- As much as 7 inches of rain fell over a three-hour period in New Orleans Wednesday morning.
- Some streets are flooded as the area braces for the potential landfall of a hurricane as soon as Saturday.
- Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency.
NEW ORLEANS – A storm swamped New Orleans streets and paralyzed traffic Wednesday as concerns grew that even worse weather was on the way: a possible hurricane that could strike the Gulf Coast and raise the Mississippi River to the brim of the city’s protective levees.
The storm was associated with a broad area of disturbed weather in the Gulf that forecasters said was on track to strengthen into a hurricane by the weekend.
The system was expected to become a tropical depression by Thursday morning, a tropical storm by Thursday night and a hurricane on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Lines of thunderstorms associated with the system ranged far out in into the Gulf and battered New Orleans, where as much as 7 inches of rain fell over a three-hour period Wednesday morning, forecasters said.
In New Orleans, streets turned into small, swift rivers that overturned garbage cans and picked up pieces of floating wood. Water was up to the doors of many cars. Other vehicles were abandoned. Kayakers paddled their way down some streets.
Chandris Rethmeyer lost her car to the flood and had to wade through water about 4 feet deep to get to safety. She was on her way home after working an overnight shift when she got stuck behind an accident in an underpass and the water started rising.
“I was going to sit in my car and let the storm pass,” she said. “But I reached back to get my son’s iPad and put my hand into a puddle of water.”
Valerie R. Burton woke up Wednesday to what looked like a lake outside her door.
“There was about 3 to 4 feet of water in the street, pouring onto the sidewalks and at my door. So I went to my neighbors to alert them and tell them to move their cars,” she said.
It was all a grim reminder of sudden flooding that surprised the city during an August 2017 rain.
That flood exposed major problems at the agency overseeing street drainage. It led to personnel shake-ups at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and required major repair efforts.
On Wednesday, the board said 118 of 120 drainage pumps were operational and the agency was fully staffed. But the agency’s director says that much rain in such a short time would have overwhelmed any drainage system.