With heavy rains forecast for Thursday, New Orleans is in a "vulnerable position" following a fire at one of the power stations that runs the city's flood-control water pumps, its mayor has said. Constant duty pumps are smaller pumps that move water through the drainage system but don't actually move water out of the city. The Mayor said that this is the fourth turbine out of operation. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said early Thursday that residents should be prepared for potential flooding because of the reduced pumping capacity. By comparison, 52 of those pumps were working on Saturday, when the city flooded. "In the worst case scenario, Entergy service could be disrupted and there would be no turbines at all to operate not only the pumps but the drinking water or sewer services". The pumps vary in size and capacity; some are as big as a garage and more than a century old. That is until Saturday, when it took on 4 inches of water.
Residents on the East Bank of Orleans Parish are advised to be on high alert after a fire greatly diminished the city's capacity to drain storm water from the streets.
That meant the system's capacity to drain those areas was cut almost in half, causing rainwater to pile up like traffic behind a wreck - and ultimately causing it to push into homes, restaurants and offices, said Berni, whose own home sustained minor flooding. Landrieu said he learned this morning that the S&WB has no redundancies in place to back up the system in the event all turbines are down.
Landrieu requested immediate emergency repairs and ensured fix crews will "work with haste, get these items in place, and make sure the people of New Orleans get what they deserve". Officials announced S&WB General Superintendent Joseph Becker and communications director Lisa Martin have resigned after Landrieu called for their firing at a press conference August 9.
Last weekend, New Orleans saw some of the most intense rain and flooding it's had in a decade, testing the limits of the city's pumping system. The pumps that drain water out of the city's low-lying neighborhoods are powered by generators, WWNO's Travis Lux told NPR on Thursday.
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New Orleanians expect street flooding during storms.
"I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated and angry I am at the inability of the S&WB to communicate clearly", Landrieu told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
It does not affect the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, or Algiers. It could, and will, happen in other parts of the Southeast as well - but they may be better prepared to handle it than a city below sea level with a crippled pump system.