City braces for Harvey flooding; Jeff Parish not committing to shelter space for N.O. residents

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The city is bracing for possible localized flooding from Hurricane Harvey amid the ongoing drainage deficiencies.

But Jefferson Parish leaders said Thursday they are not in a position to commit at this time to put out the welcome mat at the Alario Center for possible New Orleans evacuees.

"In the event that we have to call an evacuation we will, we don't see that now, but I reserve the right to change my mind as circumstances change on the ground," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said earlier in the day during a City Hall press conference.

Landrieu said the timing of the Harvey threat is unfortunate. Forecasters think the storm could dump extraordinary amounts of rain on the area, even as New Orleans' drainage system remains less than fully functional.

"While it is a fact  that the drainage capacity has improved since Aug 5th we remain in a state of diminished draining capacity until more of our turbines and pumps are fully restored. However, if this weather system strengthens and produces as much rainfall as the National Weather Service predicts we could see some localized flooding even if our drainage system was at full capacity," said Landrieu.

A few hours later at the expansive Alario Center in neighboring Jefferson Parish, Jefferson leaders, state police, military personnel, along with New Orleans Homeland Security Director Aaron Miller showed up for what they said was a previously scheduled hurricane season conclave.

Afterward when questioned by FOX 8 News, Jefferson officials said they cannot commit to using the Alario Center as a shelter for New Orleans residents if they are forced to evacuate.

The Alario Center was the focus of conversation for today's meeting, the problem is it's an integral part of our plan in Jefferson Parish because we do service the low coastal areas of Jefferson Parish," said Jefferson Parish Chief Operating Officer, Keith Conley.

Parish Councilman-at-Large Chris Roberts echoed that. "If we have an event we're not escaped from an event ourselves. This is a site that Jefferson Parish uses for special needs. We've had to use it in the past with evacuations during Gustav and other events, so it's very difficult for us to make a commitment to use a parish facility when we have residents that are outside the hurricane protection system that we're going to have to service," said Roberts.

After the meeting Miller said the city continues to work with its neighboring partners in terms of storm preparations.

"We have a variety of scenarios that we've been looking at within multiple different courses of action," said Miller. "We continue to keep all of those options on the table and work with all of our local state and federal partners to keep all of the residents of New Orleans safe."

Even as the uncertainty churns along with Harvey, keeping a city surrounded by water on edge.

"Current forecast indicate that over the entire of the storm, 5-to-10 inches of rain over the duration of the event in our geographical location with potential for double and this is what worries me the most, for double if we get stuck in prolonged rain bands which themselves are very unpredictable," Landrieu said.

Landrieu is requesting additional state police and also National Guardsmen for the city, as a precaution. He urged citizens to get their own emergency plans ready and to stay plugged into local news reports and NOLAReady.

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