95 of 99 pumps available in New Orleans as Hurricane Season kicks off
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As hurricane season 2022 kicks off, experts say we can expect the conditions we’ve been seeing for the past few years.
“It only takes one storm to make it a bad season but just be prepared for another active season,” Lauren Nash, Warning Coordinator for the National Weather Service, said. “Remember to focus on every hazard, not just the center of the storm, not just the cone, and not just the category.”
Nash was one of several local officials who spoke at a press conference at City Hall on the first day of Hurricane Season (June 1) about the city’s preparedness for the months ahead. Mayor LaToya Cantrell says there were a lot of lessons learned from Hurricane Ida, specifically evacuations.
“It’s at the top of my mind and it keeps me up in the middle of hurricane season,” Cantrell said.
The mayor and other officials say that issuing evacuations, whether voluntary or mandatory, is getting harder to do with storms developing so quickly.
“We have not gotten the breaks these past couple of years with storms. It’s just not happening,” New Orleans Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness Collin Arnold said. ”We are not seeing the 96 to 84 to 72 hours that we need.”
Arnold mentioned the Great Resignation and COVID-19 both add to complications of keeping emergency agencies staffed and making sure some of the more vulnerable populations are taken care of in case of an emergency.
“Top of thought after Ida is our seniors,” Arnold said. “Getting ahold and getting communication with the seniors and facilities that aren’t regulated like nursing homes are was absolute top. Right there next to it is ensuring our relationship both with the Louisiana Department of Health and with our nursing homes in Orleans Parish.”
Arnold says his agency has talked with the 13 operating nursing homes in New Orleans about their storm plans, should a major system barrel through.
“They all have the generators. They all have the fuel. They have their contracts set up for transportation, for medical care, and for food,” he said.
Arnold also says his agency is formalizing doubling the number of emergency cooling centers and trying to get more city facilities, like the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, emergency power capabilities by mid-July.
The Executive Director of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, Ghassan Korban, says 95 of the city’s 99 drainage pumps are working.
“That’s a very good place to be,” Korban said. “One of those pumps will return at the end of June. There’s no concern whatsoever.”
Officials say having enough manpower to work in the city’s emergency agencies has always been a concern, but a bigger one now with the dwindling NOPD and EMS manpower.
“Those impacts are not new and didn’t just begin as it relates to impacting us during hurricane season 2022,” Cantrell said. “I think that the unified command in our approach to deployment and also response practices have demonstrated time and time again that we coordinate, we communicate and we are prepared to assist one another.”
EMS says they have 75% staffing on a regular basis and can tap into Acadian ambulances, and state and federal resources if needed. New Orleans police officials say they have their own resources to use in case they need them.
And as the city’s leaders and agencies make sure New Orleans can weather the storms, they urge its citizens to do the same.
“Our residents need to formulate their own plans. Be prepared,” Cantrell said.
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