If Harvey happened in New Orleans

If Harvey happened in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It was a forecast few could imagine but one that would come to reality.

Heavy rains and flooding certainly aren't new to tropical systems, but the breadth and intensity of Harvey's rains were exceptional.

Twenty nine thousand square miles of Southeast Texas were flooded with at least 20 inches of rain. That's larger than 10 states.

The entire area alone saw at least 25 inches of rain from Houston to Beaumont impacting millions of people.

To give you an idea of the magnitude and scale of the flooding, 50 inches of rain would cover most of the south shore from Houma to New Orleans and St. Bernard.

Even a large chunk of St Tammany Parish and parts of Hancock County would see the maximum amounts.

We've never seen rains like this over such an enormous area, so what would do we do if Harvey happened here?

Just like Katrina exposed flawed levees and flood walls, the Mid-City flood last August exposed serious deficiencies with the New Orleans drainage system.

"I've got flooded three times in three weeks," Cathy Martinez. "That is just too much and no one should have to go into hurricane season, living in a city that's below sea level, with no pumps. So, I'm disgusted."

Emergency managers decide to order an evacuation when they think levees will overtop or potentially breach.  The possibility was raised last summer that New Orleans might have to evacuate for all tropical storms and hurricanes with the drainage system so disabled.

"It was very concerning," said Joe Valiente, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson Parish. "I was surprised that a major city like Houston could become so inundated with so much flooding."

Despite efforts by the first responders and emergency managers, they just couldn't keep up with the amount of flooding.

Harvey came just weeks later. Not since Katrina have we seen such dramatic photos.

Thousands of people trapped on rooftops waiting to be rescued. Entire interstate systems shut down because of deep flood waters and all of this taking place in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.

"We know that a Harvey scenario over Southeast Louisiana would overwhelm our drainage system," said FOX 8 Chief Meterologist David Bernard. "It would overwhelm any drainage system. So the question is what do we do here if we are faced with a Harvey type flood?"

Valiente said extreme options would need to be considered.

"If we know we are going to get 50" of rain in a 24 or 36 hour period then i think you'd have to seriously consider calling for an evacuation," said Valiente.
"A Harvey type storm would bring some of the same problems we would expect from levee overtopping or breaches. Flooded interstates preventing evacuations is an immediate dilemma but that's just the beginning."

The new Director of Homeland Security for New Orleans Collin Arnold agreed.

"I would look for an evacuation," Arnold said. "You're talking about flooded government structures, flooded hospitals, you're talking about possibly infiltration into the drinking water systems, you're talking about tremendous power issues."

Back at the Sewerage and Water Board in New Orleans, things are much better than they were in August of 2017.

Power has more than doubled and includes a number of redundant systems where power can be generated.

Regardless, any drainage system is no match for a storm like Harvey.

Harvey claimed 68 lives directly in Texas, the most from a tropical storm in that state since 1919.

It's $125 billion in damage makes it the second most costly hurricane in U.S. history behind Katrina.

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