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