NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With more rain in the forecast and city water pumps malfunctioning after weekend floods, New Orleans’ mayor is urging residents of some waterlogged neighborhoods to move their vehicles to higher ground.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office said in a news release early Thursday the city has lost service to one of its turbines, which powers most of the pumping stations that service the East Bank of New Orleans.
Landrieu said that means the system’s capacity to drain storm water from the streets has been diminished.
“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. 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.”
New Orleans’ municipal pumping system is supposed to move water out of the low-lying city. Having the system besieged and broken down in August could not come at a worse time for New Orleans, since the Gulf Coast is in the middle of hurricane season. Thunderstorms are also prevalent in New Orleans during August.
Showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for New Orleans every day from Thursday through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
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.
Cedric Grant, one of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top deputies and the head of the Sewerage & Water Board, told the city council at the start of its meeting Tuesday that he would retire at the end of hurricane season, which lasts through November.
Public Works Director Mark Jernigan submitted his resignation shortly after the meeting, when he was asked whether his agency had done enough to clean the catch basins that feed the drainage system.
Landrieu said he also wanted the board to fire Joseph Becker, the Sewerage & Water Board’s general superintendent.