Aug 292017

Mayor Mitch Landrieu speaks Tuesday afternoon about the response to Tropical Storm Harvey. (via Facebook live video)

After a surprise day off Tuesday for Tropical Storm Harvey’s rains, all students in the Orleans Parish School Board and Recovery School District will return to their schools as normal on Wednesday, officials announced.

Most of New Orleans has received 3 to 4 inches of rain from Harvey as of Tuesday afternoon, though some areas have received as much as 5 to 6 inches, said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a news conference. With another 3 or 4 inches expected overnight, the total this week is likely to be squarely within the 5 to 10 inches initially forecast for New Orleans by the National Weather Service, Landrieu said.

“That prediction is right on track,” Landrieu said.

The latest models show Harvey is expected to make its second landfall between Lake Charles, La., and Beaumont, Texas, overnight, then continue northward while weakening into a tropical depression Wednesday. Most importantly, its speed has increased from a crawling 2 mph earlier in the week to 8 mph now, reducing the amount of time that communities in its path will have to be soaked by its rains, Landrieu said.

“This is a slightly improved forecast for us, and enough of an improvement for us to order all public buildings open tomorrow,” Landrieu said. “…We believe we can handle this, with the potential for some localized street flooding.”

School officials will continue monitoring weather conditions overnight, officials said. Landrieu urged families to check weather reports Wednesday morning in case the storm deviates from its path and the plan needs to be changed.

Tuesday’s updates, Landrieu observed, took place on the 12th anniversary of the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall and ultimately “changed New Orleans forever,” killing 1,800 people and displacing a million in the levee breaches afterward that flooded 80 percent of the city. The devastation in Houston has been of a different sort, Landrieu said, mostly related to the drenching rain brought by the rain bands rather than engineering failures.

“If a storm like that hits any place in America, it’s going to do what it did to Houston,” Landrieu said. “If that storm had come our way, we would likely went through the same thing that Houston went through, if not worse.”

Emergency response has greatly improved in America since Katrina, Landrieu said, and that progress has continued under the Trump administration. He declined to comment on the timing of Trump’s visit to Texas and Louisiana, noting only his confidence that the President is aware of the logistical balancing act his arrival brings to the communities struggling to respond.

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