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Ahead of severe storm, New Orleans officials prepare for possible weather threats

Radar of severe weather in Louisiana on March 22, 2022.
NWS New Orleans
Radar of severe weather in Louisiana on March 22, 2022.

South Louisiana is preparing for severe weather into the evening today, and New Orleans is no exception.

Much of the region is currently under a tornado watch, which means all of the ingredients for a tornado are present.

The city is expecting to see the greatest impacts between 4 and 8 p.m., city spokesperson Beau Tidwell said at a Tuesday morning press conference.

The concern is chiefly around wind, hail and possible tornadoes, and less around flooding, Tidwell said. Neutral ground parking restrictions have not yet been lifted, but if conditions change, NOLAReady will issue an update, he added.

Grace Birch, a spokesperson for the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, said that 97 out of 99 pumps are available for use. One is down at the station on Metairie Road, which has 14 additional pumps, and another is down at a station in Lower Coast Algiers, which has three additional pumps. All underpass pump stations are functioning at full capacity.

Though multiple turbines are out of commission, Birch noted there are still plenty of megawatts to power the system.

“Turbine 4 and Turbine 5 are our two larger turbines that are available and operating to power our drainage system pumps,” said Ron Spooner, Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans Interim General Superintendent. “We also have the EMDs as a back-up, and there are three different sources of power coming to our Carrollton Plant from Entergy.”

NWS meteorologist Benjamin Schott said New Orleans residents should be prepared for strong winds this evening, which much of the region is already seeing. Winds could gust 60 to 80 mph, he said.

Street flooding is also possible with potential heavy rainfall, he said.

Due to high winds, the RTA has suspended ferry and streetcar service. Streetcar and the ferry service along the Algiers Point - Canal Street route will be replaced with buses. Bus and paratransit service will continue running as long as it is safe to do so.

If a tornado strikes, seek shelter away from walls and windows. Schott from NWS recommended keeping a pillow or blanket nearby to shield your head, and to keep shoes with you in case there is broken glass in your home.

For more tornado preparedness tips, click here.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to change a name of an official.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

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