1978: 11" of rain falls on "Sun Day" in New Orleans


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Most of New Orleans, Louisiana is below the flowing water level of the Mississippi River, that also means that the city is below sea level and so both the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain surfaces are also above the ground level of the city. Because of that, the city does not have a natural drainage for rainwater, so pumps are required to remove rainwater from the region. On May 3, 1979 the pumping drainage system had been in operation since 1900. That system was designed to handle one inch of rain per hour for the first three hours, and one-half inch per hour thereafter. Any rainfall in excess of this limit resulted in drainage slowdown and flooding, often times during extensive thunderstorm cloudbursts or tropical systems and Hurricanes the capacity to pump out the water simply was not effective. May 3, 1978 was proclaimed 'Sun Day.' All across the United States, celebrations were planned to pay tribute to the power and potential of solar energy. No celebration occurred in New Orleans, the sun was not visible all day, in fact heavy rains fell most of the day. Almost 11” of rain fell, more and 8” of that from 8am until noon. It was more than the drainage system could handle, actually more than twice its capacity. There was severe property damage, as much of the city sat in more than 5 feet of water as a result of the heavy rains and the failure of the pumping system.

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