NEW ORLEANS (CBS/AP)
Heavy rains have inundated areas of New Orleans, and authorities warned residents only now recovering from Hurricane Katrina not to drive through flooded streets for fear of creating wakes that could send water into homes.
More rain was forecast for Tuesday, after more than 8 inches of rain fell Monday on parts of the flood-prone city.
Mayor Ray Nagin shut City Hall early and schools across the city closed, in anticipation of more flooding that on Monday disrupted businesses and stalled traffic.
"Any time you see this kind of heavy downpour, it definitely makes people extremely nervous, especially going through something like Katrina. As soon as you see that water creeping up closer to your driveway, closer to your door, it makes you apprehensive," says Stacia Wilson of CBS affiliate WWL-TV.
Waist-high water in parts of eastern New Orleans soaked businesses, some only recently reopened after being damaged by 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
All the city's drainage pumps were working properly, but were unable to keep up with the intense rainfall, emergency preparedness officials said. They urged motorists to stay off the streets.
In some areas, more than 2 inches of rain fell in an hour, while the city's pumps can handle only a maximum 1 inch in the first hour of a rainfall and half an inch every hour thereafter, said Robert Jackson, a spokesman for the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board.
"We just have to continue to work with our neighbors until we can develop a greater pump capacity," said Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for the City of New Orleans.
Making problems worse in New Orleans were catch basins clogged with debris from gutted or renovated homes. Jackson urged residents to clean out the basins to help in draining standing water from streets.
Meanwhile, officials closed a gate on the Harvey Canal in suburban Jefferson Parish where the waters threatened to top the walls. It was one of several in the area placed under new safety guidelines after Katrina's waters breached two New Orleans canals, causing catastrophic flooding.
The corps has worked to strengthen the canal, about 5 miles from downtown New Orleans, but engineers worried that water being driven into it might lead to flooding. The area around the canal includes homes and businesses.
Stacia Wilson, WWL-TVUnlike the canal walls that broke during Katrina, the walls on the Harvey Canal are not considered at threat of being breached by rising waters, said Chris Accardo, the corps' operations chief.
"The gates were closed to minimize seepage and overtopping," he said.
Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, ahead of a strong cold front, sparked the swift and strong rainfall that blanketed the area. Bob Wagner, a forecaster with the Slidell office of the National Weather Service, said the rain should slowly diminish Tuesday and bring with it cooler temperatures.
Despite the flooding potential, the rain also offered relief to parts of Louisiana that have been abnormally dry. Until Monday's drenching, rainfall for New Orleans was about 11 inches below normal for the year.
The scattered showers and thunderstorms also came as a blessing to other drought-stricken areas of the Southeast on Monday. Still, climatologists say it will take more than a few scattered storms to pull the region out of a record drought.
Almost one-third of the Southeast is covered by an "exceptional" drought -- the worst drought category.
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