I feel like this is not making national news, although it should, but if anyone wants to please send dry, non rainy thoughts to New Orleans and sit back for a tale of a really poorly run government entity, now is the time.
For anyone who doesn’t know, New Orleans functions - very very literally - on a pump system.
When they’re working, they’re incredible. With little to no actual
drainage living below sea level for the most part and on a swamp, the
pump system gets flipped on when it rains and is basically how we stay
dry. The pump system failing/being submerged during Katrina was a huge, huge factor. There are multiple pumps all through out the city, and then a mini power plant that powers the pumps (so that they aren’t 100% reliant on the power company in case they go out).
We have had two major flooding events in the past two weeks - one of which was pure poor infrastructure and a second of which was a combination of that same poor infrastructure and also what was truly a huge storm (about 9 in less than three hours). After the second event, which was pretty catastrophic with lots of homes and cars flooded, standing water for over 12 hours. I have friends with two feet of standing water in their house that are permanently displaced, my car was totaled, and the insurance inspector that looked at it was from Savannah - Geico on Sunday after the rains stopped basically called in every inspector they had from like a 10 state area and told them to get to NOLA now. He said he had over 100 cars assigned just to him to look at (he was a hero, btw).
The problem is this. The day after the floods ended, we got nothing but constant reassurance from the Sewerage & Water Board (SWB) that the pumps were all fully functional and that everything was okay and that that was just a really bad storm beyond the full capability of the system.
Two days after the flood ended we wake up to stories about the top 4 people at SWB being fired or forced to resign. We find out that it was a complete lie; that far from the pumps being fully functional, many of the pumps were down and are still down and we’re really only operating at maybe 50-60% capacity city wide - 38 out of 58 pumps are available. Major drainage/catch basin projects that the city poured a ton of money into last year are delayed or not completed, adding to standing water. Every time we get a new update about what happened over the weekend, we get worse and worse results and more info comes out and it becomes more and more apparent that the SWB massively lied and covered up how bad the problem was, and how bad it has been getting progressively while they mismanaged it.
Last night, everyone in the city wakes up to our phones going off with a major alert at 3am saying that the pumps are at further reduced capacity. Everyone is SUPER PISSED off we have been woken up, because it’s not even raining at that point. Y’all, its August in New Orleans. When the city wide alert system goes off we expect hurricanes, we expect major shit to be going down, so everyone I’ve talked to just went into straight ADRENALINE mode when they heard that alert and then didnt go back to bed for an hour. So please note, on top of everything the entire city is cranky as fuck this morning.
This morning we find out what prompted that. More pumps are down. But more importantly, we find out that the power plant that powers the pumps is... basically on it’s last legs. We have 5 turbines that power the pumps, and a 6th backup turbine that runs on gas. Turbine 1 lost power during a fire last night, prompting the alert. I have no idea what the fuck is going on with Turbine 2. There probably isn’t even a Turbine 2. Turbine 3 has been
out since May. Turbine 4 has been down since January 2013 and expected
to be repaired by December 2017. Turbine 5 went down right after the flood we had a few weeks ago.
So... we are now running on Turbine 6. Our last remaining backup turbine. If that goes down, there is NO redundancy in place and we have no pumps. Right now they are scrambling to get backup generators and backup power plans hooked up to that turbine and they’re hoping it can be done today, but in the exact words of our mayor “I’ll believe it when I see it”. If the turbine stays up, we should have maybe enough to deal with a basic rainfall. If not, or if the rain is heavy.
Schools are cancelled today and tomorrow citywide in expectation of flooding we can’t control, even if that turbine remains up, because even with power we don’t have all our pumps. The mayor declared a state of emergency here. People have been advised to stay off the roads and park their cars on high/neutral ground.
But again, it is AUGUST IN NEW ORLEANS. It is hurricane season. We expect rain basically every day this time of year. It’s supposed to rain today. and tomorrow. and Saturday. And god forbid - if a storm starts developing in the gulf? It wouldn’t even need to be a hurricane, but even a tropical storm or depression that dumped rain on us would fuck us.
So please, send us some dry thoughts. I live in a part of town that has very very very fortunately not been affected by the flooding and I am not too worried personally right now. Other Jezzies, I hope yall are safe and dry and should it get there, I am in a dry-ish place so far and I can help.
And PSA: for the love of god, please, please, please, please get renters insurance if you do not have it. It is not expensive as insurance goes and I am seeing so many people who would be having very different experiences right now if they did have it.