When it comes to flooding in New Orleans, preparation is key

As areas of the city recovered from major flooding due to broken drainage systems, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu updated New Orleans residents on the status of the city’s drainage system earlier this week in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

While Landrieu and his administration work to address the deficits of the flooding infrastructure in New Orleans, he still does not have a plan in place in the event the drainage systems are not functioning in the near future. He needs to be decisive in ensuring citizens of New Orleans are safe from harm.

Landrieu’s lack of decisiveness is seen in his hesitation to provide a rainfall threshold that would force New Orleans residents to evacuate. This hesitation could potentially lead to thousands of people being trapped in flooded areas. Until areas of the city at risk of flooding have fully functional drainage systems, an alternative plan needs to be formulated and implemented.

Storm preparation is essential, and the world has seen what happens when a city is not prepared for a storm. When the levees meant to protect New Orleans from storm flooding were not properly maintained leading up to Hurricane Katrina, they gave way to storm water that caused catastrophic damage. As the city rebuilt, and continues to rebuild, New Orleans residents should ensure that their city government remains vigilant in preparing for future crises.

Based on the exact trajectory of the tropical storm, evacuation has not been necessary. Landrieu could be holding off on establishing a rainfall threshold for evacuation since Harvey will not hit New Orleans directly. The assumption based on the trajectory, however, is not always an exact or adequate indicator of how much rain the city will get.

In addition, Landrieu has not released a rainfall threshold because his focus has been on the faulty drainage system. While fixing the infrastructure is crucial, he and his administration must formulate alternative plans, too.

The effects of Harvey will still hit Louisiana, and the heavy rain we have seen this week was likely the beginning of more to come.

While the Landrieu administration works to fix the drainage systems in the city and determine a rainfall threshold for evacuation, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is preparing to help the entire state with emergency preparedness. The new FEMA administrator, Brock Long, is stationed in Baton Rouge for assistance, and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness was dispatched on Wednesday to help prepare for Harvey’s landfall in Louisiana.

The responsibility to prepare for a storm should not rest solely with the state government. The Landrieu administration needs to ensure that residents know when they should leave and when they should stay. Residents in areas most vulnerable to flooding cannot afford to wait. As Tulane students living in New Orleans, we cannot wait. All of New Orleans needs to know whether we are safe and when we will need to take action and leave. If we do not have that information, then we are just sitting, waiting to be hit by a storm.

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