Storms, Flagging Pumps and a Fire Put New Orleans at Risk of Flooding

Upcoming storms, a flagging drainage system and a fire at New Orleans’ Sewerage & Water Board plant have put the Crescent City at risk of serious flooding, Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned residents on Thursday.

Landrieu said a fire at the S&WB plant has left the city with a single working turbine to provide power to the city’s drainage pumps and its water treatment plant. He said the city — which the federal government spent more than $100 billion to rebuild and protect after Hurricane Katrina — is “on its last back up power source at the moment.”

Residents of New Orleans received an emergency alert about the situation a few minutes after 3 a.m. Thursday. Schools across the city closed Thursday and Friday after the announcement.

“I want to assure the people of New Orleans that we’re doing all we can to shore up our drainage system and we will not relent in this effort,” Landrieu said in an early afternoon press conference.

With the National Weather Service forecasting rain Thursday and Friday and the city estimating that two inches of rain over an hour — the same amount that fell on parts of the city on Saturday — could lead to major flooding, Landrieu urged residents to “take necessary actions to protect person and property.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency “out of an abundance of caution” after the announcement. The state is expected to equip the city with two additional generators, and Edwards said he will deploy the Louisiana National Guard if necessary.

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“We’re going to do everything we can to be as responsive as we can be to make sure that we get to this new period of time without undo problems,” Edwards told reporters.

“We do ask Mother Nature to bless us,” he added.

The neighborhoods of Mid-City, Lakeview and other areas of the city flooded on Saturday. Aaron Miller, director of homeland security and emergency preparedness for the city, said then that an estimated 8 to 10 inches of rain fell in some parts of the city.

Image: Rain clouds gather over the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board facility

Rain clouds gather over the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board facility, where turbines that power pumps have failed, in New Orleans, on Aug. 10, 2017. Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in New Orleans on Thursday as the city’s malfunctioning water-pumping system left some neighborhoods at greater risk of foul-weather flooding.