As tropical system approaches, N.O. is two inches of rain away from wettest season on record

Aaron Miller, the city's emergency preparedness director, addresses the media

NEW ORLEANS — City officials said today that although drainage capacity has improved since the Aug. 5 flood, the city “remains in a state of diminished capacity.”

The news comes as Tropical Depression Harvey has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to be a tropical storm by the time it hits Texas on Friday, then parts of Louisiana after that.

Harvey has the potential to bring heavy rainfall and localized flooding starting Saturday as the city tries to get the drainage system fully functional.

An historic rain event Aug. 5 caused widespread flooding and revealed serious problems with the city’s drainage system and the agency that oversees it, the Sewerage and Water Board.

Although city officials initially said that all pumps were operating, it was later learned that 17 of the city’s 120 pumps were not working, with many of those in areas that were hardest hit by the flood.

Sewerage and Water Board Director Cedric Grant retired because of the failure, and other Sewerage and Water Board employees have been fired or resigned for not being honest about the pumps.

The city’s problems worsened a few days later, when a fire damaged the city’s only working turbine that powers the city’s water pumps. On Tuesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that Grant has stepped down and an emergency management team is in place to manage day-to-day operations at the Sewerage and Water Board.

Aaron Miller, the city’s director of Emergency Preparedness, said Wednesday that one of the three turbines is back online, three pumps have been repaired, and the city has mobilized 26 backup generators to power the pumps.

“Right now there is no need to panic,” Miller said. “Prepare as we do in any other weather event. If this storm system strengthens and produces as much rainfall as National Weather Service predicts, we would still see some localized flooding even if our drainage system was at full capacity.”

The city’s interim public works director advised residents to follow these steps when it comes to catch basins in their neighborhoods:

  • Remove grass and leaves and visible debris from catch basin opening, especially before and after a rainstorm.
  • Place lawn clippings and garbage in the can. Never blow or sweep into a catch basin. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.
  • Avoid parking on the catch basin.
  • Call 311 to report basins that are not functioning.

The city also advises that residents sign up for alerts through Nola Ready. Follow WGNO for regular updates.

Here’s the full update from the city below: