S&WB director says climate change contributed to flooding

Vicksburg and Polk Streets in Lakeview

NEW ORLEANS – Climate change played a factor in last weekend’s massive and widespread flooding, according to Sewerage and Water Board executive director Cedric Grant.

Grant weighed in on the issue at a press conference on the evening of August 5 after giving an update on the status of the city’s water pumps.

“The pumps are operational and we’re doing everything we can do pump the water down,” Grant said. “Any place that you have eight to 10 inches of rain, there’s no drainage system in the world that can handle that immediately.”

The pumps can handle one inch in one hour and half an inch every hour after that, so eight to 10 inches of rain will overwhelm the system every time.

Grant said he is frustrated that the public doesn’t seem to understand the system’s limitations, and frustrated that heavy rain events seem to be occurring more often now.

“The frustration is that we are now in a different era,” Grant said. “We are in an era of climate change, where we have these rains every week, every month. And it’s not just us. It’s the rest of the country that’s experiencing the same weather patterns.”

Doubling the number of pumps to accommodate the extra heavy rains would cost billions of dollars, Grant said.

“We have a fairly significant system, one of the most significant in the world, but we’re now in a situation where we now receive more rain than anybody could have imagined on a recurring basis,” he said. “This system is doing everything it can to address that.”