Robin Grisaffe and a friend were caught on the I-10 bridge in creeping traffic and increasing rain as the waters rose around the city.
“Traffic was so bad my friend wanted to exit sooner than we otherwise would have,” says Grisaffe. The rain soon began falling in hard sheets. “When we started to exit, I could see ahead of me that the street was flooded and unsafe to drive through, so I decided it would be safer to get back up on the bridge. By the time I got back on I-10, the traffic was even slower. So, I tried to exit again at Esplanade Avenue, where it was flooded seemingly much worse. I drove through super deep water and decided to go up under the bridge and just sit.”
Water soon began to rise under the overpass, around her car. “And by now the area under the bridge was filled to capacity with other vehicles, so there was no getting out at that point,” she explained. Grisaffe and her friend sat in the car for three hours waiting for the rain to calm, and then another three for the floodwaters to begin subsiding.
This was not a scene from Hurricane Katrina, but rather from last Saturday afternoon, when a so-called “rain bomb” dumped eight to 10 inches of water on New Orleans in just a few short hours. Social media exploded with photos of flooded cars. What seemed like just an unusually heavy rainstorm ended up flooding homes and businesses. Even the French Quarter found itself shin-deep this time.
Businesses took water, from The Always Lounge on St. Claude, to The Saenger Theatre on Canal Street, to the The Broad Theatre and Zulu clubhouse, both a stone’s throw from the street’s pumping stations.
“I believed it was a typical flood where the water would blow in and blow out, but the water stayed in the building for well over 10 hours. At midnight it was still 2.5 feet,” attests Zulu President Naaman Stewart of the now ruined Zulu clubhouse. “We still have a mark on the wall where the Katrina water was, and this wasn’t too far under Katrina levels. We lost appliances, furniture, memorabilia across the street in the store; everything on the first level was destroyed. Most of our 2018 throws, all of those things were damaged. We closed the club and cancelled all our activities for now. We have to gut out everything that’s four feet high and under, take out insulation, remove a sculpture that was installed –and we are scared to start the process cause we don’t know if it’s gonna flood in the middle of it. And every day we can’t do that is a day we can’t operate and make money.”
Many assumed the pumps simply had not been turned on. As such, it was later terrifying to hear Sewerage and Water Board representatives claim the pumps had been running at full capacity. The S&WB’s Cedric Grant blamed the rain bomb on global warming. “There is no pumping system in the world that could handle that amount of water in that amount of time,” he said.
The next day Grant announced he’d be retiring earlier than planned, at the end of this hurricane season, with full pension of over $170,000 a year for the rest of his life. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this story at Louisiana Weekly…