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New Orleans Prepares For Threat Of More Flooding With Pumping System Compromised

Tegan Wendland
People bag sand underneath the Claiborne Expressway in preparation for the flooding that may occur over the next few days.

The city’s ability to pump water has been diminished once more after a Sewerage and Water Board power generator caught fire Wednesday night.


The new outage affects the East Bank of New Orleans — all areas west of the Industrial Canal. That includes neighborhoods like Lakeview, Mid City and Treme, which had already seen the worst of the city’s flooding this weekend.

It does not affect the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, or Algiers.


Five generators power the drainage pumps for the East Bank. Sewerage and Water Board officials revealed this week that three of them — plus several pumps — were not working during the recent flooding.


Last night, a fourth generator caught fire and is inoperable, leaving just one working generator.


Rain is in the forecast for the next several days, and officials are preparing for more flooding.


As a precautionary measure, all schools in Orleans Parish are closed Thursday and Friday. That applies to all local charters, plus schools under control of both Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District.


Local officials are also urging residents to move their cars to higher ground, and to avoid driving during downpours.


Mayor Landrieu and Gov. John Bel Edwards have also signed emergency declarations for the city and state, respectively. Local declarations are the first step toward getting a federal emergency declaration, which, according to a press release from the City of New Orleans, would allow the feds to assist local efforts — should that be necessary.


New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has called for an independent report on pumping issues, but says fixing things isn’t going to be easy.


“As we do the after-action report,” he says, “we will look at how much money will be needed to fix the whole drainage system.


“The answer is, we don’t have enough. So this will continue for a long time in terms of getting the infrastructure in place.”


In the meantime, the city is working to repair the generator that caught fire, and has ordered several backup generators as a temporary stopgap.


As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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