Happy Anniversary, May Flood!
NEW ORLEANS - By all accounts, we knew that it was coming. We just didn't know how bad it would be.Rainfall totals measured between 10 and 20 inches over the two day deluge overwhelming the drainage system and causing widespread damage. Twenty years later, the response to that crisis is still under construction.
That's how veteran Channel 4 anchor Bill Elder described the devastating floods of May 8 and 9, 1995, which dumped as much as two feet of water on parts of the metro area. The storms claimed seven lives, flooded hundreds of homes and businesses, and caused billions of dollars in damage and insurance claims.
"The one by which all others will be measured and remembered," is how Elder described the floods in his report the next day. Of course, Hurricane Katrina 10 years later would dwarf those days by comparison, but the memories of the May 8 flood remain vivid.
Part of those floods’ legacy was to catalyze creation of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, usually referred to as “SELA,” in 1996.
In the 20 years since the flood, $706 million has been spent on upgrading canals, culverts and pumps in New Orleans and Jefferson.The major work uptown involves installing wider underground box culverts like this one going in underneath Napoleon Avenue.
Another $803 million worth of projects are ongoing in New Orleans and Jefferson to bolster a system designed to handle 9 inches of rainwater in a 24-hour period.
However, there’s no denying that the massive effort has taken its toll on residents’ quality of life. Crews working on SELA’s various components have jammed traffic on many major thoroughfares, especially in Uptown New Orleans. They’ve disrupted streetcar and bus routes, and in some cases, homeowners have been prevented from parking by their homes.
“SELA has required a lot of sacrifice on our residents’ behalf,” Boyett said Friday. “It’s required an intense amount of cooperation.”
Yet, as SELA’s estimated 2018 completion date draws nearer, Boyett hopes locals haven’t run out of patience.
It's definitely going to get worse before it gets better. This summer, St. Charles Avenue is going to be disrupted at all three major intersections between Louisiana and Jefferson they say until August 31st but who knows for how long, really. Here is a Boh Brothers crew preparing for this work at Louisiana and St. Charles this morning.
As of right now, they're expecting the project to run until 2018. (Celebrate the Tricentennial by driving wherever the hell you want!) But until then it'll be another few seasons of weird little inconveniences.