September 24, 2005

Battered New Orleans copes with floods again

By Andy Sullivan

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Surging waters from Hurricane Rita
poured into the streets of New Orleans on Saturday and bands of
rain posed an additional threat to the devastated, but largely
empty, city.

Officials expected few deaths in the neighborhoods that
flooded on Friday because they had been largely deserted before
storm waters topped levees along the Industrial Canal in at
least four places.

The Army Corps of Engineers said it planned to use a
helicopter to drop sandbags on a 30-foot-wide (9-meter)
waterfall on the east side of the city's Industrial Canal and
bring in dump trucks to shore up topped sections on the west
side of the canal, which abuts several poor but historic

High winds and flooding had kept the helicopters and dump
trucks at bay on Friday.

But the flooding meant a new setback for a city that had
barely begun to recover from Hurricane Katrina, which stranded
thousands of residents in chaotic conditions nearly four weeks

As Rita's 120 mph (193 kph) winds slammed into the
Texas-Louisiana border, the National Weather Service said New
Orleans could still face torrential rains and tides about five
feet above normal.

Heavy rain could lead to more flooding across the city as
storm drains are still choked with debris from Katrina.

Army Corps Col. Duane Gapinsky said he wasn't sure how much
water was in the city.

"There'll be some significant flooding. We've already got
reports of six feet of water on highway underpasses," Gapinski
said on CNN.

The corps should be able to pump the water out much quicker
than it was able to do after Katrina, he said.

Corps officials had sealed off two canals to prevent a
repeat of the flooding in neighborhoods near Lake
Pontchartrain. Those barriers held back the surging lake on
Friday while one road along the shoreline was under water.

The corps had used gravel to patch levee sections that had
been damaged by Katrina.

Water leached steadily under one of those repaired sections
along the London Avenue Canal on Friday, a condition a corps
engineer said would continue until clay or other more
watertight materials could be brought in.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington)