NEW ORLEANS (AP) - When Tropical Storm Nate formed and forecasts put New Orleans in its projected path for this weekend, one big question loomed for residents and business owners: Will the pumps work?
“That’s now a thought in everybody who lives in New Orleans,” said Devin Shearman, a manager at Katie’s restaurant and lounge, which flooded during an unexpected rainstorm Aug. 5. It was one of two flash floods this past summer that led to revelations about personnel and equipment problems at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, the agency that runs the pumping system that drains the city.
Some pumps weren’t working. Some turbines that provide power to the pumps were down. There weren’t enough people on hand to man the system.
“Since early August, we have made substantial progress,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said of work to upgrade the city drainage system. But he warned that extremely heavy rain and storm surge from Nate still could pose flood dangers.
Nate formed in the western Caribbean Sea and moved into Central America Thursday. Forecasters said it would likely emerge in the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen, possibly reaching hurricane strength before a Sunday landfall somewhere along the U.S. coast. Louisiana and Mississippi officials declared states of emergency and Louisiana ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas.