Katrina – Broussard Water caused over $1B in damage in 2005.
We monitored Hurricane Katrina in the days before the storm’s landfall. As a family, we were weren’t the people who evacuate regularly. Between small children and pets, the process of putting everything in the car and leaving seemed more of a challenge than staying. So, it was a Big Deal on the morning of 28-August-2005, when we decided to leave the house in Metairie. I texted a friend in Shreveport and they welcomed us with open arms. That first night was fitful. The next day was just horrible, since we were 300 miles away.
The news focused on the water coming into the city, particularly from the breach in the 17th Street Canal floodwall. It was an ugly sight. Before moving to Metairie, we lived in Gentilly. Hearing that Lakeview and Gentilly was filling up with ten to fiften feet of water was heartbreaking. The one consolation, though, was that canal breach was on the eastern side. The water wasn’t going to our house.
I should have been more concerned when I heard Parish President Aaron Broussard on the radio on 28-August. Like most New Orleanians during a crisis, we had the radio tuned to WWL-AM (870) as we made our way North. Thing is, bumper to bumper traffic, stressed-out kids, and a cat full of anxiety tend to be distractions. Still, I heard the red flags.
Aaron Broussard had lost it. He melted down right there on the phone with the radio station, telling the feds to bring down 10.000 body bags for the aftermath of the storm. He begged folks to leave. It was, well, unhinged is an overused word, but it’s a good description. Fucking crazy would be better.
I’m not sure if Broussard said he was evacuating the crews for the pumping stations at the outfall canals in the parish on the radio. The guy who wanted those body bags ordered the crews that manned those stations onto trucks. They bailed north, heading to Washington Parish.
After the storm
The levees held in Metairie. While water drowned the city, the suburbs held together. That’s when things went wrong. Catch basins in the streets channeled water into drainage pipes which led to the canals. When they got to the canals, though, the mechanism to get the water out of the streets and into the lake shut down. Nobody was at the pumping stations to turn the pumps back on. Those crews were in Washington Parish. The water filled the canals, then backed up into the pipe, into the streets, up the lawns of houses. The water didn’t stop in the street, or on the front lawn. It went inside houses. Some folks got inches, others got several feet of water.
The only reason those homes flooded was because nobody was there to start the pumps. All that flooding gets traced right back to Aaron Broussard.
Our home accounted for about $150,000 of the $1B total damage incurred in Metairie. While homeowners tried to sue Broussard, the courts ruled that, as a public official, he could not be held personally accountable for his ineptitude.