And the River Don’t Rise

Growing up in New Orleans, and dreading the river’s rise

The Washington Post

July 15, 2019

The flash flood warning blared through the car’s speakers as we forded a side street rushing with high water. The rain crashed against the windshield.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it to camp,” I told my six-year-old.

She laughed. “Go, Mom, go!”

It had started raining early Wednesday morning and just hadn’t stopped. Instead, without warning, the storm had tightened into a purple splotch that blotted New Orleans from the radar map. On the ground, the rain exposed the city’s subtle topography: how the earth slopes gently downward from the river to the lake, how high the uptown-downtown avenues rise. Water banked up for blocks. The countervailing forces of gravity and deflection made the water roil.

Audubon Park, where we were headed, works as a swale. In any flood, it fills briefly, the oaks’ roots covered with water. I knew we wouldn’t be able to cross it, but still, I drove forward. I suppose I wanted my daughter to see what I had countless times: the park turned into a temporary sea.

“Wow,” my daughter said.

“Your first flood!” I yelled over the sound of the thunder. “You’re a real New Orleanian now!”

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