Heavy rain overwhelmed New Orleans' pumping systems yesterday, flooding side streets and major arteries and raising new worries about the city's vulnerabilities after Hurricane Katrina.

The rains were part of the storm that shut down parts of the Mountain West and Plains this week. The New Orleans area got more than 4 inches of rain Wednesday and yesterday. And, said Brenda Thornton, a spokeswoman for the city's Sewerage and Water Board, that was too much for the pumps to handle.

The system has been repaired since Katrina. In a statement yesterday, city officials said that all of the pumps but one were operational, adding that debris-clogged storm drains might have been part of the problem.

David Shaver, 62, watched yesterday morning as 18 inches of water coursed in front of his home on Palmer Avenue. His house, like many, is raised off the ground and came through the storm just fine.

Still it was an unsettling moment for Shaver, who moved back into his Katrina-damaged house a month ago.

A number of streets, including major arteries, were shut down by up to 3 feet of water. Three high schools were flooded, and the school system closed early.

"We're used to this - whenever we have rain nonstop, the pumps can't handle so much at one time," said Dominican Sister Lorraine Torres, 74, a longtime city resident. "But this was nothing compared to Katrina."

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