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The City of New Orleans

Ready for Rain

Flooding can happen anywhere. What's your risk?

Climate and topography make flooding a reality in New Orleans.

It's rainy

New Orleans is one of the rainiest cities in the country, with an average of 62 inches of rain each year.1 Some rain events can be especially heavy, with many inches of rain falling in an hour. The frequency and severity of rain events will likely increase due to changing weather patterns related to climate change.

It's low-lying and has a lot of pavement

Most of New Orleans is surrounded by levees. Within the levees, elevation doesn’t change much, making the city like a shallow bowl. And, because of subsidence, many parts of the city are sinking even more. Impermeable surfaces like buildings, streets, and parking lots mean there's not a lot of green space where rain can absorb into the ground. Excess rainwater that cannot be absorbed must be pumped out. Read more about drainage.

So, heavy rain can cause flooding

When heavy rain outpaces the ground's ability to absorb water and the drainage system's capacity, minor and even major flooding can happen. These heavy rains can happen often. In fact, in the last 20 years, New Orleans has seen 42 flood events. 2 Coastal areas outside of the levee system in New Orleans are also at risk for flooding from waves during storms.

1  NOAA Online Weather Data Visualization, "NOWData"

2  FEMA Data Visualization: Historical Flood Risk and Costs

NOLA Ready and ISeeChange have partnered to distribute rain gauges to community leaders. Track rain data in your area, submit photos of rain events, and talk to your neighbors about rain and flood risk.

Request a rain gauge

You can insure your building and its contents with flood insurance.

It's the only kind of insurance that insures against flood damage

Homeowners and renters insurance usually don't cover flood damage, but flood insurance does. In the last 20 years, New Orleans has seen 42 flood events.

It might be required

You might be required to have flood insurance if you have a federally-backed mortgage or if your property received federal rebuilding dollars from a previous disaster. 

It's worth the cost

New flood maps were adopted in New Orleans in 2016, making flood insurance even more affordable for many New Orleanians. The average annual flood insurance premium in NOLA is only $650. That small sum can cover a lot of damage. Flood insurance provides more recovery dollars after a flood than post-disaster assistance programs. In the last 20 years, NOLA property owners received 7 times more from flood insurance payouts than from FEMA payouts.

It's easy to get

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides federally-backed flood insurance to homeowners, business owners, and renters in New Orleans. Contact your insurance agent or find an agent through the NFIP Referral Call Center at (888) 379-9531. Get an elevation certificate if your agent says you need one. It's a documentation of your building's elevation. Email floods@nola.gov to see if the City of New Orleans already has one on file for your property. Remember, a policy can take 30 days to go into effect, so now is the time to purchase.
 

There are simple, low-cost ways you can reduce flood risk to your home or business.

Install green infrastructure

Rainwater flows quickly over impermeable pavement, like concrete. If that water can be slowed down, held, or absorbed, less flooding will happen. Simple projects like installing a rain garden or rain barrel in your yard can help reduce the risk of flooding on your property.

Adopt a catch basin

Leaves, trash & debris can collect around storm drains, blocking rainwater from flowing into the drain. Help reduce flooding in your area by cleaning in front of catch basins.

Elevate your utilities

Consider elevating your utilities, like your electrical and HVAC systems. It's a cost-effective way to reduce your risk of flood damage and lower your flood insurance premium. For even more protection, consider elevating your entire home. Resources:

Are you a homeowner in Gentilly? You might qualify for a Community Adaptation Program grant from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to install green infrastructure on your property.

Learn more

If you're building a new construction or renovating, there are a few things to consider, water-wise.

Minimum elevation requirements

Generally, when building a new construction or making a substantial renovation in Orleans Parish, you must elevate one foot above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) or three feet above the highest adjacent curb, whichever is higher. In Coastal V zones, the bottom floor must be elevated at or above BFE.

Lot coverage regulations

Depending on the zoning of your property, there are limits to how much of your yard can be covered with impermeable materials, like concrete or asphalt.

Stormwater management requirements

A Stormwater Management Plan Review is required for any new development or redevelopment (except single- or two-family residences) of a site:

  • with 5,000 square feet or more of impervious surface
  • of 1 acre or more in size, or
  • whose primary use is stormwater management

‚ÄčRead about the stormwater management plan requirement.

The City of New Orleans is investing billions of dollars to reduce flooding and improve resilience.

Resilience Projects

The Hazard Mitigation Office, the Office of Resilience and Sustainability, and the Department of Capital Projects are managing over $300 million to reduce flood risk, beautify neighborhoods, promote health & recreation, and foster environmental awareness. Learn more at nola.gov/resilience.

Southeast Louisiana Drainage Project (SELA)

The SELA program consists of several federally-supported projects in Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Tammany Parishes designed to reduce flooding and flood damage. In Orleans Parish, SELA projects are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Sewerage and Water Board. Learn more at swbnosela.com.

Capital Improvement Program

The City and Sewerage and Water Board are working together to implement an unprecedented program to restore our damaged infrastructure. Using a combination of local and federal funds, the $2.4 billion program will be the most comprehensive that our region has seen in a generation. Learn more at roadwork.nola.gov.

Sewerage & Water Board’s Green Infrastructure Projects

The Sewerage and Water Board will spend $2.5 million averaged over 5 years implementing Green Infrastructure through demonstration projects and education and outreach. Learn more at swbno.org.

Have questions?