The turbine powering the city’s pumping system that caught fire Wednesday evening has been repaired successfully, but that only restores the city’s pumping capacity to the levels prior to last weekend’s flooding, leaving New Orleans at “some risk,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Friday morning.
Wednesday’s fire was a small one that damaged the control panel of a turbine that provides backup power to the pumping system, Landrieu said. The blaze was not large enough to require the response of the Fire Department and was able to be extinguished by Sewerage & Water Board employees, but it left the turbine inoperable — just like the others that had already broken previously, Landrieu said.
With the turbine control panel repaired, it is slowly being brought back online and tested, and performing “well,” Landrieu said. Its return to service, however, leaves the city with only as much pumping capacity as it had last weekend, when Mid-City suffered heavy flooding from a sudden downpour.
“Even when it’s fully up to capacity, we will be where we were on Saturday,” Landrieu said Friday morning. “In my mind, and I think in the minds of the people, it’s not enough, because we need more backup power for the Entergy power that goes out from time to time.”
The city has ordered 26 generators to help back up the power system to the pumping system, and eight already arrived Thursday night, Landrieu said. Twelve more are expected to arrive today, and a final six more by Sunday, but it could still take some time to get them plugged into the city system, Landrieu said.
With a continued chance of rain, the city is taking other precautions in case of flooding. The New Orleans Police Department has staged barricades near roads that are prone to flooding, such as underneath the Carrollton Avenue overpass. Workers are also preparing sandbags for distribution and readying high-water vehicles for forays into flooded neighborhoods, Landrieu said.
“Panic is not where we need to be right now, but we do have to be vigilant,” Landrieu said. “What is clear to me today is that we remain at risk if a major storm comes until we get additional turbines back up, which we expect by the end of this month. … Until these generators are set up and we get additional turbines on line, there will continue to be some risk to our drainage system.”
The generators will remain in place through the remainder of hurricane season, Landrieu said. The problems plaguing the drainage system, Landrieu said, will persist beyond the resolution of this individual situation.
“Once we get through this crisis and all the after action reports are done, the fact still remains that we have an old system that needs to be upgraded,” Landrieu said.
After a light rain sprinkled over Uptown New Orleans for much of Thursday, the National Weather Service New Orleans office continues to predict a 60 percent chance of rain for Friday.
“Scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms are expected today, primarily during the late morning and afternoon hours,” according to a hazardous weather outlook issued by the National Weather Service around 4 a.m. Friday. “A few storms could be strong with gusty winds, frequent lightning and heavy rainfall that could result in localized flooding.”