NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the city of New Orleans braces for possible flooding from Tropical Storm Cristobal, Mayor Latoya Cantrell has a strong message for the public: take Cristobal seriously.
"Pay attention, get yourselves ready. Prepare for rain, gather your supplies,” said Cantrell.
New Orleans is no stranger to storms and hurricanes and Cantrell and the city’s emergency preparedness team urged everyone to prepare immediately for the tropical system.
"We could face a sustained tropical storm force of wind, so we're talking wet and we're talking windy right here for the city of New Orleans. We're continuing to monitor the levels of the Mississippi River,” she said.
The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board said it is readying for heavy rains and street flooding.
Ghassan Korban is the SWB’s executive director.
"All 99 of our drainage pumps are operational and available to respond to what we anticipate will be heavy rains,” he said.
But in a city where much of the land is below sea level and the drainage system is old and fragile, Korban warned that there could be flooding if too much rain falls too fast.
"I want to be clear that with the amount of rain forecast it is more likely that we will experience street flooding. The drainage system can handle a considerable volume of storm water, but it has limits. Capacity and age will play a major factor in how we perform,” said Korban.
And while the city’s residents are asked to shelter in place, city hall said if flooding overwhelms a particular area the city has a plan to get people out.
Collin Arnold is Director of New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
"We have boats and high-water vehicles positioned around the city geographically that are run by the fire department, police department and EMS. We'll utilize social distancing and N-95 masks to move people and we have a few Rec centers on standby, socially distanced, that we can use for shelters,” said Arnold.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson urged drivers to stay away from streets where water piles up because the water could be deeper than it appears.
"We're asking that if you see any standing water anywhere, underneath the overpass or in the streets do not, do not, do not drive through that standing water. We do not want you to lose your vehicle,” said Ferguson.
He added that his department is well-staffed and has barricades and other equipment ready for use.
And the mayor said everyone should continue to observe coronavirus rules.
"Everything still remains, meaning, social distancing, no large gatherings,” said Cantrell.