August 11, 2017 / 8:37 PM / 3 years ago

Damaged drainage system in flooded New Orleans is nearly repaired

(Reuters) - A damaged turbine that contributed to flooding in New Orleans should be working again later on Friday, but more back-up power is needed and dozens of extra generators are being brought in for the rest of the hurricane season, the mayor said on Friday.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke to reporters a day after he declared a state of emergency as workers struggled to clear streets flooded by a storm last Saturday that dumped up to nine inches (23 cm) of rain in just a few hours.

Although this week’s flooding paled in comparison to the floods that devastated parts of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the intensity of Saturday’s rains caught city officials by surprise.

There were no reports of major injuries, but local media reported that rescue workers had to pull several dozen drivers from their vehicles when the water began to rise rapidly.

The city was bringing in an additional 26 2-megawatt generators for the rest of the hurricane season, which runs from June through the end of November, Landrieu said.

“We will have what we need to do the work,” the mayor told a news conference, referring to his expectation that drainage capacity would soon return to normal. “But in my mind, and I think in the minds of the people, it’s not enough, because we need more back-up power.”

The turbine was knocked out by a small fire on Wednesday night, diminishing the capacity of pumping stations in parts of the city’s East Bank area. Much of the city, which straddles the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico, lies below sea level.

The city’s Sewerage and Water Board, which runs the drainage system, would be able to cope with normal rainfall, Landrieu said, noting that light rain was predicted for the weekend. But he added that New Orleans was determined to increase its backup power supply to be prepared for any future “deluge.”

“The fact still remains we have an old system that needs to be upgraded,” he said. When fully running, the city’s 22 pumping stations can remove 29 billion gallons a day, according to the Sewerage and Water Board.

The drainage system is connected to five power turbines, but three are out of service undergoing long-term repairs, leaving only one functioning after Wednesday’s fire, according to the Times-Picayune newspaper.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler

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