Flooded street with cars in it.

After a dry 2020, New Orleanians get a triple dose of monsoon flooding in one week

The summer of 2021 is already off to a floody start in New Orleans. Three times this week (on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday) ISeeChangers documented flooding throughout the city during afternoon storms.

Photo of a flooded street and a mail van driving.
ISeeChanger Emily W shared this photo with the caption: “Where that postal truck is parked is where the street you drive down To get to the ER of all places!!!”

Monday’s rain event, according to ISeeChange rain gauge hosts in Gentilly, Lakeview, and Midcity was between a 5 and 10-year storm event (which means a storm of that intensity has a 20-10% probability of happening in a given year), exceeding the pump capacity of New Orleans. Many infrastructure solutions – both green and grey- are designed to help reduce flooding at this level, so adding to the record can help plan solutions. 

This week, streets drained relatively quickly compared to other events. This likely signals that the pump system was working as expected, but if you saw anything unusual, be sure to tell us in a new post. Additionally, if you or your neighbors want a free rain gauge, let us know in your post! We’ll deliver you one with instructions on how to install it. 

As a result of power failures before and during Hurricane Zeta last year, it is important to note that two of Sewerage and Water Board’s turbines have been replaced by loud, portable, diesel generators. Residents living close to the power plant have been bearing the burden, with noise pollution consistently above 90 decibels according to WWL-TV. We extend the ISeeChange platform for those Uptown and Black Pearl residents to share their stories and experiences with the ISeeChange community.

 

Spring 2021 was also unusually rainy

From March to May this year, official rain totals were over 34 inches which is two times the average for the city. Saturated soil led to a lot of backyard and garden flooding in mid-April when it rained for several days. 

I just got my yard fix last year where they dug everything off Now I receive rain from my neighbour yard

Abe Mackey

Still the spring rains did not reach an intensity that obviously overwhelmed the pump system as streets drained quickly, even if gardens became swampy. Southern great oaks, which can absorb hundreds of gallons of water, stored excess rain during these events.

Solutions are tricky sometimes to “see” because when infrastructure is working we don’t notice as much. The oak trees in New Orleans provide incredible storm water storage- like these on Wisner Drive. They held water for 4 straight days after the big storms last week and kept the adjacent road dry. But where there are Entergy utility poles and no room for trees on Wisner and Robert E. Lee Blvd. (as named now), that’s where this problem puddle happens that do many people post about in Gentilly. This puddle would go away with a bit of green infrastructure if there could be room for it. On the other hand, a few cars pulling up to Wisner trail didn’t appreciate how deep the water was in the trees and got stuck! So even the best solutions might benefit a sign

Julia Kumari Drapkin

 

2020 was a relatively dry year with only one major city-wide flood event

With the exception of minor flooding in the shoulder season in November, New Orleans saw only one major flood event in 2020, on June 10. ISeeChangers reported flooding across all neighborhoods. Treme got the most rain during this storm with one ISeeChanger reporting 4.15 inches of rain in two hours, similar in scale and intensity to Monday’s (June 21, 2021) event this week.  

Intersection of Caton/Buchanan Streets. St. Bernard in view. Kayaked around neighborhood taking measurements between 11”-18” in our block of Buchanan/Foy/Cadillac/Caton Streets. Starting to drain.

Jill Shampine

2020 also brought rain and wind from tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane Zeta passed directly over the city in late-October. The storm moved through quickly, so there was no flooding reported. But there was significant wind damage that took out trees and roofs. 

The morning after Hurricane Zeta is gorgeous in New Orleans- a cool front moved in after the storm so it’s sunny and in the 60s- perfect to walk around and survey the damage. Lots of trees and pieces of trees down in many areas- including some that took down power lines- this is on S Carrollton between Palmer Park and Oak Street.

Bridget Coila

 

Keep sharing what you see!

The most helpful flood posts include stories of how you were impacted by the storm, how high the floodwaters got and how long streets take to drain. Check out this deep dive story to see how ISeeChange posts influenced stormwater solutions in the Pilotlands area of Gentilly. If you have observations from any storms in 2020, you can still post those too! Just be sure to change the date and time as you are making your post. 

And don’t forget to post any sightings of extreme heat, trees, or other infrastructure changes you see this summer in our community. Your sightings can help our city’s researchers, health workers, planners, and engineers design and target solutions. 

 

Cover photo by Sarah Trimble on ISeeChange.

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