NEW ORLEANS — Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban emphasized that New Orleans’ pumping system was operating at full power before Tropical Storm Barry, but many residents were still skeptical.

If the system was at full strength (or at least near it), then why did New Orleans flood on Wednesday?

The answer may be below our city’s streets and sidewalks. After Wednesday's flood, S&WB workers pulled 60 tons of debris from catch basins and the drainage system. New and old.

Ramsey Green, New Orleans' deputy chief administrative officer overseeing infrastructure, said that the question now is how much does that debris really affect the city’s drainage? 

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“We have a footprint of 72,000 catch basins through the city,” Green said during a press conference Saturday. “You clean something two weeks ago, you have a flood like you had Wednesday and a bunch of other stuff goes into it.”

A major contract was awarded by the City after the Aug. 5, 2017 flood to clean those catch basins. Only 22,000 of them were cleared. Since then, the number has gone up to 30,000. Still less than half.

City officials conceded that they don’t have the manpower to clean them all and keep them that way, which is why they ask residents to clear catch basins themselves. But the worst debris could still be deeper, where residents can’t reach.

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Officials are working to figure out how to deal with that problem now, but more analysis needs to be done according to Green.

In the meantime, we’re in the middle of hurricane season. And as many homeowners and business owners whose property has flooded have asked at City Hall, if this is optimal, it doesn’t appear to be good enough. How do you live in a city like this?