Mitch Landrieu

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Orleans under flash flood watch as Harvey heads to Louisiana

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 10:45 AM

National Weather Service projection for Harvey as of Aug. 29.
  • National Weather Service projection for Harvey as of Aug. 29.

With up to 4 inches of rain forecast in New Orleans as Tropical Storm Harvey slowly moves into Louisiana, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents to stay home and off the roads Tuesday, Aug. 29. Some parts of the city got as much as 6 inches of rain yesterday, and a flash flood watch remains through Thursday, as Harvey is expected to move eastward then tick north by Wednesday night.

The city braces for the possibility of more flooding following Aug. 5 floods and the recently publicly revealed compromised pump system. Sewerage & Water Board reports 107 of 120 pumps "are available to be operational in the event of heavy rainfall," according to the city.

Meanwhile, a banner hanging outside pump station No. 1 reads, "I think I can, I think I can."

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Landrieu urges New Orleanians to stay home Tuesday due to anticipated weather

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 4:39 PM

At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged New Orleanians to stay home tomorrow due to what is expected to be some heavy rain.
  • At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged New Orleanians to stay home tomorrow due to what is expected to be some heavy rain.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu is recommending New Orleans residents stay home tomorrow in anticipation of what may be heavy rainfall from feeder bands related to Tropical Storm Harvey. At today's press conference of city leaders, Landrieu said that the likelihood of heavy rain and possible tornado activity was what led him to make the call.

"Out of an abundance of caution, I recommend that everyone stay home tomorrow," Landrieu said.

All Orleans Parish public schools and Catholic schools will be closed, as will the University of New Orleans and Delgado College. All New Orleans Public Library branches will be closed. The Louisiana SPCA also will not be open, nor will the New Orleans Museum of Art. Jefferson Parish announced its schools and offices would be open.

Today's rainstorm brought minor street flooding to parts of the city that were most affected by the Aug. 5 flood, including Gentilly, Lakeview and Mid-City. According to the National Weather Service, parts of the city received two inches of rain today.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Massive crowd in New Orleans marches against white supremacy and in solidarity with Charlottesville

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Large crowds filled Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square and on the steps across the street. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Large crowds filled Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square and on the steps across the street.

As temperatures reached above 100 degrees, Nana Anoa Nantambu sang from a microphone to a growing crowd at Congo Square. Hundreds of people sang along as she led them through "we're gonna stand" and replaced "this little light of mine" with "standing for justice and freedom."

Rev. Marie Galatas asked the crowd to bow its head and pray in silence for Heather Heyer, the woman killed by in Charlottesville, Virginia, during protests against neo-Nazis and fascists rallying in the city to support a Robert E. Lee monument.

On Aug 19, hundreds of people in New Orleans gathered to honor Heyer and victims of attacks in Charlottesville and also challenge city leaders to reconsider Jim Crow-era landmarks with a renewed call for their removal, particularly as the city begins to celebrate its tricentennial. Take 'Em Down NOLA — the latest incarnation of local activists and civil rights advocates demanding the removal of Confederate monuments — organized the Charlottesville solidarity march from Congo Square in Armstrong Park to Jackson Square.

"To the people of Charlottesville, we stand with them," said Take 'Em Down NOLA organizer Malcolm Suber from the steps across from Jackson Square, "and we stand against oppression, we stand against exploitation, and we stand against racism."

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Mayor Sisyphus and his legacy

Posted By on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 2:11 PM

"Sisyphus," Franz von Stuck
  • "Sisyphus," Franz von Stuck

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s legacy always was destined to be a mixture of successes and failures. Such is the fate of all mayors, though history seemed likely to paint Landrieu in mostly positive hues — until recently. The Aug. 5 flood and revelations of systemic dysfunction at the Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) now threaten to overshadow Landrieu’s accomplishments as mayor.

Which is why he’s working overtime to whip the S&WB (and his legacy) into shape before he leaves office next May 7.

Given the almost daily dose of bad news about S&WB operations and infrastructure problems, Landrieu has a Sisyphean task. That we’re now in the peak of hurricane season raises the stakes for everyone.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

New Orleans City Council approves $34 million drainage budget after August flooding

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 6:55 PM

Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5.

The New Orleans City Council has approved nearly $34 million to cover drainage repair and flood response in the wake of August flooding and systemic failures throughout the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) and Department of Public Works (DPW). That $34 million includes $22 million for repairs through DPW and $11.9 from the general fund to target drainage and bulk up future flood prevention.

But members of the Council dodged a vote to approve two new appointments to the S&WB without assurance from City Hall that they're qualified, particularly after the last several days of dysfunction.

More than $14 million from bond funding already is budgeted for catch basin and drainage repair. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration requested $11.9 million from the general fund, including $7.8 million for emergency drainage repairs, $650,000 for alarm systems and warning signals, $3 million for Homeland Security readiness, and $500,000 for a so-called "after-action" report to determine what went wrong throughout the city's S&WB system before, during and after Aug. 5 floods. Landrieu opened a request for proposals for that report Aug. 15.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

City Hall issues call for reports on S&WB failures; repair costs hit $35 million

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 5:45 PM

Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5.

As New Orleans officials continue daily updates revealing deep dysfunction at the beleaguered Sewerage & Water Board, the city has put out a call for firms to diagnose the issues leading up to and after Aug. 5 flooding. According to FEMA, more than 800 insurance claims have been filed through its National Flood Insurance Program.

The city is requesting proposals from firms to "deliver a report that details in narrative, diagrams and data the causes of the flood events" and failure of its drainage pump-powering turbines, according to an announcement from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office.

The statement says "the analysis will provide clear and accurate information to the public from an independent source regarding the system’s capacity and vulnerabilities that can be communicated to the public."

Proposals are due Aug. 21.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Sewerage & Water Board turbine repaired after fire

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 6:01 PM

Turbine No. 1 was damaged following a fire Aug. 9. - COURTESY CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • COURTESY CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • Turbine No. 1 was damaged following a fire Aug. 9.
A turbine that supplies power to New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board's drainage pumping stations has been repaired, according to city officials.

The Aug. 9 fire that damaged the turbine was a "small electrical fire," according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Director of Communications Tyronne Walker. The fire followed immense public scrutiny over the S&WB's operations before and after flooding on Aug. 5 that damaged homes, cars and businesses throughout the city.

The city has reminded residents to stay vigilant and keep cars on higher ground, as Landrieu emphasized that the drainage pump power capacity still is not sufficient in the event of heavy rains or major storm. The city also has launched Streetwise, a real-time tracking website that pinpoints traffic and flooded areas.
The city also ordered 26 2-megawatt generators to provide redundancy to a system that's now relying on two working turbines out of five. (Three already were down at the time of Aug. 5 flooding.) Twelve generators arrived today, and eight more are expected to arrive tomorrow. The redundancy will remain through 2017's hurricane season, according to the city.

"More analysis on the cause of the electrical fire and repair efforts are underway and will he shared when complete," according to Walker's statement to Gambit. "Future assessments will be critical to understanding the full capacity and redundancy of our water systems."

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New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board needs accountability, transparency

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 1:46 PM

A flooded street in Mid-City during the Aug. 5 rainstorm that inundated New Orleans. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A flooded street in Mid-City during the Aug. 5 rainstorm that inundated New Orleans.

The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) hasn’t come under this much scrutiny in at least a generation. The Aug. 5 rainstorm that flooded several neighborhoods triggered an unprecedented housecleaning at City Hall and at S&WB. Going forward, the shakeup should include a look at the troubled agency itself.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu sacked city public works director Mark Jernigan for not cleaning catch basins in a timely manner (after the City Council allocated $3 million for that purpose). Jernigan’s termination was justified, but the mayor bears responsibility as well. The buck stops at his desk on the issue of catch basins.

As for the S&WB, that agency is a political nation unto itself. It was created by legislative act nearly 120 years ago and remains a strange admixture of state and local law. The mayor chairs its board, but he cannot hire or fire anyone. Thanks to a handful of 2013 “reforms,” he doesn’t even have a free hand in naming board members. He must choose from a short list proffered by a “blue ribbon” committee.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fire at turbine threatens New Orleans drainage pump system

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 10:30 AM

Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5.

A fire at a turbine that supplies power to drainage pump stations on New Orleans' East Bank has threatened the city's ability to pump water out, as another round of rain is expected to dump water on the city.

Speaking at an emergency Sewerage & Water Board meeting Aug. 10, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a "whole army" of people are working on repairs, and he expects the turbine to be back online soon, adding, "I'll believe it when I see it. I'm hopeful."

The fire damaged one of five turbines on which the S&WB relies for its water drainage pumps as well as its water treatment plant. (According to the mayor's office, the city's drinking water is unaffected.) But there already are three other turbines down for repairs — leaving only one working turbine left.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Editorial: A not-so-dry run exposes Sewerage & Water Board ineptitude

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 6:30 PM

Floodwaters rising on Banks Street in Mid-City Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Floodwaters rising on Banks Street in Mid-City Aug. 5.

When Joe Becker, general superintendent of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, began answering questions from the New Orleans City Council Tuesday (Aug. 8), it was clear the S&WB’s original story about its performance during the Aug. 5 storm was taking on more water than a Lamborghini stranded in Lakeview. Just before the council’s special meeting, S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant announced he would be retiring by the end of the year. “Some parts of our system did not operate as they should have, which is disappointing because it contradicts information that I was given to provide to the public,” Grant said. That was an understatement.

The information referenced by Grant — that all the drainage pumps were in working order during the storm — was contradicted by statistics that councilmembers tweezed out of Becker during the special meeting. Becker floated the equivocal meme that “all the pump stations were working at the capacity they had available to them.” As it turned out, 14 of the system’s 121 pumps were out of commission. A Lakeview pumping station operating at 100 percent of its “available capacity” was actually working at 57 percent of capacity. Other stations reported similar problems.

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