Fire decimates pumping capacity for East Bank of Orleans Parish

Flooding on St Ann in Mid City submitted by Susan Messer

With a weekend of thunderstorms in the forecast, the mayor has urged residents to move their vehicles to higher ground.

Speaking at an emergency Sewerage & Water Board meeting August 10, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a "whole army" of people are working on repairs, and he expects the turbine to be back online soon, adding, "I'll believe it when I see it".

As long as the power supply from Entergy remains steady, the system will be able to handle a "typical rainfall", Landrieu said.

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. The cause of the fire remains unknown and is under investigation. New Orleans East, Algiers, and the Lower 9th Ward operate on a separate power source and are not affected by the outage. The city's mushy soil sinks about two inches per year.

Residents also are advised to stay off the roads unless "an emergency makes it absolutely necessary to do so", the mayor's office warned in a statement. Landrieu said that means the system's capacity to drain storm water from the streets has been diminished. Those pumps would have had no effect on the areas that flooded Saturday.

Drinking water and sewerage services are not affected by the turbine damage, Landrieu said, and crews are working overtime to restore full and backup power to all pumping stations across the city.

The affected power turbine, Turbine #1, provides power to most of the cities pumping stations that serve the East Bank of New Orleans. The waters took 14 hours to drain and prompted 200 "life-threatening" emergency calls, according to city records. "But now it seems if we get hit by another Katrina, the city will be gone".

By Tuesday, however, the board acknowledged that eight pumps were either broken or out of service when the rain began.

Grant offered his resignation today, just three days after severe flooding brought his department and the Mayor Landrieu's administration widespread criticism from residents who insisted that the city's drainage pumps could not possibly have been fully operational.

A review showed that one of the pumps was running backwards and another pump had caught fire. Meteorological models aren't high resolution enough to say exactly where and when; at least 10 inches, if not 15, fell this morning in the northern part of the state (see map above) and there's no reason to think that couldn't happen in New Orleans at any time over the next week.

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