Mayor Signs Declaration Of Emergency; Storm Water Pumping Capacity Diminished In East Bank, West Of Industrial Canal; More Officials Resign
NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Last night, the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) lost service to the Carrollton Power Plant turbine due to a fire. City reps said the turbine provides power to a majority of the city’s pumping stations serving the East Bank of New Orleans. As a result, the system’s capacity to drain storm water from the streets is diminished further for the East Bank of New Orleans, west of the Industrial Canal.
This morning, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed a declaration of emergency for the City of New Orleans and Governor John Bel Edwards signed an emergency declaration the State of Louisiana as well. The local disaster declaration is the first step toward a federal disaster declaration, which, under certain circumstances, allows the federal government to financially assist local and state governments recover from disasters.
According to The New Orleans Advocate’s Jeff Adelson, four of the five turbines that typically power the city's drainage system are now down, after the fire took the Carrollton Power Plant turbine offline Wednesday night. The other three were already offline for repairs.
S&WB crews are on site now working to repair the down Carrollton Power Plant turbine and to secure backup power to restore power to the pumping stations. In the interim, the city has ordered additional generators and portable diesel-powered pumps to assist in maintaining pumping capacity in the event of a loss of Entergy power during a large rain event. Twelve generators are currently en route and additional generators have been ordered.
If all of the power from Entergy continues, the city will be able to handle typical rainfall, city reps said. The S&WB has 20 megawatts to power 38 of 58 available pumps that drain the east bank west of the industrial canal. Showers and thunderstorms are likely this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Out of an abundance of caution, the city is urging residents in the affected area to move their vehicles to higher ground, take necessary actions to protect personal property, and stay off of roadways during rainstorms unless an emergency makes it absolutely necessary to do so.
Earlier this week, city officials said the water-pumping system was fully operational. Officials and spokespeople had said repeatedly that all 24 pumping stations were working at full capacity.
But after the system failed to keep up with a storm that dropped 9.4 inches (24 centimeters) of rain in three hours, the truth about the state of the water pumps began to emerge.
Despite what the public had been led to believe, City Council members were then told that pumping stations in two of the hardest-hit areas went down to half- to two-thirds capacity on Saturday, news outlets reported.
"It is unacceptable that the public was not only uninformed, but misinformed as to our drainage system functionality during the flood," Council Member LaToya Cantrell said in a statement Wednesday.
S&WB's Executive Director Cedric Grant; Joe Becker, the S&WB's general superintendent; Lisa Martin, the communications director; and Public Works Director Mark Jernigan have all submitted their resignations.
"We are at risk if we have a massive rain event that comes up at the last minute and creates the kind of flooding we had," Landrieu told reporters at a 3 a.m. Thursday news conference, referring to the weekend flooding. "The power we have available to us now will not be enough to pump the city out in the time needed."
Pumping stations in Algiers, New Orleans East and Lower Ninth Ward are operating off of a separate power source and therefore are not impacted by this outage, city reps said.
At this time, drinking water and sewerage services for all of the city are not affected by this outage, city reps said.
Due to the potentially severe weather that could result from high water, residents should call 911 to report street flooding and life-threatening emergencies, city reps said. Residents are advised to remain indoors during heavy rainfall.