Gov. John Bel Edwards declares state of emergency over New Orleans flooding concerns
Updated on August 10, 2017
By Julia O'Donoghue
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency Thursday (Aug. 10) as a precautionary measure, in the event that the state has to help with flooding in New Orleans over the next few days.
"If we get the heavier expected rainfall, time will be of the essence," Edwards said at a press conference with Mayor Mitch Landrieu Thursday morning. "We are working well together. Obviously this is a serious situation, but it is not something to be panicked about."
The emergency declaration is retroactive. It runs from Aug. 5 -- when the first round of flooding started this past weekend -- to Sept. 3. The governor can terminate the order early if he wants.
Edwards and the state government are providing 14 2-megawatt generators to the city that will stay in New Orleans for the remainder of hurricane season. The Louisiana National Guard could also assist with flood respond if that becomes necessary. Landrieu has also declared a state of emergency in New Orleans, which allows city government to circumvent some regulations to respond more quickly to a disaster.
Gov. Edwards assisting Landrieu on potential flooding
The governor is probably look at declaring a state of emergency.
Early Thursday morning, Landrieu announced that the city lacks the backup power to run pumping stations west of the Industrial Canal that help prevent flooding on the east bank of New Orleans during rain events. The outage does not affect Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans East and Algiers, according to Landrieu.
Still, several parts of the city will be vulnerable to storms five days after widespread, damaging floods affected several neighborhoods. Many New Orleans residents are still recovering from that event that damaged vehicles, businesses and homes.
"We are currently running on our last backup power source," Landrieu said during the press conference. "If all the power from Entergy continues -- and we expect that it will -- we will be able to handle any typical rainfall."
Landrieu said he first called Edwards about the power outage at 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning. "Immediately, as he has always done, he pledged his continued and aggressive support," Landrieu said of Edwards.
The Sewerage and Water Board could restore power by the end of the day, the mayor said Thursday morning, but numerous showers and thunderstorms are expected Thursday afternoon.
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.
NEW ORLEANS, LA - A Desire neighborhood that sits in the shadow of a major Sewerage & Water Board pump station took on several feet of water during Saturday's heavy rainstorm. The flood left people cleaning out their flooded cars and business owners trying to dry out and re-open.
Mother nature may be as much to blame for the flood as a drainage construction project by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
“That's a $30,000 sander right there. Gone? Gone,” said Bobby Terese, the owner of Terese’s Top Works, a business run out of a cluster of warehouses half a block from the Peoples Avenue Canal.
Tuesday, Terese scooped out soggy and crumbling particle board, water-logged plywood and tools forever frozen in time by Saturday’s flood water.
Therese estimates the flood will cost him $300,000 after his flood insurance picks up part of the tab.
“I actually knew we were flooded when I saw the Franklin Avenue underpass filled up to the top, you know? It was pretty much a dead giveaway that we had water up into our buildings up in here,” Terese continued, “It's not a good feeling. Because I know what it's going to take to get us back up to operation back here.”
Piles and piles of debris sat outside his warehouses Tuesday right next to the dumpsters ready to cart the inventory-turned-trash away. But Terese said his insurance adjuster won’t get to his business until Thursday. That’s five days of looking at everything his family business lost.
The irony in the tragedy is that a drainage project underway in the streets and canals around Terese’s shop may be partly to blame for the flood.
The neighborhood sits in the elbow of the Peoples Avenue Canal and the Florida Avenue Canal.
Three weeks ago, contractors for the Corps of Engineers removed 70-foot sections of metal sheet piling that flank the low side of the Peoples Avenue Canal.
“Neighbors said the streets were dry until the canal started overflowing where the sheet piles were removed and that's when the water started coming up into our neighborhood back in here. And within a period of time, it was knee deep,” Terese said.
The canals are full of vegetation, which makes drainage more difficult. The Sewerage & Water Board is responsible for keeping the growth cut. They didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Some people in the area say they believe water gushing through the gaps created by the corps made the flooding much worse than what Mother Nature alone dished out.
“I guarantee you. I'd bet my life. That would have stayed here, it wouldn't have flooded,” said Osmond Caston.
Caston has had a car restoration shop less than a block from the canal for 15 years. He has seen his share of floods in the area, but he lost several cars of his own on Saturday.
Pictures taken by one of Caston’s employees show a neighborhood and a canal still full of water on Sunday, hours after the rain stopped.
Work in the Desire area is part of a $119 million SELA flood protection project to widen the Florida Canal and improve drainage in the area.
The project start date is listed on the Corps' website as 2014, but residents said construction started in earnest this year.
Massive concrete box culverts stand ready to take their place underground a block from Terese’s shop.
After two days’ of requests for information and comment about the gaps in the canal’s barrier, the commander of the Corps’ New Orleans District, Col. Michael Clancy addressed the situation in front of the city council.
“There were a few parts of the canal that were quite a bit lower than they should have been this weekend. Trying to assess if that contributed to the damage, how much it contributed to the damage,” Clancy testified.
The Corps never directly responded to questions from WWL-TV, instead issuing a press release to all media late Tuesday.
Clancy also told the council that the holes were placed in the sheet piling to connect the underground drainage culverts to the canal.
When asked how he feels about the fact that a flood protection project may have contributed to the flooding of his business, Terese replied, “I'm not too happy about it right now, but I'm hoping once it's all finished it's gonna solve some of our problems. You know? What else can I hope for?”
While business owners said the area has flooded three times since Hurricane Katrina, this was a first: a flood protection project making a flood worse.
While the Corps stopped short of admitting the construction caused the flooding they asked people who believe they were flooded by the corps to call this construction hotline: (877) 427-0345.