Cantrell Explains Why New Orleans Isn't Getting Sandbags Ahead Of Barry

Jul 12, 2019

New Orleans residents have been frustrated that the city hasn't distributed sandbags to protect their homes and property ahead of Tropical Storm Barry, as in storms past. But New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city decided not to hand them out this time because sandbag distribution strains resources and the sand could clog up the city's drainage system. 

"What we have seen is the level of sand that ends up in our drains, it works against us, it works against the system that’s in place to drain the City of New Orleans," Cantrell said in response to questions about sandbags at a press conference Friday.

[Read more: What to know ahead of Tropical Storm Barry: Friday, July 12]

Sand has been a problem in storms past, according to former New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board director Joe Becker.

"Sometimes the people who get the sandbags don’t tie them closed all the way...or they break," Becker said in a phone interview with WWNO. He said sand from broken or loosely tied bags falls into catch basins and clogs the drainage system while it's already working hard during a storm. 

"They [sandbags] end up hurting the people who were trying to be the most proactive," he said. But he said sandbags can still be helpful, if residents use them correctly.

"If you do it properly...then it certainly can be a help for you if you do get flooding," he said. 

Without sandbags from the city, local businesses and some neighborhood associations took matters into their own hands.

[Read/listen more: Q&A: Which levees will hold back Barry, and which won't?]

On Friday morning at Mid-City Yacht Club, a neighborhood bar, locals filled more than 1,000 sandbags supplied by the bar, and distributed them to more than 200 people. Mid-City Yacht Club employee Shannon Nicole said neighbors put in a lot of effort to help one another.

"Watching people shovel sand out that they weren’t even taking with them and then carry it to cars - especially cars of the elderly people that were coming by - was really, really awesome," Nicole said. 

Cantrell said sandbags are available at local hardware stores, and asks that people be responsible about removing the sandbags after the storm to keep sand out of the drainage system.