Uncertainty surrounding drainage capacity looms as city prepares for possible storm impact

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It's the possible situation leaders at New Orleans City Hall did not want.

"We still do not have what we need in the event of a deluge or a major rain event or God forbid a major tropical storm or hurricane," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on August 16th.

But exactly one week after Landrieu made those remarks, little has changed with the city's diminished drainage capacity and a tropical disturbance is gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We have multiple pieces of equipment and personnel that we have requested both from the state and the federal government to remain with us throughout this particular incident and also throughout the restoration of the Sewerage and Water Board," said New Orleans Director of Homeland Security Aaron Miller.

Wednesday, the city's emergency preparedness and homeland security gave an update on preparations ahead of this weekend.

The agency says portable pumps will be placed at neighborhoods vulnerable to flooding, such as Lakeview, Mid City and the Seventh Ward.

And crews are working around the clock to repair 15 drainage pumps and four turbines that remain out of service. But those repairs could take months to complete.

In the meantime, when it comes to how much rainfall the most vulnerable neighborhoods can withstand before flooding would be an issue, the city could not provide a clear answer.

"Right now today, here is what we do know. Today we have more power than we had at the Sewerage and Water Board on August 5th. Today we have more pumps operating than we had on August 5th and we have more backup generators than we had on August 5th and we have stop gaps to make sure we have all the manpower we need," said Director of New Orleans Communications, Tyrone Walker.

And at this time, the City of New Orleans is trying to correct information it says was erroneously passed out. The President of the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association shared an email with FOX 8 that informs the association that for the next two weeks, as repairs continue to drainage pumps, the city has designated Lakeview as Zone #1 in the modified city assisted evacuation plans.

Walker says that information was used as part of an emergency preparedness drill.

"It looks like some people, some volunteers, that were present at those training exercises where a number of different scenarios were explored looks like they communicated something erroneously to the public," said Walker.

As Orleans Parish works on communication and bringing its drainage to full capacity, Jefferson Parish is preparing to bring its station, that pumps rainwater to the river, online.

"While the corps still has possession of the station, we're going to supply manpower to be there in case enough rain comes to be able to test run that station," said Mitch Theriot, Director of Jefferson Parish Drainage. "In order for it to run it will require a significant amount of water. That amount of water is hard to artificially create to test run the pumps, so this will be a good time if we get a good amount of rain to test run that station."

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