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Tropical weather could test New Orleans' patched-together drainage power generating system

With two major turbines out being repaired, that leaves the utility relying on two smaller turbines, a series of generators and electricity from Entergy.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans leaders are preparing for possible wet weather this weekend that could well tax a hobbled system that supplies power to the city's drainage system. City Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold is keeping a close eye on a tropical disturbance in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The system could become a tropical depression and begin tracking northward later this week. 

“We really don’t know what this is yet other than just a disturbance. We’re obviously looking at this as a rain event potentially for the city. 

Public Works' vacuum trucks were out in full force on Tuesday, cleaning out catch basins and drainage pipes. According to the National Weather Service, the storm could bring up to 8 inches of rain to Metro New Orleans. 

“You know obviously localized areas could experience more depending on where we are to this to the right or left. 

A major rain event would certainly stretch the city’s fragile drainage system to the limit. According to the Sewerage and Water Board, 98 of 99 drainage pumps are available for this storm. But two major turbines that supply electricity to the city’s drainage systems remain offline for repairs. 

That leaves the utility relying on two smaller turbines, a series of generators and electricity from Entergy to power the pumps.

“That puts us in a situation where we do have an operational system, however with the fragility of the system, should there be an issue, residents just need to aware that there’s a rain event coming this weekend, potentially,” Arnold said. 

City officials urge people to avoid the area surrounding the old Plaza Tower on Loyola Avenue, especially if there are high winds and heavy rains. In May, strong winds blew debris off the upper floors of the vacant 45-story skyscraper. 

The city is asking residents to stay prepared and weather aware. 

“Definitely, look around your house,” Arnold said. “Get out in front of your catch basins out in front of your property, if it’s something you can help us with, that is great, please rake out leaves, debris, anything you manage on your own. If it’s a bigger problem, please call 311 immediately.” 

Stay tuned to WWL-TV and wwltv.com for the very latest on the tropical system in the Gulf. 

Here is the full statement from Sewerage and Water Board spokesperson Courtney Barnes: 

“The Sewerage and Water Board is closely monitoring Invest 92L. Currently, 98 of 99 drainage pumps are available for service. The pump that is down is located at DPS 14 in New Orleans East. Regarding power: Turbine 1, Turbine 6, all the Electro-Motive Diesel generators (EMDs) and the Frequency Changers are in service and are ready for use. SWBNO teams and vendors are working hard to expedite repairs on Turbine 4 and Turbine 5, but for now those two turbines remain out of service.” 

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