Floodplain Management

What is Floodplain Management?

Floodplain management is the operation of a community program of corrective and preventative measures for reducing flood damage. These measures take a variety of forms and generally include requirements for zoning, subdivision or building, and special-purpose floodplain ordinances.

Flooding In New Orleans

Local Flood Hazard

In New Orleans, flooding can occur during anytime of the year. Since the land in this area is low, your property may be in a Special Flood Hazard Area as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, levee failure, and rain each can flood the City. A rain event in May 1995 caused $360 million in damage and flooded many homes and automobiles. For information on flood zones or historic floods, please contact floods@nola.gov .   

Flood Warning Systems

Four terms are used in a flood warning system.

  • Flood Watch - flooding is possible.
  • Flash Flood Watch - a flash flood, which can happen very quickly, is possible.
  • Flood Warning - a flood is occurring or will happen very soon.
  • Flash Flood Warning - a flash flood is occurring and to seek higher ground immediately.

The City of New Orleans encourages residents to stay informed in the event of an emergency by tuning to local radio stations 870 AM and 105.3 FM and register for alerts at NOLA Ready . In the event of an emergency, City officials also may interrupt Local Television News Stations and Cox Cable services to disseminate important information.

Flood Insurance

The City of New Orleans strongly recommends that you consider purchasing flood insurance. The City participates in the NFIP making affordable flood insurance available. Most standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover losses from flooding. Renters can also buy policies to protect their personnel property. There is a 30 day wait for a flood policy to become effective. Flood insurance is available to all homeowners whether you live in a flood zone or not. If you do not live in a special flood hazard zone, the rates are lower. A single-family residence can be insured up to $250,000. Flood Insurance is available for both the structure and contents. Talk to your insurance agent. The City participates in NFIP, making affordable flood insurance available. New Orleans residents save 10% on their flood insurance premiums because of the floodplain management activities implemented by the City.

Floodplain Development Permits

All development in the city needs a permit. Development means any change to the ground, including, but not limited to, grading, filling, new construction or repairs to an existing building. If you are constructing a new building, repairing a building that has been substantially damaged (50% or more) by any cause, or substantially improving a building (50% or more), you will be required to meet the new flood protection requirements. For more information on permits or to report illegal floodplain development, please contact the Department of Safety and Permits at (504) 658-7130, floods@nola.gov, or 1300 Perdido St., Room 7E05 New Orleans, La. 70112.

Drainage System Maintenance

The drainage system is essential to carry storm water and pump it out of the City to prevent flooding. A clean drainage system is necessary to allow water to flow to the pumping stations and be pumped over the hurricane protection levees. Although the City’s Sewerage and Water Board performs regular maintenance to the drainage system, you can help keep it clear and safe by clearing debris from drains near your property and by avoiding dumping debris and chemicals into catch basins, drains, and canals. This may seem like a small act, but it is one big difference that citizens can make toward reducing their risk of flooding. Orleans Parish has an ordinance against dumping in storm drain, canals streams, water bodies etc. To report a violation please contact (504) 529-2837 of (504) 52-WATER.

Residents are encouraged to receive emergency alerts directly from the City through its alert notification system at www.nola.gov/ready/. This free service allows you to receive information about emergencies in your zip code by email or text message. You can also register by texting "ALERT" to 665248; for help send "HELP" to 665248; and to unregister via texting send "STOP" to 665248. Message and data rates may apply.

Flood Safety

Keep alert to rapidly changing weather and to new bulletins to reports of changing flood conditions. If emergency officials tell you to evacuate or leave your home, go immediately to a safe shelter, hotel, relative or friend’s home. Turn off all utilities at the main switch - BUT ONLY IF TIME PERMITS. Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area. Every source of electricity can be dangerous during or after flooding.

If you are caught in a building or in suddenly rising water, move to the second floor or the roof (you may need a tool on hand to break through the roof). Take drinking water, flashlights and a portable radio with you. Wait for help. If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible. Flood water can sweep a car away.

Swimming or playing in or near flood water is life threatening. Drainage ditches and canals carry fast moving flood water and are extremely dangerous. Explain this to your children. Remember, FLOODS ARE DECEPTIVE. Try to avoid flooded areas and do not attempt to walk through flood water that is more than knee deep. DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED WATERS.

Property Protection Measures

There are several different ways to protect a building from flood damage.

Temporary (emergency)

  • Relocate possessions to highest floor
  • Place sandbags or similar barriers between flood water and the structure.

Permanent (retrofitting)

  • Elevate the building so that flood waters do not reach any damageable area.
  •  Dry-proof the structure (Commercial Structures only) to the base flood elevation with wall coatings to make the building walls and floor watertight

Per City ordinances, it is illegal to dump debris in canals. Debris retards the water carrying capability of the channel. It can cause flooding or increase the damages during a flood period. Please contact the Sewage and Water Board (504) 529-2837 or (504) 52-WATER whenever you see debris or someone dumping into a drain or drainage canal.

Property Protection

There are many things you can do to an existing building to minimize or eliminate the potential for flood damage. Sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber can be used to protect property temporarily. (Remember, sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building since wet bags may create added pressure on the foundation.)

Permanent flood proofing measures for flood prone structures are preferable to temporary ones. These permanent retrofitting methods include elevating the structure, building flood walls and closures, and protecting utilities.

Please view the following FEMA Technical Bulletins publications on Flooding and Flood Protection also available at www.FEMA.gov.

You can also get information on retrofitting from the City of New Orleans Public Library. In addition to retrofitting booklets, the library has publications on flood insurance, flood protection, and floodplain management.

Programs, and References (1996, 25pp) is free from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Flood Proofing Committee, Attn: CECW-PF, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC 20314-1000oon the internet at:

Elevation Certificates

The City of New Orleans has Elevations Certificates that have been submitted to the Department of Safety & Permits for review and are kept on file and are available to homeowners. Please email request and property address to floods@nola.gov or at New Orleans City Hall Rm. 7E05. If an elevation certificate is required and has not been submitted, please contact a licensed Land Surveyor. 

The reality in New Orleans is that everyone is at risk and a Katrina could happen again. The City, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other are working to reduce this risk, but you can take actions to protect yourself. These include purchasing flood insurance, elevating your home and developing an evacuation plan.

Links to Helpful Information

For more info please contact Jerome Landry, Floodplain Administrator, jlandry@nola.gov.

Other Links

How April 2015 Program Changes Will Affect Flood Insurance Premiums