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Rains flood New Orleans streets a second day; 2 children drown

A second day of heavy rains flooded streets and homes Tuesday, interrupting bus and streetcar service and closing City Hall. Two children apparently drowned in rain-swollen ditches. More than 12 inches of rain had fallen in some areas over two days.

The deluge that started during the evening rush hour Monday caught New Orleans by surprise. The rain abated overnight, then returned Tuesday morning.

At noon Tuesday, the rains stopped, and by late afternoon residents were cleaning up streets that for the most part were clear of floodwater. Clouds persisted, however, and the National Weather Service said more heavy rains were possible until a system of stormy weather blew out of the area.

"To have it flood two separate times in 24 hours is just unheard of," said resident Rob Spangenberg, who measured 16 inches of water on his ground floor.

The city, wedged between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, is bowl-shaped and uses an elaborate system of canals to pump out excess rain.

At one pumping station in mid-city, gauges recorded 9.85 inches from noon to 6 p.m. Monday _ with 6 inches in a two-hour downpour _ and then another 2 inches Tuesday morning.

The university area was particularly hard hit and streets were barricaded around Tulane and Loyola universities. Officials, fearing still more rain, sent city workers home and called for downtown businesses to close down.

Even the French Quarter, at the highest elevation in town, had water in some streets. Resident Louis Lederman said his ground-level apartment in the city had 17 inches of water inside _ a high water mark not matched since a flood on May 3, 1978.

Searchers abandoned their efforts to find the body of a 10-year-old boy who was missing after he was caught in a rain-swollen canal in suburban Metairie. He disappeared Monday evening while he was playing in a culvert and was caught in a torrent of water.

Heavy rain also fell in Lafayette, 130 miles west, where a 7-year-old boy drowned in a swollen drainage canal. A spokesman for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Department said a passerby reached the boy after he fell in but couldn't hold him against the swift current.