Hurricane Nate to Test New Orlean's Drainage System

Nate will make landfall southeast of New Orleans on Saturday night as possibly a category 2 hurricane after leaving at least 22 dead in Central America. It's not so much the levees but the pumps and generators that have city officials worried.
October 8, 2017, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Jim Bowie

Even without hurricanes, the city's stormwater infrastructure is stressed, illustrated by an August 5 storm left parts of the city deluged. It became clear that "even if the entire pumping system had been operating at maximum capacity […] the rain would still have overwhelmed the system," according to an Aug. 10 report in the Guardian posted here.

"The core of the storm could make landfall Saturday night around Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, where Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 hurricane that devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hit in 2005," reports CNN at 6:22 PM ET on Oct. 7.

"No hurricane has made landfall in Louisiana since 2012, when Hurricane Isaac moved ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi River," report Katy Reckdahl and Alan Blinder for The New York Times on Friday. "Mississippi has gone even longer without a hurricane landfall: Its last was Katrina."

With the latest storm approaching, a handful of pumps are still inoperable, and city officials said they had made arrangements to monitor and staff all [120] pumping stations. Even with additional personnel, supported by National Guard troops who were deployed to New Orleans ahead of the storm, the city will still face the challenge of running the system without a fully functioning network of steam turbines that provide power.

They are likely to have little choice but to shut off some pumps in order to turn on others where the flooding could be more severe.

How well, or poorly, the pumps and other parts of the stormwater infrastructure operate will be a reflection on outgoing Mayor Mitch Landrieu who "has spent his waning months in office coping with the city’s drainage troubles." He urged residents not to drive as streets will be flooded, imposed a curfew effective Saturday night and ordered evacuations in some parts of the city.

Now Mr. Landrieu’s makeshift, rapidly developed response will be tested, as will the team he appointed to deal with the drainage problems. The system has, so far, shown signs of improvement. Still, after a rainstorm went over New Orleans on Monday, several cars were mired in knee-deep water.

"A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, and the authorities posted a hurricane watch for a stretch of the Florida Panhandle," add Reckdahl and Blinder.

"Life-threatening storm surge is expected along the coast tonight from southeast Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle," reports The Weather Channel at 8:30 PM ET.

The Globe and Mail reported on Oct. 5 that Nate caused at least 15 deaths in Nicaragua and seven in Costa Rica.

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Published on Friday, October 6, 2017 in The New York Times
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