New Orleans' drainage system overwhelmed by heavy rainfall

NEW ORLEANS -- Torrential rains turned much of New Orleans into a swamp on Saturday. In some areas, canoes were the best way to get around.

The dining room at Liuzza's Restaurant and Bar in the Mid-City neighborhood was soaked in 18 inches of water, forcing Frank Bordelon to close his restaurant.

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Frank Bordelon CBS News

"It's a big financial hit. Estimate, I don't know, $60, $70,000?" Bordelon said.

Nearly 10 inches of rain fell in just over three hours. The city had 24 pumping stations working at full capacity trying to prevent the flooding, but the city's drainage system -- designed to pump just one inch of rainfall the first hour and a half-inch after -- was quickly overwhelmed.

"If I get nine inches of rain, that's going to take me about 17 hours to pump out," said Joe Becker, who is with New Orleans' Sewerage and Water Board. "The biggest drainage system in the world cannot handle that much rain."  

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Joe Becker, right, in front of some of New Orleans' drainage pumps. CBS News

Still, City Council President Jason Williams believes the system is woefully inadequate. 

"If we can't handle a bad storm, than what will we do when there is a hurricane?" he said.

Bordelon, whose restaurant suffered severe damage in Hurricane Katrina, says enough is enough.

"I can't believe the city's that stupid to let this happen over and over and over again," he said.

The city has pumped more than 4.3 billion gallons of water since Saturday's storms. The city council has called a special meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, to find out what went wrong.